There’s No Room in the Inn for Many Homeless People

For a lot of homeless men, there’s been no “room in the inn” this summer in Memphis and many other cities across the country where churches have come together to provide emergency shelter in their church buildings. 

Regardless of whether these programs are called “Room in the Inn” as they are in Memphis and Nashville, it’s definitely not because the churches’ volunteers and those who coordinate the programs don’t care about homeless people. Many of the volunteers are, no doubt, especially close to some or many of them. Ceasing operations for months is clearly due to the amount of time that volunteers can devote to the program. This year, many of the churches went the extra mile and are “hosting” homeless women, especially on the days when the weather is unbelievably humid. Administering the program, including coordinating and scheduling the churches and transportation, screening the potential guests, and resolving issues is no small feat either. Participating churches deserve a lot of credit.

But there can be little doubt that it is hard on those who relied on the program, especially those with major disabling conditions who find it especially difficult (or impossible), to sleep in overcrowded emergency shelters or on the streets.

But there’s hope for the future. In Nashville, Room in the Inn, established in December 1986 with four congregations, has now grown to more than 190 congregations in middle Tennessee. In 2010, they opened a 45,000 sq. ft. building and began offering emergency services and permanent supportive housing. In Memphis, the Room in the Inn program is working to expand its network of 50 churches. It also leased the former Carpenters Union Building, now called the Carpenters’ House. It serves as a daytime site where homeless people who have lost trust in the underfunded, overloaded “system” can gather. It’s also a place where outreach workers can find them and help to link them to the services, treatment, and housing they so desperately need.

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