Helping the Homeless in Charlotte—How Can I Help?
Do you experience that feeling of being nervous about going to dinner with people that you don’t know? But, within minutes of sitting down together you realize there was nothing to worry about as you have so much more in common that you expected! Have you ever planned a big event and tried to think of every last detail, all the while, wondering if everything will come together? When it does, you get such a wonderful feeling of success! How about when you’ve done something over and over and yet it is never quite the same? These times help you to become comfortable about things being predictably unpredictable! These feelings and great outcomes might just the best way to explain the feeling of being involved with Urban Ministry Center’s program, Room In The Inn.
What is Room In The Inn? Coordinated through the Urban Ministry Center, RITI provides shelter and food at churches to homeless women, men and children in Charlotte during the winter months. Advent Lutheran Church, Charlotte, and our three partner churches, Newell Presbyterian, Harrisburg United Methodist, and St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic, host 14 homeless neighbors in the gymnasium every Monday night from December through March. This year, that means 18 Mondays, a special night on Christmas Eve, and in emergencies when it’s just too cold for anyone to stay outside overnight! To provide a good night’s sleep to our homeless friends, at least 16 volunteers are required, working during a 15 hour period, setting up, picking up our neighbors in Uptown Charlotte, providing 3 hearty meals, providing pillow treats, sleeping over, dropping off our neighbors, cleaning up, and doing the laundry. Each of the partner churches has a coordinator who are in regular communication with each other–making sure each location has the volunteer spots filled, helping out when needed. Each season it seems that the same people are volunteering and we wonder why there are not new faces wanting to get involved in this great opportunity to Serve Neighbor! Is it the fear of the unknown? Perhaps everyone is too busy or we are sure that someone else will sign up. In spite of these hurdles, the great news is that people always step up, sign up, and we fill in the open spots. We are always reminded, that we step up because it is about our neighbors who need a nights sleep and to see we care!
As you consider How I Can Help…Imagine being homeless and having the following worries EVERY DAY:
- Will a bed be assigned to me so I don’t have to sleep outside. Monday nights are especially challenging because the available bed count is so low.
- Will I arrive at the Urban Ministry in time? I have to finish work before I can sign up for a bed.
- When will I be able to do my laundry? Everything gets dirty, wet, and cold! (Not all churches have laundry—Advent does not currently)
- Will I be able to get a shower? Advent does provide a hot shower!
At Advent, when homeless neighbors walk in the door, we offer a warm place to stay and the necessities for the night. What’s most important though is a smile, a hug, a listening ear, and some much-needed TLC. We’ve heard over and over from our neighbors how it’s “different” at Advent and at other churches they visit for the night. We treat everyone with care and respect and are willing to help them when we can. We focus on doing what’s right for our friends and neighbors who find themselves in such difficult and stressful circumstances.
To the regular volunteers involved with Room In The Inn, THANK YOU for your time, support, and love. Room In The Inn has never been about one person or one church and is only successful due to a large group effort across Charlotte and in Advent Lutheran Church. For anyone that is considering helping the homeless in Charlotte, there are many people in RITI willing to show you the ropes. Show up any Monday night December – March and we will have you join us at the table where before too long you’ll feel right at home and forget about nervous jitters. Be prepared, you may just fall in love with our neighbors and cause, showing up week after week! Thanks to the Urban Ministry Center for making Room In the Inn available to Homeless across Charlotte and to volunteers that get a chance to care and grow. This is not a solution to homelessness but this program does make a difference! Come check it out–you will go home with a smile on your face and love in your heart!