Room in the Inn
For the last seven years Charlotte Friends Meeting has joined over 135 area congregations, colleges and YMCAs to partner with the Urban Ministry Center to provide winter shelter to homeless neighbors. Last year this community-wide, inter-faith Room in the Inn program served more than 1,400 people.
Charlotte Friends host five homeless men on the second Sunday evening of December, January, February and March each year. On those evenings, a Friend (or two), picks up the men at the Urban Ministry Center in uptown Charlotte at 5:30 pm and drives them to our meeting house. At 6 pm a few Friends serve and eat with the guests the food that was cooked at home by Friends and First Day School children and youth. Then other meeting volunteers provide a program, usually music and singing, or maybe games, for about an hour. Men sleep on mattresses stored at the meeting house, with linens laundered by Friends. (Friends help with making up beds after fellowship on each RITI day.) We use the first day rooms so each guest has a "private room" - they really like that. Goodie bags with toiletries, warm socks, etc. are set out on each bed. Two male Friends spend the night with the guests, and serve breakfast, (either cooked on site, or fast food brought by the morning driver), offer snacks (from First Day School) to carry with the guests and drive them back uptown about 7 am. Overnight Friends usually do clean up chores, and other Friends pick up and distribute linens for laundry.
The basic goal of Room in the Inn is to keep homeless people from freezing on cold winter nights. A greater goal is to provide a more personal relationship to homeless people, at least for a night, and to foster a deeper understanding of the depth and complexity of the issue of homelessness. Typically, about 10-20 Charlotte Friends help with some part of our Room in the Inn hosting each year. Our homeless neighbors are usually very appreciative of their time at Charlotte Friends Meeting, and Friends who meet and get to know the guests usually feel enriched and blessed.