Room In The Inn – Memphis currently organizes a network of 55 local faith communities to provide shelter for people experiencing homelessness in Memphis and aims to double the number of hosts in anticipation of increased need this winter due to the economic and health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Winter is always brutal for our homeless guests, this year will be even worse due to the economic devastation from COVID19,” said Rev. Lisa Anderson, founder and director of RITI-Memphis. “We anticipate unprecedented need to be able to provide safe, secure shelter for folks experiencing homelessness as the fallout from this virus continues.”
RITI’s current host network stretches across two faith traditions, fifteen denominations, and includes one educational institution and other local non-profits that have already pledged to provide shelter to the community’s most vulnerable people. Yet, even with these 55 partners, there are still many nights staff must turn away those seeking shelter due to a lack of space. Faith communities worldwide have come to a new understanding of the importance of their physical spaces as sacred places sat empty during COVID related shut-downs.
With this newfound understanding of the significant uses of our houses of worship, Room In The Inn issues the challenge for congregations to consider how their spaces can be used during empty times to create enough warm, safe space for people living unsheltered this winter. By partnering with RITI, congregational volunteers are trained and supported to host a small group of guests once a week from November 1 – March 31 and give life-saving shelter to people experiencing homelessness in Memphis.
“Each host is able to create a hospitality plan that works for its congregation,” said Anderson. “The only standard is that each church pledge to offer unconditional hospitality. Our team at RITI can work with you to draft a plan that is unique to your resources of space and volunteers.”
If your organization has underutilized space, and you’re interested in finding out more about the procedures involved to become a host, join the “Inn Crowd” by visiting our website ritimemphis.org or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
In November of 2009 a tiny congregation, Colonial Cumberland Presbyterian Church, answered God’s call to welcome strangers into the warm, safe sanctuary of a building that was underused during the winter. Four guests shared dinner and fellowship that first night with members of the church. This small group of people felt that this would be a good outreach “project.”
Room in the Inn is no longer an outreach project; it has become a way of life and ministry for more than 50 congregations, and that number continues to grow. Memphis has many, many more of those empty, warm houses of worship that could become sanctuaries of holy hospitality. Our hope is that by opening more and more of them we can prevent people from sleeping outside on the coldest nights of the year.
Father Charles Strobel, founder of Room in the Inn (Nashville) describes the RITI experience this way, “When someone experiences hospitality and safety and a feeling of belonging, they experience sanctuary. Sanctuary is defined by the people, not the space. Everyone can become an expression of sanctuary. Ultimately, sanctuary offers one an experience of something sacred, something holy.”
ABOUT ROOM IN THE INN – MEMPHIS MISSION
Sheltering those experiencing homelessness in a safe environment of hospitality VISION Holy HospitalityTM CORE VALUES Building community on love and respect Welcoming all as an expression of faith Giving hope and hospitality in a safe environment FIND US ONLINE: Website: ritimemphis.org Social Media: @RITIMEMPHIS