On a winter night in 1985, a young priest of a congregation in East Nashville named Charles Strobel looked out the window of his rectory beside the church and made a decision that would change the trajectory of his life and the lives of tens of thousands of individuals experiencing homelessness. The decision was not born out of a government program, a committee meeting, or even regard for what he would do tomorrow but a response to seeing individuals freezing before his very eyes so he opened the doors of his church so they could get out of the cold.
That one act of kindness started what we now call Room In The Inn. Struck by the realization that hundreds of congregations had warm, hospitable spaces, Strobel invited other houses of worship to open their doors to neighbors struggling with homelessness. In the winter of 1986, Charlie invited four congregations to commit to sheltering individuals experiencing homelessness. By the end of March of 1987, those first four turned into 31 houses of worship, and today Room In The Inn has partnered with nearly 200 congregations representing many faith traditions, college campuses, community groups, and over 7,000 volunteers to shelter thousands of men and women.
Room In The Inn has served people from a wide variety of backgrounds including those who are natives of Middle Tennessee to many others who have come from other places. A large number of participants have college degrees, while others have had little formal education. Some have had successful careers in business, the arts, or the military. They are sons, daughters, parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. Each person has a name, a story, and dreams for the future.
Although the world is full of issues to address, when we work together we can make lasting change that will impact a community for generations, but often it takes that one person choosing to make a difference. It was Charles Strobel’s foresight to know that the issues of homelessness are too big for one person or one agency to handle. He knew it takes a whole city to come together to face an issue that will make a lasting impact, which is why from the beginning it is not about what he could do but about what we can do when we make space for all of Nashville’s Neighbors.
Through partnerships with congregations throughout the city of Nashville and the surrounding areas, Room In The Inn will provide 151 continuous nights of shelter to over 350 unique individuals equaling nearly 12,000 bed nights provided to individuals experiencing homelessness.
This season, Journey Church hosted 75 guests over 5 nights from November 2021 to March 2022. Thank you to everyone who participated over the last five months to provide a sacred hospitality to those experiencing homelessness by helping to create a great atmosphere. Every meal, every snack bag, every hygiene bag, every winter kit, every smile, and every conversation are opportunities to connect with individuals and welcome them to the table. Thank you for loving all of your neighbors.