The Fellowship of Room In The Inn

Once again, Trinity opened its doors and provided shelter for some of Charlotte’s homeless men, woman, and children during the winter months. That’s 144 beds provided for folks in need and a lot of food and fellowship.

The Room In The Inn (RITI) program was started by Urban Ministry Center in 1996 with two goals in mind. First, to provide a warm, safe, and dry place for Mecklenburg’s homeless population during our coldest months. Approximately 130 area churches and colleges participate in the RITI program by taking in twelve to fourteen homeless guests on their assigned evening. The second goal of the RITI program is to provide a personal relationship with homeless people and a deeper understanding of the issue of homelessness.

What I enjoy most about RITI is the ability to sit down and have dinner with our homeless guests. These are folks that most of us wouldn’t ordinarily have an opportunity to have a conversation with and for many people the thought of talking to a homeless person makes them uncomfortable.

If you have never come for a RITI dinner, I encourage you to try it out next year. There is something innately comforting about sitting around a table to eat a good meal and share conversation with others. I have had talks about the weather, sports, movies, kids, schools, jobs, travel, and sometimes even religion and politics. While I recognize that I am only getting a snippet of information from my fellow dinner companions, collectively, I feel that I have gained a much broader understanding of the issues facing our homeless population, as well as a realization that we all have a lot more in common than we think.

Liz Clasen-Kelly, Associate Executive Director of Urban Ministry Center, recently told me about a formerly homeless man who was a guest of the RITI program last year and came back to Urban Ministry at the beginning of this year’s RITI season to ask if he could still spend the night with some of the churches. He was told that he no longer qualified for a bed since he was no longer homeless. They asked him why he wanted to come back and he told them how much the social interactions at the churches he visited had meant to him. Living on the streets or in extreme poverty is very isolating. Each night as a guest of RITI, he was greeted with compassion and someone willing to listen.

At Trinity, we provided listening ears for all ages this season. I often noticed a Trinity volunteer lingering at the dinner table and talking with a guest long after the plates were cleared. We had an increase in the number of children we hosted this year and even our youngest guests were able to play games with some of Trinity’s youngest volunteers.

I am going to leave you with pictures of some of the many volunteers that make RITI possible. I encourage you to ask them or any one of the other RITI volunteers to tell you about some of the folks they got to know this RITI season. Thank you to all of the volunteers who make Trinity a warm and inviting place for our guests to rest for the night!

Tricia Sistrunk