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From WMOT News

Mid-state houses of worship open their doors to the homeless


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (OSBORNE)  --  Room in the Inn is getting its 32nd annual winter shelter program underway this month.

The initiative began in 1986 when Father Charles Strobel invited the homeless into his East Nashville Holy Name Catholic Church to escape the cold overnight.

This year nearly 200 churches, synagogues and mosques have stepped up to shelter the homeless in their facilities through the winter months.

Room in the Inn Executive Director Rachel Hester says 200 to 300 homeless show up at the agency’s Drexel Street location every night. They’re then sorted into groups of 10 to 15 and driven to church buildings all over Nashville.

Hester says one of the unexpected benefits of the program is that frequently inspires church member volunteers to become homeless advocates.

“People have a face-to-face encounter with somebody that they broke bread with and had dinner with, and it’s no longer about hear or read in the paper. It’s about those relationships that inform them.”

Thirty-four cities across North America have now adopted the Nashville Room in the Inn model. Hester says representatives from several cities will be in the mid-state in the coming weeks to get up to speed.

“Next week we have Ft. Worth, Texas, coming. They’ve been doing Room in the Inn for several years. Charlotte, North Carolina; they have replicated the program both day and night. Ft. Collins, Colorado, We have Calgary, Canada. We have Lexington, Kentucky.”

The winter shelter program operates 150 nights a year, but Room in the Inn now offers services for the homeless year-round.