“Do not underestimate the willingness people have to get involved in a good cause,” says Chris Hotard, Night Site Coordinator for Room at the Inn, “Give people a chance to make a difference, to further a mission with their skills and time. Volunteers are longing for that—we’re almost wired for that.”
Room at the Inn has been serving the St. Louis area for over 20 years by providing shelter and services for approximately 200 homeless clients a year. However, instead of functioning as a single shelter, Room at the Inn joins forces with 60 local congregations, or “night sites,” to provide year-round shelter for those who need it most in our community. Each congregation opens its doors and its hearts to offer dinner, a safe place to sleep, and breakfast for one night a month, with two congregations being open on any given night. Some of these congregations have been working with Room at the Inn since its beginning in 1993, with 25 congregations serving for fifteen years or more. Between these 60 congregations, there are only two openings in the month that currently need to be filled. The agency is also working with a new shelter in Illinois that hopes to adopt a very similar model for serving its own community.
Beyond a place to stay, Room at the Inn also serves clients by offering case management, child therapy, budgeting skills, transportation, and other services at its agency headquarters in Bridgeton. However like so many big-hearted agencies, Room at the Inn has big plans to further serve the community. Ideally, the shelter hopes to further develop and utilize the gifts and skills of the volunteers at each night site to better serve clients. “Many volunteers have expressed interest in helping clients write job resumes, practice interviewing skills, and overall job development,” says Mr. Hotard. “Each site has volunteers with certain skills and knowledge who are looking for ways to incorporate their gifts in their serving.” Volunteering for Room at the Inn is a personal experience; volunteers meet clients face-to-face, have a meal with them, and share fellowship. This personal aspect of the volunteer experience keeps volunteers coming back to serve, and empowers each congregation to tailor their service to best reflect its own unique culture and personality.
Room at the Inn is not only looking towards its own future, but the future of new generations as well. Another next step for Room at the Inn is its new Young Friends Board. This program, which functions much like a junior Board of Directors, is designed to introduce younger people to the inner-workings of a non-profit and its client population. Through participation in meetings and service projects, members of the Young Friends Program directly engage in Room at the Inn’s ministry and leadership roles.
To help support Room at the Inn’s mission, or to learn more about the organization or where a night site is located near you, visit their website at www.roomSTL.org, or contact Chris Hotard at email@example.com.
Room at the Inn shows us that we do have room; room in our churches, room in our hearts, and room in our lives for serving our neighbors. “In my Father’s house there are many rooms,” (John 14:2). Yes, many rooms indeed!