“Never underestimate the power of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich” Father Charles Strobel, Founder, Room in the Inn
Thirty years ago, Father Charles Strobel, pastor of Holy Name Catholic Church in Nashville, began handing out sandwiches from the back door of the rectory to local homeless men. The men were sleeping outside of Strobel’s window. The 12 men, whose tarpaper shacks had been bulldozed by the federal government, stayed the night, and then stayed the winter. Others began to join them.
Strobel said he hesitated for a moment because he thought “if this continues to grow, it may take over the rest of my life. And that of course is what happened.”
And Room in the Inn was born.
Strobel shared his story recently in Bardstown. Janet Ballard, SCN, was in attendance and is part of the group striving to bring a Room in the Inn ministry to Bardstown.
Sister Janet believes this is a much needed program in Bardstown and Nelson County. “Just because you don’t see them sleeping on the sidewalk doesn’t mean we don’t have homeless here.” She explained many sleep on the couches of friends and family while others live in tents or in their cars. The only homeless shelter in Nelson County, Bethany Haven, does not accept single men and is usually at capacity.
In Kentucky, there are Room in the Inn ministries in Lexington, Bowling Green, Shepherdsville, and Elizabethtown. After 30 years, the Room in the Inn is a shelter model that is proven and works well.
It’s a simple program, low-cost and low-impact. Churches of all faiths work together to shelter the homeless. Congregations host the homeless men, women and families on a rotating basis, once a week. Hosting churches provide transportation, meals and a place to stay for the night. Host churches can be helped by volunteers from partner churches. Partner churches are those that do not have the space to house the homeless for the evening but would like to be involved in providing needed services such as preparing meals, set up/clean up, and overnight host.
Sister Janet said her group is now focused on getting more churches and other organizations to join the effort by becoming a host or a partner church. The ideal, she said, would be to have 7 host churches so each church would be responsible for feeding and housing the homeless once a week. The Room in the Inn program will run from November 1-March 31 in Nelson County. The group meets May 12 to discuss what still needs to be accomplished. Directors from the Lexington and Elizabethtown Room in the Inn will be present at the meeting to share their experiences. If you are interested in learning more, you are welcome to attend this meeting. It will be held at Crimmins Hall, Nazareth Campus at 7pm.
Excitement is building as the efforts to establish this ministry gain momentum. “Please keep us in your prayers as we continue our work,” said Sister Janet.
As Father Strobel said, “Room in the Inn is about changing people, both guests and hosts.”