Room in the Inn is Homeward Bound’s most community-driven program, with more than 2,000 volunteers from over 40 faith congregations mobilized each year.
Room in the Inn partners with local faith communities to provide shelter for up to 12 women. Each week, a different congregation opens its facilities to welcome the women as guests, offering a warm safe place for them as they work hard to move forward to permanent housing. The simple goal is to keep women without homes from sleeping on the street and risking their safety. The greater goal is to build caring, supportive relationships with them, one week at a time.
Room in the Inn is a national model, and in our community, it was started in 2001 by a few women with a vision. For years it was volunteer run with an active steering committee, but in 2010, the committee decided to take it to the next level, asking Homeward Bound to manage the program. Their goal was to move Room in the Inn away from simply being a shelter and transition it instead to a program that provided solutions for the women it served, by focusing on case management & working with them to move into permanent housing.
Who’s in it, and how does it work?
Room in the Inn works with homeless women who are emotionally stable, not currently affected by drugs or alcohol, and willing to abide by the rules of the program, which prohibit drinking, smoking in the building, weapons, drugs, fighting and foul language or abuse, ensuring a safe environment for the women and the faith community volunteers.
At 6 p.m. each evening, faith community volunteers pick up the women at Homeward Bound & transport them to their host congregation, where they have dinner provided & prepared by volunteers. The women sleep in the congregation’s building on mattresses owned by Homeward Bound. Two volunteers stay with the women overnight, and in the morning, the host congregation provides a simple breakfast & a sack lunch for the women to take with them. At 7 a.m., the host congregation brings the women back to Homeward Bound, where they spend the day going to appointments, connecting with other community agencies, seeking employment, and receiving case management services from the Room in the Inn director.
Each faith community commits to serving at least one week a year. This may mean that your community is hosting, providing meals, driving, or staying overnight with the guests. We’ll also have at least one quarterly coordinators’ meeting & a training session the week before your congregation is hosting. If your faith community can’t commit to fully facilitating a week, we can partner you with another congregation so that you can work together to host Room in the Inn.
Each Room in the Inn congregation provides an annual stipend of $1,200, which is key to providing a full-time director who can case manage the women with a 12 to 1 ratio. Having a dedicated case manager is a huge advantage; remember that lack of support is what creates homelessness! The Room in the Inn director sees the guests approximately 5 days per week & meets with them individually at least 3 times each month. In addition, the stipend assists with other program needs, like showers, laundry, and storage for belongings, which are all accessed at the AHOPE Day Center. Most importantly, these funds can be used to help someone move into permanent housing.
To get your faith community connected with Room in the Inn:
- Talk to folks in your congregation & gather a group of interested people. Get in touch with the Room in the Inn Director (below) & set up a meeting.
- Once your faith community has decided to move forward, you’ll:
- Participate in training from Homeward Bound about hosting the Room in the Inn guests.
- Contribute $1,200 yearly to help operate the program.
- Meet regularly with other faith community coordinators to share hosting ideas.
- Bring mission into your own space.
- Be part of the solution to homelessness in Asheville and Buncombe County!
Get in Touch
Sharon Blythe, Room in the Inn Director, has been with the program since it began in 2000. Hear from her about how she got involved & why it matters.
Contact Sharon by email: