Serving plate of food

Providing Nashville with help and hope

Room in the Inn delivers meals, hot showers, housing and other vital support to keep vulnerable community members safe

Room in the Inn is a vibrant community center offering meals, support services and dozens of job training classes for individuals experiencing homelessness in Nashville, Tennessee. The people behind that effort do it with a focus on community, a strong sense of empathy and an abundance of friendship.

They also think a lot about safety. With the onset of the coronavirus, daily gatherings at Room in the Inn were replaced by curbside tent service that allowed those in need to sign up for a shower, drop off their laundry, pick up over-the-counter medications or see if they had received mail at the center’s address. Portable toilets and hand-washing stations were set up outside.

“A large part of what we do is nurturing relationships,” says Melanie Barnett, director of community development. “Room in the Inn’s unofficial motto is ‘Love Your Neighbor, Y’all,’ and that spirit has never waned. “We’re not just serving those in need, we’re in the community with those in need,” says Barnett. “That makes all the difference.”

We’re not just serving those in need, we’re in the community with those in need.
Melanie Barnett  |  director of community development, Room in the Inn

With food donations down as restaurants closed and increased spending to maintain social distancing protocols, operating costs went up. Lower capacity limits for Room in the Inn’s housing programs put government reimbursements at risk, further straining a relatively tight budget. A $50,000 grant from long-time partner Bank of America, part of its $100 million commitment to address needs related to the coronavirus in local communities, has been vital to continuing support for daily visitors in a manner that underlines dignity and compassion.

As Room in the Inn adjusted to providing support in new ways, it also kept an eye on how it can continue to do so in the future. For example, Room in the Inn has been adapting the Winter Shelter program, a network of nearly 200 local congregations that shuttle individuals nightly from Room in the Inn to their places of worship. “It’s impossible to socially distance in a van with 15 people,” notes Barnett. For the winter of 2020-21, for example, the program adopted a hybrid approach, with some individuals hosted at partner congregations and others staying at a centralized shelter. Capacity limits continued during the 2021-22 season. “We are looking at how we can make sure everyone has a place to stay,” says Barnett. “They deserve that.”

As nonprofits adjust to addressing the evolving needs in their local communities, Bank of America is committed to supporting them. Learn more about our $100 million philanthropic commitment to more than 1,300 nonprofits on the front lines, which is in addition to our annual $250 million in philanthropic giving.

Originally published 7/16/2020