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 allows those in need to sign up for a shower, drop off their laundry, pick up over-the-counter medications or see if they have 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 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 close and increased spending to maintain distancing protocols, operating costs are up. Looking ahead, lower capacity limits for Room in the Inn’s housing programs may cut into government reimbursements, further straining a relatively tight budget. A $50,000 grant from Bank of America, part of its $100 million commitment to local communities, has been vital to continuing support for daily visitors.

As Room in the Inn adjusts to providing support now, it also has an eye how it can continue to do so in the future. For example, Barnett is concentrating on how to adapt 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. One solution might be to create a centralized shelter. “It’s going to look different,” says Barnett. “We are looking at how we can make sure everyone has a place to stay. They deserve that.”

As nonprofits adjust to addressing increased needs in their local communities, Bank of America is committed to supporting them. Learn more about the bank’s $100 million philanthropic commitment to more than 1,300 non-profits on the front lines.

Originally published 7/16/2020