The Urban Ministry Center serves as a lifeline for many of Charlotte’s homeless.The center provides basic services – showers, lunch, mail services for more than 900 – for those who have nowhere to live. “Our mission is to work with chronically homeless folks to find ways to provide them permanent housing,” said Urban Ministry’s program director Paul Hanneman. “Meanwhile, we’re kind of an emergency room for homeless services in the area.” Approximately 400 lunches are served every day at the center at 945 North College St., and 500-600 people visit the campus daily to take advantage of one or more services. While most programs are offered in the center, the Room in the Inn program operates in the facilities of congregations and colleges countywide.From Dec. 1 to March 31, 130 sites open their doors one or more nights each week to house 12-14 homeless neighbors.Those in need of shelter start lining up at the center at 4 p.m. for check-in and site assignment. Hosting organizations send vans or cars to pick them up.At the host sites, participants get dinner, a safe place to sleep, breakfast the next morning and a bag lunch to take with them as they are dropped off at the transit center in downtown Charlotte by 6:30 a.m. In 2011-12, more than 5,000 volunteers provided 17,184 overnight accommodations to 1,555 people. This year, with the current number of sites, Hanneman says, there are 100-190 beds available each evening. Still, people are turned away most nights because there isn’t room.Hanneman says the simple goal is to keep homeless people from freezing to death on cold winter nights. But organizers have found that the Room in the Inn program does as much for the volunteers who serve as it does for those in need.“Volunteers are our lifeblood. We see ourselves serving two constituencies: the neighbors we serve and the volunteers that provide these services. We work with both groups,” Hanneman said. “The Room in the Inn program is probably the most significant educational tool available to help the community understand homelessness and get to meet someone who is homeless,” he said. “A significant number of people are involved with Room in the Inn, and they now have a different sense of the nature and reasons that make and keep people homeless.”
Friday, Dec. 21, 2012
Ministry benefits everyone involved
Urban Ministry needs more rooms for homeless in winter
On a recent rainy, chilly evening, people without homes boarded the Philadelphia Presbyterian Church van headed for Mint Hill. Each Wednesday night, the church hosts as many as 12 people, giving them a warm, safe place to sleep, feeding them dinner and breakfast, and taking them back to downtown Charlotte the next morning with a bag lunch. URBAN MINISTRIES CENTER
Want to help? More Room in the Inn sites are needed to ensure all homeless people have a safe, warm place to stay on cold nights. Volunteers also are needed to serve as desk monitors, counselors, mail sorters, art program helpers and van drivers, and to perform other tasks. Visit www.urbanministrycenter.org or email Paul Hanneman: firstname.lastname@example.org.