Eight Bowling Green churches will take turns opening their doors to shelter the homeless this winter.
The program, called Room in the Inn, is modeled after a program of the same name in Nashville that was founded in 1986 by Charles Strobel.
Strobel came to Bowling Green on Thursday night to train volunteers helping with the inaugural season of Room in the Inn here.
Strobel recounted how the program started nearly 30 years ago, after he saw homeless people sleeping in the parking lot of Holy Name Catholic Church in Nashville, where he was pastor at the time.
“It didn’t feel right that I was inside and they were outside,” he said. “I realized they were nobody’s problem but mine, because they were right there in my face.”
Strobel invited them to spend the night at the church, which turned out to be the beginning of a lifelong commitment to sheltering the homeless.
“They ended up staying the whole winter,” he said. “I thought, ‘If I can do it, anyone can do it.’ ”
He quickly organized Room in the Inn, which now has 180 participating churches in Nashville, with 6,000 volunteers that help shelter almost 1,400 people a year.
“It’s a simple concept,” Strobel said. “Congregations have buildings that are heated and warm during the winter season and they’re unused.”
A number of cities across the U.S. have started Room in the Inn programs, including Lexington, Clarksville, Tenn., and Chattanooga, Tenn.
“We haven’t really tried to market it,” Strobel said. “People just heard about it. It’s really grassroots.”
The Homeless and Housing Coalition of South Central Kentucky has been working for a year to bring Room in the Inn to Bowling Green.
“It’s an opportunity for you and I to become directly involved in the homeless in our community,” said Rhondell Miller, vice chairwoman of the coalition, during the training session Thursday.
The first night for the program will be Nov. 17, when Crossland Community Church will shelter a group of homeless people. Other churches that will take turns hosting are State Street United Methodist Church, The Presbyterian Church on State Street, Broadway United Methodist Church, First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Trinity Full Gospel Baptist Church, Christ Episcopal Church and Bowling Green Cumberland Presbyterian Church.
From 6:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m., 12 homeless guests a night will receive a home-cooked dinner, a mattress or cot to sleep on and breakfast in the morning.
“Room in the Inn is not fancy and it’s not complicated,” Miller said. “It’s just about sharing 12 hours with someone else, and in those 12 hours, you have the opportunity for your life to be changed and also change the life of someone else.”