Sponsored by the Sisters of Divine Providence, Room at the Inn provides emergency shelter and a stabilizing support system to women and families in need in St. Louis County, using a collaborative, interfaith effort of congregations and organizations throughout the St. Louis Region.
Room at the Inn History
In 1982, a woman by the name of Karen Olson had a vision to make change happen. Upon learning that there were hundreds of homeless families in her neighborhood of Union County, New Jersey, she turned to the religious community for help. Convinced that there were many who shared her concern, she knew together they could do more to make a difference.
She engaged churches to help and, in 1986, named the effort “The Interfaith Hospitality Network.” It was designed to provide families without homes temporary shelter in unused church space. By 1988, the hospitality model spread nationwide. In December of that year, a similar program began here through the County shelter, Community in Partnership, who began housing overflow from the Salvation Army’s shelter on weekends and in the winter months. Glen Greenville, minister at McKnight Road Church of Christ, introduced “Room at the Inn,” borrowing the idea from a program inTennessee, whereby unused church space is used to temporally house the homeless. That is when more churches in our County also began providing overflow housing to The Salvation Army on weekends and during the winter.
In 1992, under the direction of Barbara Bixler Vogel, Room at the Inn received a grant from the St. Louis County Department of Human Services and Housing Resource Commission. With this grant, the Salvation Army was able to recruit more congregations as overnight sites and expand Room at the Inn to a year-round shelter. The Sisters of Divine Providence were approached to house the expanded day site. They donated the use of the fourth floor of their provincial house, Mount Providence. In 1993, the Sisters made a corporate commitment to families without homes and became the formal sponsors of Room at the Inn. The Divine Providence Community provides the facilities, utilities and many professional services.
In 1999, the Sisters moved their administrative offices to the present site inBridgeton, where one-third of their building was designed to accommodate Room at the Inn.
What makes Room at the Inn innovative is its partnership between the Sisters and nearly 60 interfaith congregations, as well as its collaboration with nonprofit and governmental agencies, foundations, businesses and individuals. The program serves families in need only through the generous sharing of time, hospitality, food and facilities of our faithful partners.