Church fights to keep 'Room in the Inn' program - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Church fights to keep 'Room in the Inn' program

(WMC-TV) - The battle is raging on at a Midtown church as the organization struggles to provide shelter for homeless people

The town hall meeting followed a courtesy citation issued to Trinity United Methodist Church and its Room in the Inn program. 

Many residents clapped, held signs, and pleaded with neighbors to let Trinity United Methodists continue with its Room in the Inn Program. The program gives homeless people a place to stay one night a week.

"They provide a meal, a home cooked meal, and companionship," stated Trinity United Methodist Church member, Mike Potter.

During the event, organizers told neighbors Room in the Inn started 28-years ago at a Nashville church and had spread across the country. It had even spread to sites such as Cumberland Presbyterian Church and Peace Lutheran Church in Memphis.

"They gave me a nice warm place to stay," stated one homeless man, George Mayo.

But, despite praise from the homeless, Trinity's program recently got hit with a courtesy citation that claimed that the church was in violation of a city- county development code. According to that code, the church must sit on at least 5 acres in order to house the homeless overnight. The Trinity United Methodist church only sits on 2.9 acres.

Church leaders stated they have applied for a variance, which is why the town hall meeting was held. They said they are hoping to address neighbors concerns about a program that brings homeless people to their community.

"I don't think anybody in here doesn't think this is a good project. The question I get from people is, 'is it safe'," explained Memphis City Councilman, Jim Strickland.

Room in the Inn leaders argued the program has a number of safeguards. Several of them include the homeless people in program being bused in and bused out and everyone is pre-screened.

"It isn't going to be an adverse impact on the neighborhood. But, (it would) also allows us to really do what God is calling us to do in the world," said Potter.

The Room in the Inn only operates during the colder months of November to March, according to coordinators.

In addition to applying for the variance, church members also discussed trying to get the code changed. Churches are allowed to apply regardless of its size.

Copyright 2013 WMC-TV. All rights reserved.

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