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Tuesday, October 4, 2022
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Homeless & Vagrant Shelter Program Restarts After COVID Shutdown

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Room in the Inn at St. Stephen Presbyterian Church | Image by CBSDFW

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A non-profit program offering overnight shelter for homeless and vagrant men is back in service in Tarrant County following a two-year interruption during the COVID-19 pandemic. The reboot of the Room in the Inn program offers welcome relief for those in the county’s homeless and vagrant population suffering from high summer temperatures.

“We’ve been discussing reopening over the past couple of years, and it is particularly fortunate right now that we are hosting because of the string of 100-plus degree days we are having,” St. Stephen Presbyterian Church volunteer coordinator Mike Tyson told CBS News.

“It is critical for anyone on the street to be sheltered,” Tyson said. “There [are] a number of folks every day that are suffering from heat strokes.”

Tarrant County has 40 organizations that offer services to the homeless and vagrants. Still, between January 1 and March 31 of this year, 1,823 people lived on the street or in shelters across the area, according to data from the Tarrant County Homeless Coalition (TCHC) — a 13% increase from the previous quarter.

TCHC found that 3,915 people experienced homelessness or vagrancy during Q1 of 2022, the highest number since Q1 of 2019, and up 10% from Q4 of 2021. A mere 12% of people who experienced homelessness or vagrancy were relocated into housing during this quarter.

The Room in the Inn program, an initiative of Presbyterian Night Shelter, started in 2007 in Nashville, Tennessee. St. Stephen Presbyterian Church is one of 14 congregations in Fort Worth participating in the program in partnership with the non-profit organization True Worth Place. Ten of the participating churches offer shelter on different nights of the week during the coldest and hottest days of the year.

True Worth Place is a daytime shelter that offers a “360 approach” to helping the homeless and vagrant. Guests at True Worth have access to services and resources intended to assist them with physical health, long-term jobs, and home readiness.

The Room in the Inn program provides transportation from the True Worth shelter to the designated church and includes a hot meal at dinner time, socialization, a bed for the overnight stay, breakfast, and a bagged to-go lunch. Overnight guests are then provided transportation back to True Worth in the morning. Approximately 70 to 75 people are able to claim a bed each week.

“This is truly a ministry of loving your neighbor, treating others with mutual respect,” Tyson said. “The volunteers that participate in it have truly missed it.”

Currently, Room in the Inn caters to men only, who make up the majority of the homeless and vagrant population in the area. However, Tyson hopes to expand the program, getting more churches involved so the program can serve more men as well as include women.

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