Community

Merlene Davis: For the homeless, there is room at the Inn

Staff and volunteers including William Day, left, and Michael Rice on Wednesday installed a 12-by-6-foot cross on the front of the building that holds the new Community Inn homeless shelter and an Emmanuel Apostolic Church of Zion satellite location.
Staff and volunteers including William Day, left, and Michael Rice on Wednesday installed a 12-by-6-foot cross on the front of the building that holds the new Community Inn homeless shelter and an Emmanuel Apostolic Church of Zion satellite location.

Recently, I've noticed activity around the building that once was home to Whatsa Futon. Now I know why.

The odd-shaped building at 824 Winchester Road is home to Community Inn and Emmanuel Apostolic Church of Zion, a partnership striving to bring physical dignity and comfort to the homeless and spiritual rest.

Community Inn is an overnight shelter for men and women that sprang from the success of the temporary shelter set up in downtown Lexington during the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games last fall, said Ginny Ramsey, founder of Catholic Action Center.

"The Inn has computer classes, medical clinics and offers haircuts," she said. "That's unbelievable for our folks." In addition, showers are available for the "guests," as Ramsey calls those who stay overnight.

The Inn opened April 2 and has averaged 46 people each night, she said, with 92 individuals having taken advantage of the facility so far. It opens at 7 p.m. daily and closes at 8 a.m. Men and women have separate accommodations. The facility has overnight storage for belongings, and air mattresses complete with top and bottom sheets. The Catholic Action Center on Fifth Street could only offer chairs and a blanket, Ramsey said.

From 7:30 to 9 p.m., guests can participate in Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, Bible study, computer classes or any of the other special events that are planned.

University of Kentucky students and youth groups help with game nights and other activities. Or guests can watch TV, eat a sandwich or simply shower and go to bed. Lights out is at 10 p.m.

"A lot of our guests are not just occasional," Ramsey said. "They are older. We see the faces of 50- and 60-year-olds. Some are veterans. There were 15 veterans with us last night."

The Inn accepts people all night, many brought in by police or hospitals.

Services are available to those seeking permanent housing and employment. Since it opened, 17 people since have been placed in a permanent home through a program called, From the Streets to a Home.

Soon, the Inn will offer cooking classes because after living for a while on the streets, some don't know how to use some appliances or microwaves.

"Some of these are invisible barriers to success," she said.

In the mornings, the guests help clean up, strip the beds for laundering and then are bussed to the Catholic Action Center for breakfast.

On Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings, Elder James McDonald of Emmanuel Apostolic Church of Zion, 1422 North Forbes Road, holds services at the Inn. The church uses the Inn as a satellite location.

For years, McDonald has been a faithful volunteer at the Catholic Action Center at 400 East Fifth St.

"When you live out here with the homeless and have an everyday interaction with people who struggle to obtain the basic needs there is a sentiment that makes you want to help that population of people," McDonald said.

"I get very personal about it. I get to know them, know what kind of temperament they have. They become family. I had this opportunity, so I took it."

Although his church is small, some members are willing to stretch their finances and their time to give to the less fortunate, he said.

"We don't have a budget," McDonald said. "We live from day to day. We trust the Lord to supply. The Lord is the one doing this."

The guests at the Inn will serve as tour guides at the open houses scheduled on Thursday and Sunday.

"This place is meant for dignity and comfort," Ramsey said. "And it's community. We need for these folks to connect. Everybody needs a place to be."

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