Why does Sharon work with Room in the Inn?
Where do I begin to tell the story of how….okay, that’s a cheesy beginning (for those of us who remember the movie Love Story) but I wasn’t quite sure where to begin my story with Room in the Inn. You know, not just the story of “how” I came to be the director of this awesome program, but “why” it’s my job of passion.
Room in the Inn began in Asheville in January, 2001. At that time, as a faith community coordinator, I had no idea what I was doing and I had absolutely no experience with homelessness. We approached our first week with the mantra that it was seven days, and we could do anything for seven days. After my first experience hosting the women, I was hooked! In December, 2004, I was invited to become the Room in the Inn Advisory Board chair. In October, 2009, after leaving a 22-year career as a paralegal, I began my job with Homeward Bound as the director and case manager for Room in the Inn. The stretch between case managing legal cases and homeless women was a lot less wide that I imagined it would be. I am very fortunate that my mentors at Homeward Bound were insightful enough to know that and to see my passion for the program.
I’ve often been asked, “Why are you so passionate for Room in the Inn?” To know that answer, you have to know my background. At thirteen, I lived at home with my parents, the baby of five children from three marriages. I lived in Florida nine months out of the year and in North Carolina during the three summer months. At fifteen, I moved to North Carolina to finish high school. At seventeen, I married & graduated from high school, and at eighteen, I had my only child. At twenty-one I was separated, a single mother and working for less than $7.00 an hour. I bought my first house at twenty-two, after borrowing a down payment of $500.00 from my family. At twenty-four I sold my first home, moved, my child started school, and I continued to work shifts, sleeping four hours a day so I could drop my son off at school, be the one to pick him up, do homework, throw a baseball, cook supper and tell him good night before going back to work.
I moved an average of 1.3 times a year from ages fifteen to twenty-eight. That sounds devastating and it was hard….but it NEVER occurred to me that I would be homeless. I wasn’t raised in a perfect family; who is? But my family life was stable and supportive enough for me to have the self-confidence and determination to NEVER imagine that I could or would be homeless. As I’ve reflected since Room in the Inn came into my life, what I’ve realized is that I COULD have been homeless! I could have been one of my ladies. I have been close to being one of the multitudes that we see every day at A HOPE. What is my difference? I was blessed enough to have that support system (my family) that our homeless community lacks. I’m betting if each of us is honest with ourselves, we will see that either we, or someone close to us, either has been or could have been homeless.
I am passionate about Homeward Bound and Room in the Inn because at Homeward Bound we ALL believe that everyone is entitled to be treated with dignity and that housing is an absolute right. No one should be sleeping under a bridge, under a porch, or behind a building. As the director and case manager for the phenomenal women who pass through Room in the Inn, it is my hope that I can provide at least one part of the support system that they need to move from being homeless to permanently housed. We can end homelessness in our community, one person at a time.