And Respect

Mar 8, 2023



As we continue our exploration of RITI’s core values, let’s talk about RESPECT. What does respect look like at Room in the Inn and among those experiencing homelessness? Why is it so core to who we are and what we do?

We begin with the basics – our language. At RITI, we remind ourselves of the respect people experiencing homelessness deserve by changing the way we speak. Instead of “the homeless” or “homeless people,” we use people-first language to say “people experiencing homelessness” because being unsheltered is not the core of their identity, not something they have chosen. We also use the term “guest” instead of “client” or another label they may have been given in some other area of their life. We have always used the term guest because it reminds us of the type of relationship we want to build, how important it is to provide a welcoming environment, and how we hope people will feel when they are part of our programs.

Respect also means uplifting personal dignity. We know our guests are capable, creative, and wise individuals. They have goals and dreams. Respecting their independence and individuality means we do not follow a set formula when accompanying them on taking their next steps or even in meeting them where they are today. We do not make decisions for them or without them. We help them achieve their own goals and walk alongside them in the process.

Respect means we acknowledge that no one chooses to be homeless. If you have been in the Inn Crowd any amount of time, you have hopefully learned about the ways the lack of safe affordable housing, childcare, and transportation, race and class disparities, access to quality healthcare, and more impact a person’s ability to “just get a job” or “get off the street.” Approaching those experiencing homelessness with respect takes into account that no one deserves to be homeless, and no one wants to be.

How can you show respect when you encounter someone experiencing homelessness?

  • Smile
  • Respond with kindness
  • Donate only items that are needed and only things you would be proud to also give to a friend rather than the things you just want to discard.
  • Volunteer with a Room in the Inn host congregation where you will share a meal at a table with volunteers and guests alike
  • Ask their name, and use it when you see them.

What other simple ways do you show respect? Shout it out on social media @ritimemphis #holyhospitality

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