George Bowers Sr. Tramp rooms then and now
I always enjoy reading local history and recently finished “Glimpses of the Past in Shenandoah County” published by the Woodstock Museum in 1984 and edited by Joseph B. Clower, Jr. This small volume is a collection of memories of many long-time valley residents, most of whom have now passed on and includes Civil War lore, buggy stories, and even a few Indian tales.
One of these vignettes caught my attention as Isaac Wine shared his memory of his grandfather’s “tramp room” in the late 1800s. Since he was a minister, his granddad reserved one bedroom in his house to be used by homeless persons who passed through the area. It was a place for them to sleep, get a warm meal, and then be on their way the next day. Apparently, it was not an unusual practice as others were mentioned who kept similar emergency accommodations at the ready.
These tramp rooms were a very practical solution to a problem that was prevalent both then and now: homelessness. Although the names and circumstances have changed, we continue to encounter individuals and families in our community who have no home at a particular point in time. And Jesus commanded his followers to reach out and care for these.
Today, Christians in this county are still providing hospitality for the homeless through several methods. In addition to some who share food and money with them directly, others are involved in more intentional efforts to provide temporary housing while helping them move toward permanent solutions.
Family Promise of Shenandoah County is one of those Christian organizations that does just that. Eleven churches have opened their doors to house homeless children and their parents one week each quarter until permanent housing can be secured. Members of those churches provide meals, friendship, and encouragement while the case manager helps the adults find employment and secure homes they can afford.
In addition to the 11 host congregations, 48 other churches assist in this work by providing financial support, food, and/or overnight supervision. Many individuals, organizations, businesses, and families are also helping with this work and all is greatly appreciated.
October 22-29 is National Family Promise Week and we are thankful to be a part of what God is doing nationwide through over 200 affiliates and thousands of volunteers. In Shenandoah County, during 2016, 12 families with a total of 26 children were housed for 813 nights. So far this year, nine more families have or are being sheltered. The combined value of lodging and meals is nearly $110,000 and does not include the professional case management clients received. Like the tramp rooms, these practical solutions were provided entirely by the faith community and private sector with no cost to the local, state, or federal governments whatsoever.
Thanks to all who are working together to make a difference. If other churches, businesses, or organizations would like to help, please contact Family Promise at 459-4599. More host congregations are needed and if any church would like information on this, call that same number. In addition, families or individuals who want to help by providing occasional meals or by volunteering to stay at the Family Center or overnight in a church should call to sign up. Heading into the chilly months of winter, calls for assistance and housing always increase and the need for volunteers and donations also rise. Call today to help homeless children and their families.
All are also invited to an Open House at the Family Center at 781 Spring Parkway behind Shenandoah Memorial Hospital from 2-4 p.m. on October 22. This is a great opportunity to see the facility, meet volunteers and staff, and enjoy refreshments.
Although the nature and names of homelessness may have changed since the 1800s, the needs are ongoing and Jesus commissioned his followers to do this work. When we do, we continue his service that many others have been involved with over the centuries, including those who provided tramp rooms. Let’s continue to obey Jesus by helping the homeless. In Jesus, George.
George Bowers Sr. is the Senior Pastor of Antioch Church of the Brethren and has authored nine books in addition to contributing to Let The Earth Rejoice, 365 Devotions Celebrating God’s Creation by Worthy Inspired. He can be reached through www.georgebowersministries.com or at firstname.lastname@example.org.