NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Charles Strobel comes to work at Room In The Inn every day, inspired by the unending task of caring for Nashville’s homeless.
“He’s kind of our Colonel Sanders. He is the face our brand; you can’t separate a man from his works,” said Rachel Hestor, the Executive Director.
There is a memorial tree in the guesthouse lobby that reminds Strobel of the 800 men and women who died never getting off Nashville streets. He knew many of them personally.
“There’s always something catastrophic, and it makes their recovery and healing so difficult because they’ve got so many obstacles to change and reverse and get through,” he told News 2.
Room In The Inn offers hope. The network of faith congregations shelters hundreds of homeless people across the city.
“Folks from all over the city pick up people who need shelter and take them to their place of worship. Feed them, offer them a safe place to sleep for the evening, and bring them back in the morning with a sack lunch,” Strobel said.
Feeding the homeless goes back to the days when Strobel was a priest at Holy Name Catholic Church.
“It seems like the only thing I ever did was make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Didn’t know that I was doing anything but giving somebody something to eat,” he said.
As it turns out, Strobel was feeding both the body and the soul. He opened up a soup kitchen in 1983 called Loaves and Fishes, which is still open at Holy Name.
“The simple act of giving somebody something to eat, or someplace to stay, is far overdue. We need to do more of that for sure,” he told News 2.
Strobel says he always knew his life would be one of service, inspired by the benevolent spirit of his mother, Mary Catherine.
“She was someone who knew everyone in the neighborhood for blocks and she would visit people that was her outgoing way,” he said. “She never brought attention to the fact that some of them might have needed some groceries, some clothes, that was something she tried to do, provide, but it was never defined as a group of people that were in need but were really part of her extended family of friends.”
When Mary Catherine was murdered in 1986 by a homeless drifter, Strobel left the priesthood and devoted his full attention helping Nashville’s homeless.
Today, Room In The Inn means more than food and shelter. Over the years, Strobel rallied the Nashville community to offer real hope of getting homeless people off the street through education and employment, along with support for sobriety and mental health recovery.
“I hope that whatever I have done, I’ve done with a good heart and I hope it’s something that has made a difference,” he added.