For Room in the Inn, challenge and change

By on November 21, 2020

Non-profit for the homeless begins new season

There have been some difficult times for the OBX Room in the Inn in recent years. Founded in 2009, the organization has always worked with local churches to offer temporary housing and services to the area’s homeless.

Back in 2015, there was an argument between guests at a church that led to a fatal stabbing. Health concerns made it necessary for executive director Betsy Kelly and Board President Nancy Griffith to resign earlier in the year. And this year, COVID-19 came, and suddenly churches were no longer available to offer housing because of social distancing and cleaning requirements.

Perhaps even more devastating, because of COVID restrictions, churches could no longer hold in-person services and without services, there were no collection plates and no money to contribute to Room in the Inn. That’s part of the reason that new Executive Director Mike Jones said he inherited about a $35,000 budget gap when he took over that post few months ago.

Challenges notwithstanding, on Nov. 15, Room in the Inn began its 2020-2021 program, one that will run through the end of April thanks to a $5,000 grant from the Outer Banks Community Foundation. In the past, the organization usually ended its housing program in the first week of April.

Typically, Room in the Inn helps between 25 to 30 homeless men and women during the cold weather part of the OBX year, providing desperately needed shelter as well as freshly cooked meals. And it begins its new season with new leadership, a new housing facility and a new plan for managing and tracking those who use its services.

The changes will be significant.

Realizing they could not accomplish their mission of housing their guests in churches because of the stringent COVID requirements, Room at the Inn is renting a facility in Nags Head.’

Jones, who holds an undergraduate degree in psychology and a master’s degree in social work, points out that the new housing facility has made closing the budget gap more difficult, saying, “It’s a beautiful facility. But that’s been an extra cost.”

Having its own facility to house its guests, though, opens up possibilities that were never possible in the past. “Our long-term goals are to extend the season, even possibly year-round,” Jones said.

The organization is also renting an office in Kill Devil Hills to handle guest intake and case management.

The ability to provide regularly scheduled case management services to its guests may be one of the most notable changes at the organization. In the past Room in the Inn was unable to provide that type of service.

And although the financial challenges are significant, the organization is getting some help from its friends.

“The churches that can help have given donations. We’ve gotten a lot of individual donations, ranging anything anywhere from $50 to $5,000. It’s easing up,” Jones said.

For her part, Room in the Inn Board President Tracy Ryder sees an upside to the challenges of 2020.

“We are looking at this COVID pandemic as unfortunate, but as an opportunity. It’s giving us an opportunity to shelter in one location, versus moving from church to church, as we’ve done in the past,” she said.

“I think the churches actually like what we’re doing now,” Jones said. “The heads of churches have spoken to me and said it’s kind of a relief that they’re not having to house the guests.”

Being able to house their guests in one facility, rather than having to move them around, has also created opportunities to work more closely with the people staying at Room in the Inn and help them move forward with their lives.

“We want to be transitional…We want to guide people or at least point them in the right direction to get them back on their feet,” Jones said.

With an office for intake and a permanent place to take their guests, the organization has also implemented strict intake guidelines.

“We go through an extensive intake process we do a background check. And then we do a nationwide background check on each person, as well as the breathalyzer,” Ryder explained. “And if they have a felony conviction, they have to be a non-violent felon.”

A structured case management program is something that Room in the Inn has not been able to implement in the past because their guests were moving from place to place. And Ryder said Jones is the right person at the right time to implement the new program.

“We have a more structured program this year due to Mike, so that’s been wonderful,” she said. “We feel we will be able to get the people that have been in the system longer, we will be able to get them out of the system.”

“What we try to do, we try to reconnect these people with their families. And if that’s not an option, then we try to help them get back on their feet,” she added.

There is a fundraiser for Room in the Inn coming up Dec. 6, sponsored by Mike Kelly. 300 tickets for sale at $20 a ticket. It’s a drive thru lunch. Pick up is at Kelly’s Catering.


Barnhill Building Group has been selected as the Construction Manager @ Risk by the College of the Albemarle and is seeking to pre-qualify construction trade contractors to submit bids for the furnishing labor, materials, equipment, and tools for the new College of The Albemarle – Allied Health Sciences Simulation Lab (COA Health Sciences) located in Elizabeth City, NC. Please note: Only subcontractors who have been prequalified by Barnhill will be able to submit a Bid.

The project consists of the new construction of a 38,000-sf, 2-story expansion to the existing Owens Health Sciences Center and will house classrooms, labs, and a simulation lab. The site is just over just over 4.5 acres and is located on an active campus. This new construction will be a steel structure with a brick and metal panel veneer, curtainwall, and storefront glazing with a PVC roof membrane.

Principal trade and specialty contractors are solicited for the following Bid Packages:

BP0100: General Trades

BP0105: Final Cleaning

BP0390: Turnkey Concrete

BP0400: Turnkey Masonry

BP0500: Structural Steel & Misc. Steel

BP0740: Roofing

BP0750: Metal Panels

BP0790: Caulking / Caulking

BP0800: Turnkey Doors/Frames/Hardware

BP0840: Glass & Glazing

BP0925: Drywall

BP0960: Resilient Flooring

BP0980: Acoustical Ceilings

BP0990: Painting & Wallcovering

BP1005: Toilet Specialties / Accessories / Division 10

BP1010: Signage

BP1098: Demountable Partitions

BP1230: Finish Carpentry and Casework

BP1250: Window Treatment

BP1400: Elevators

BP2100: Fire Protection

BP2200: Plumbing

BP2300: HVAC

BP2600: Turnkey Electrical

BP3100: Turnkey Sitework

BP3290: Landscaping

Packages may be added and/or deleted at the discretion of the Construction Manager. Historically underutilized business firms are encouraged to complete participation submittals.

HUB/MWBE OUTREACH MEETING: Barnhill Building Group will be conducting a HUB/MWBE Informational Session. You are encouraged to attend the following session to learn more about project participation opportunities available to you. These seminars will help to: Learn about project and scope; Inform and train Minority/HUB contractors in preparation for bidding this project; Assist in registration on the State of North Carolina Vendor link; Stimulate opportunities for Networking with other firms. Location and time TBD. Please visit our planroom at for more information.

Interested contractors should submit their completed prequalification submittals, by July 22, 2024, to Meredith Terrell at or hardcopies can be mailed to Barnhill Contracting Company PO Box 31765 Raleigh, NC 27622 (4325 Pleasant Valley Road, NC 27612).