Kenneth Randolph, 55, is a chef and a gardener.
He’ll tell you he’s been cooking since he was 5 years old and will whip up a dish fit for gods.
The charming and engaging man also is one of the first client residents to move into Room In The Inn (RITI), a transitional housing facility for families struggling with homelessness and for recently discharged hospital patients who need a place to heal and recuperate.
Room In The End is operating as a partnership with the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church.
Bishop Henry M. Williamson Sr., presiding prelate of the First Episcopal District, is proud of the facility that celebrated its grand opening on April 19, with a ceremonial ribbon-cutting.
“This partnership gets us closer to what Dr. King talked about, the beloved community,” said Williamson. “We need to find ways to engage and serve those who are living in Dr. King’s ‘other America.’”
While the historic Collins Chapel Hospital structure was being restored, Williamson envisioned reopening a medical facility, but he said, God had other plans.
“It was really a faith walk,” said Williamson. “God did not tell me everything in the beginning. There was just an urgency I felt to restore the building. I just felt we need to move forward with the work. Once the work was done, God would give us guidance.”
The partnership with Room In The Inn started when the Rev. Lisa Anderson, executive director of RITI Memphis, was driving by the building, stopped the car, got out and peeked into a window to see what was going on inside.
“We needed a building, and I just stopped to take a look inside,” said Anderson. “That’s kind of how this partnership got started. We needed a transitional housing building and the CME Church shared our vision of providing shelter for the homeless in some capacity.”
The building at 409 Ayers St., in North Memphis, operates as transitional housing for two sectors of those who are experiencing homelessness or housing transition — individuals requiring a place to recuperate from a medical procedure and families without a home.
The CME Church owns the building and is leasing it to RITI.
Room In The Inn’s Recuperative Care Center and the Family Inn, where families are being housed, can serve 21 recuperative care patients and 14 families at full capacity.
All Room In The Inn programs will offer supportive services to create a pathway to housing and self-sufficiency for guests.
For Randolph, Room In The Inn was a blessing to him as he wondered if he would have to return to a Travelodge Motel, where he had been staying since late February.
“I’m originally from Jackson, Tennessee,” said Randolph. “I graduated from Jackson Central-Merry High School and, then, went on to Lane College.
Through the years, Randolph has struggled with two colossal challenges, homelessness and diabetes.
“What people don’t realize is that homelessness can happen to anyone, given the right circumstances,” Randolph said. “I’ve met a lot of people out there on the street.
“There was this doctor who was very prominent and wealthy. He misdiagnosed a lady’s pregnancy. He lost his job and everything he has. I see him now. This man says he has found more peace on the street than he ever had in his big home.”
Room In The Inn for Randolph opened just in time to help his road to recuperation after a recent amputation of his right leg just before the knee.
“In 2019, I was in Jackson, and I had my diabetes treated,” said Randolph. “There was some kind of a hairline-fracture that they didn’t see in Jackson. It was not discovered until I came to Memphis, and I ended up having to have part of my leg amputated.”
When Randolph woke up from his amputation, he said he felt jubilant because “the Lord spoke to him.
“I felt light, bright, and jubilant because the Lord said, ‘I took your leg, but I spared your life.”
CME Connectional Hospital was founded in the early 1900s by the Christian Methodist Episcopal (CME) Church.
It originally had maternity and surgical wards during a time when few medical facilities admitted or served African Americans.
Throughout the COVID pandemic, Room In The Inn has continued to provide shelter and meals in partnership with more than 50 congregations.
The CME First Episcopal District has more than 180 churches in Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi. Williamson is also board chair of Collins Chapel Connection. Williamson has presided over the First Episcopal District for the past seven years.
(Tax-free donations to Room In The Inn can be made by calling the administrative office at: 901-467-2091.)