The Church of the Holy Comforter, Sumter, is opening its doors providing shelter to the area’s homeless this winter. The church has been welcoming from 7 to 12 guests and is open from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. when the temperature drops below 40 degrees.
Sumter United Ministries (SUM) is overseeing the effort. The group provides a platform for Sumter churches to meet the needs of the elderly, working poor, disabled and homeless.
Ginny Corley, who serves as the chair of Holy Comforter’s Missions Committee reflected on how the church first decided to serve as a shelter. “We are the first church Mark Champagne (Executive Director of SUM) approached, and the timing was auspicious,” she said. “The first meeting with Mark Champagne was in August 2022 in response to a request from Mark to Fr. David for some space to use as an overnight winter shelter. During that meeting the ad hoc committee discussed the risks on both sides of using Walker Hall as a winter shelter for the unhoused. The main risk to SUM was we may lose the building at any time (SC Supreme Court ruling pending). As we were walking out of the meeting in general agreement that Walker Hall and the bathrooms could be suitable, Fr. John (Sosnowski) received a phone call letting us know that the buildings were ours. There was a definite sense we should share what had so graciously been returned. The vestry unanimously passed the subsequent proposal.
“People are people regardless of what type of roof they have over their head,” said SUM Emergency Shelter Director Daphney Scarborough. “Everybody is your neighbor regardless of whether their house looks like yours or whether they don’t have a house, and my belief tells me that I am to treat my neighbors and love my neighbors like I would love myself, and I don’t want to be in the cold,” Scarborough explained. “We at Sumter United Ministries do not want to be in the cold. So we don’t want those that are in our neighborhood that may not have as much as us to be out in the cold either,” she said.
“Jesus invites us to love our neighbors, calls us to do that,” said the Rev. David Booman, Rector of Holy Comforter. “We have a lot of neighbors here in Sumter that have great need in these winter months. This is our little way of reaching out, trying to love and support them.”