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God’s got his hand on this place’: Construction for new Sumter homeless shelter underway

The shelter is expected to be completed by early next year.

SUMTER, S.C. — James Mitchell sat by his computer in a mostly empty office at the Sumter United Ministries Tuesday working to help those experiencing hardship to get back on their feet.

The building on S. Artillery Drive was a little emptier due to COVID-19 precautions put in place to limit the spread of the virus.

Despite the change in environment, the work and local impact of the ministry, which offers emergency services like food, housing, and healthcare, remained.

“We are providing something in the community to help bridge that gap and that’s a wonderful thing,” Mitchell said.

It’s a service close to his heart, after Mitchell himself experienced homelessness just four years ago.

“At that time, emotionally, I was kind of low,” Mitchell said.

He said he worked in delivery, but got hurt on the job.

“I got caught between divorce and disability, and it forced me to where I had no place to stay,” Mitchell said. “I’d never experienced homelessness, didn’t know what it was like, didn’t know what to expect, and now, going through it, you see the plight that some people can have.”

For Mitchell and others, the Christian-based ministry has offered a place of comfort and resources like food, clothing and medical support when needed.

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Now, they’re working to expand their ministry by building a new homeless shelter.

“We worked in a building that wasn’t designed to be a shelter for years. We’re grateful for it, but this will change everything,” Executive Director Mark Champagne said. “These are separate rooms in here. It gives us the capacity to take a family in here. The next phase is going to add tiny houses here.”

Over the weekend, local churches and volunteers wrote messages of love and support inside.

Credit: Kayland Hagwood
Over the weekend, local churches and volunteers wrote messages of love and support inside.

“Just walked around here and was reading the scripture, and it was just a peace that came over me,” Champagne said. “It’s so clear that God’s got his hand on this place; it’s unmistakable.”

Now, in his own place, Mitchell said he’s feeling thankful.

“If you work at it, you can get back. They’re the bridge that’s going to fill in that gap when you fall in that portion of life and it’s a wonderful thing to have,” Mitchell said.

The shelter is expected to be completed by early next year.

To learn more about resources available at Sumter United Ministries visit their website.