SUMTER, S.C. — Sumter United Ministries has opened its winter shelter for the year.
People experiencing homelessness can visit on nights the temperature drops below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, according to Emergency Shelter Director Daphney Scarborough.
"People are people regardless of what type of roof they have over their head. 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.
It's a message of love that Scarborough wants to share with the community.
The organization has opened a winter shelter at the Church of the Holy Comforter.
People who don’t have a warm, safe place to stay can visit on clear nights it drops below 40 degrees, or when it's raining or sleeting and falls below 45 degrees. On those nights, Robert Phelps says there’s not much to do besides "hoping."
"Wishing someone would come by, help you out," Phelps shared. "Somebody come by give you a few dollars that way you can go eat with it, then you still got nowhere to stay."
This is the problem Scarborough wants to solve.
It's the first year the shelter has been in the church after it got its start at a vacant building in 2020.
"Our hope is that other churches will get involved and it’ll bounce around the city, so that everybody can take a part in taking care of our transient neighbors," Scarborough told me.
The shelter is currently accepting volunteers to come help out.
"It’s really a great way to understand homelessness," she said. "Not just what you see under a bridge, but to actually get to know those individuals."
The organization does have an emergency shelter open year round with a curfew and a structured program. For people who just want a quick place to stay in the cold, however, this winter shelter will have a sign on the church door saying if it’s open or closed through mid-March.
"This shelter is simply for you to come in and rest because you may not want structure. You may not want to stop what it is you love to do just yet," Scarborough said.
For more information on how to volunteer or deliver food, you can call Scarborough's office at 803-775-0757 ext. 121.
"It’ll give you another outlook on what it means to help somebody in need," Scarborough explained. "Everybody wants to help but some people just don’t know how to start. So if you make the space available, I promise you it’ll get filled, and there’s always somebody willing to lend a helping hand."