Pastors rally support for Summerville women's shelter

Pastors rally support for Summerville women's shelter

SUMMERVILLE, SC (WCSC) - Two local pastors are working to stir up support in Summerville for a homeless shelter for women and kids.

Vicar Gary Beson, of ST. Timothy's Church in Moncks Corner, and Pastor Jeff Centers, of Riverland Church, have held a series of community meetings in efforts to revive a women's shelter closer to home.

"I probably encounter a homeless person at least once a month and sometimes more than that…some are living in cars and some are living in tents," Beson said. Beson also serves on the board of Summerville men's shelter, Home of Hope.

Marty Thomas, board president Home of Hope, said their facility director has to turn away women each week.

Thomas called the situation "heartbreaking."

"They may be homeless, but Summerville is their home," Thomas said in a phone interview.

Thomas said Home of Hope has to refer women to downtown Charleston's One80 Place.

He said leaving home can be an added stress for families and kids.

Currently, One80 Place in downtown Charleston is the closest emergency shelter for families in the area.

According to a press release, the nonprofit operated a shelter in Summerville since 2010 until board directors unanimously voted to put the shelter up for sale in January this year due to funding issues. One80 Place leaders said the group helped re-house 27 women and children in the fall of 2015 before closing the Summerville facility and "continues to serve homeless women and families from the Summerville area.

Anyone who would benefit from staying in the nightly shelter is offered an available bed in the Family Center or Men's Shelter in Charleston.

Anthony Haro, exec. dir. of Lowcountry Homeless Coalition, said there are not enough shelter beds currently and requests that can't be filled. The pastors agree there's still a need for women in the Summerville area.

"As much as we don't want to admit it, we do have people living in their cars, living under bridges, living in the woods," Centers said. "Living in situations that they don't choose to live in. A facility like this could really meet a need for people like that for people to stay in the area where there are a lot of jobs and growth and development."

The pair envision a shelter with at least 25 to 30 beds, just for women and children.

"A clean safe and secure place they can secure their families until they get to sustainability," Centers said.

Beson said the pastors are holding community meetings, focused on finding leadership and funding by the end of the year.

"You generally get children when you have women so the costs are a great deal higher but the outcomes we want are the same," Beson said. "We want people to get back on their feet, financially support themselves and emotionally support themselves. I think we'll see the town of Summerville get behind this and we'll have two wonderful shelters very soon."
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