St. Mary's, High Point, Offers Temporary Shelter and Builds Community
These honored guests can’t go out to the movies, so St. Mary’s, High Point brings the movies to them.
When St. Mary’s built a new Community Life Center a few years ago, the church included showers, storage facilities and other features that would allow the building to be used as overflow space for the men’s shelter in town. The COVID-19 pandemic has given them an opportunity to offer the hospitality for which they had planned. Recently, the church’s first guests moved in: about a dozen residents, moved from the shelter to allow for necessary physical distancing, and a few members of the shelter staff.
The most striking feature of this new space-sharing arrangement is how many community members have gotten involved to make sheltering in place as pleasant as possible for the church’s guests. Meals are provided through a combination of a grant from the city of High Point and donations offered by church members and their friends. As word of the temporary shelter has spread, the number of people offering support (in appropriately physically distanced ways) has spread. “Many of the people helping with food are now three times removed from St. Mary’s members,” notes the church’s rector, the Rev. David Umphlett.
In some ways, staying in the Community Life Center isn’t as comfortable as in the traditional shelter. “Our friends are sleeping on army cots,” notes Umphlett. “They would probably have better beds at the shelter.” So the church’s neighbors sheltering in place in their homes have found ways to offer comforts, and the shelter residents have graciously accepted. When the ice cream truck visits the residential street on which St. Mary’s sits, neighbors buying treats for themselves (using proper physical distancing and protective masks) purchase them for shelter residents and workers, too. “We really want them to feel like honored guests for as long as they’re with us,” explains Umphlett. The same desire led to the church starting movie nights for their guests, with chairs appropriately spaced and individually wrapped snacks available, to break up the monotony of pandemic days.
St. Mary’s guests are scheduled to stay at the Community Life Center through the May 15, but the invitation to stay longer is open. However long these neighbors stay, their presence has brought the community together.
By the Rev. Canon Rhonda Lee