By AMANDA GREENE
Religion News Wilmington
This week, Donna and Garry Phelps took the inaugural shifts as homeless shelter captains for the fledgling Brunswick County Streetreach, Inc., the first homeless shelter interfaith network in the large Southeastern North Carolina county.
The Phelps’ prison ministry, Building Hope Ministries in Supply, served evening and breakfast meals and housed two individuals and a family for Jan. 16-21. Building Hope also will be Streetreach’s shelter location for next week, Jan. 23-28.
“And that would not be possible without the support of everyone working on this issue,” Donna Phelps wrote in an email about an increase in church donations of blankets, clothing and toiletries to help the homeless.
The Phelps’ created the plan for a network of churches that will house and feed the homeless during the cold winter nights of November-February to meet the needs of the growing homeless population in Brunswick County. Brunswick Streetreach is similar in vision to the Wilmington Interfaith Hospitality Network in Wilmington, N.C.
And now other Brunswick County churches are signing on to take more weeks until the weather starts to warm.
Generations Church in Southport has the next watch Jan. 30-Feb. 3. And several more Brunswick churches are voting on the responsibility of hosting homeless people for a week in their fellowship halls or multipurpose buildings.
Generations’ shelter captain Linda Castro said the issue of homelessness in Brunswick County isn’t always as visible as it is in more urban communities because of the many wooded places where the homeless can go to camp.
“Since this economic downfall, there’s a lot more people calling for help,” she said. “We found out just last week that there is a homeless camp in the woods right near our church.”
Generations Church has 8-10 beds available during the last week of January and will begin signing in anyone in need of a place to stay around 5 p.m. each day.
Castro said the church’s fellowship area will be divided into sections for men, women or families with enough cots, blankets and pillows to go around.
“I tell you, Donna Phelps is a wonder, the ministry she has done here with the homeless,” Castro said of the new nonprofit. “It’s going to be an amazing adventure.”