‘These are God’s people’: Church opens emergency shelter for chilly nights


WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Temperatures Monday night will be too cold to remain outdoors overnight, so where will the area homeless go? To help, a church is opening it’s doors.

Last year’s Martin Luther King Jr. holiday was also cold and The Anchor church helped the homeless then and they are doing it once again.

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“I never thought in my wildest dreams I would ever be homeless,” Paul Swaney Jr. said. “Yet, here I am.”

Swaney says he went from paying rent to living out of his car overnight and what he thought would be a short while has turned into a year.

“I worry for the people who don’t have anything,” Swaney said. “I’m lucky I have a steady income. I get VA. I am a Vietnam war combat disabled veteran, so I get social security. So, I really shouldn’t be homeless.”

Yet, Swaney continues to shift from shelter to shelter, but he says he’s thankful he won’t have to worry where to sleep Monday night. Swaney says someone told him about Trinity Methodist Church being an emergency shelter.

“It’s a God send,” Swaney said. “That’s exactly what it is. I mean I would have been alright because I have a car, but the people that don’t have a vehicle think about them.”

That’s what exactly what Cynthia Wells is doing.

“There’s a lot of homeless people that need somewhere to go, especially when it’s cold,” Wells said. “There’s not enough facilities for them, so The Anchor tries to do what they can to help.”

Wells says The Anchor church’s pastor and a local bikeshop owner came up with the plan to open a shelter at Trinity Methodist Church.

“Switching gears was so small so they connected with this church –Trinity– and he asked me to help,” Wells said.

Wells says she’s been in ministry helping the homeless for 20 years and has no plan to turn anyone away from the church who needs a place to stay warm. Swaney says the homeless need more people helping them like The Anchor church.

“Just help the people the next time you see them,” Swaney said. “They’re just people too.”

Wells says there are not enough facilities for homeless and she’s been trucking around Monday collecting items to prepare for tonight. Wells says the emergency shelter is at Trinity Methodist Church at the corner of 14th and Market streets in downtown Wilmington.

It opened at 5 p.m. and the church plans to open each night temperatures are cold.