Compassionate Beaufort Communities: Creating A Hospitality House for the Homeless

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By Laura Nehf

As the holidays draw near, we often find ourselves thinking about the best way to entertain family, friends and others.  Dozens of magazine articles appear suggesting the newest recipes, most charming décor, and the coziest amenities to aid us in our quest to be hospitable.

In Beaufort, however, there is one man who is thinking and planning for a very different type of hospitality: an overnight accommodation in a warm shelter, a hot shower and a simple, hot meal.  One that will sustain a homeless veteran or someone who is simply down, out and poverty stricken. The man is Rev. John C. Dortch of the Circle of Hope Ministries, Inc. The vision is a “Hospitality House for the Homeless” and it is a vision that is becoming a reality.

It all started back in January of this year. Rev. Dortch was making his usual rounds to visit the homeless who seek shelter in abandoned homes, cars and the woods off Robert Smalls Parkway.  Every week or so he distributes warm clothing and any other items these unfortunate people may need.  He came across a man in his 40’s who looked ill, but who assured the good pastor he was ok.  Tragically, the man died that night, his body found next to an abandoned car the next morning, his meager shelter not enough protection from the winter’s cold.

Rev. Dortch’s heart broke when he heard the news, and decided then that Beaufort could do better.  He formulated a plan to create a warm place, with sleeping quarters for approximately 20 in cots, toilet facilities, and a kitchen to provide at least one hot meal a day.  By May of this year, his vision led him to the brick Surveyor’s building located on Boundary Street within the same block as the Salvation Army. A purchase agreement has been executed and CBC National Bank of Lady’s Island has agreed to partner with Circle of Hope Ministries to finance the purchase.

In the meantime, he has been hard at work to raise the necessary funds to close. With the help of many individual donors, Circle of Hope has met their initial goal of $30,000 to cover the down payment and closing costs. But winter is setting in, reminding him (and us) that the need to set up the “House” is becoming more urgent.  There are many renovations required and Circle of Hope estimates $75,000 is still needed to make the house a working shelter.

Rev. Dortch’s vision for hospitality is one rooted in compassion for those who are in dire need. Compassionate Beaufort Communities is sharing this story in order to raise awareness about a very serious issue.  In 2013, Fred Leyda of Beaufort County Human Services Alliance conducted a survey that counts over 1,000 documented homeless in Beaufort.  That number easily stretches to 4,000 if you include those people who are transient and without permanent housing.

Is there any one of us who has not been helped in our lives?  If you really want to be hospitable during the holidays, please consider supporting Rev. Dortch and the Circle of Hope Ministries with their task to create a “Hospitality House for the Homeless”.

All donations are tax deductible and can be made to Circle of Hope Ministries Inc., P.O. Box 554, Beaufort, SC, 29901 or online at www.circleofhopemin.org.  To learn more, you can reach Rev. Dortch at St. Paul’s Baptist Church, 843- 379-9955 or by e-mail, circleofhope@hargray.com.

Laura Nehf is with Compassionate Beaufort Communities. If you have a compassionate story to share, contact 843-271-6912 or visit www.cbc-sc.org.