- May 18, 2022
When a military veteran seeks assistance in the administrative office of Matthew’s Hope, it’s often difficult to talk about his or her issues in private. And when more than two people want to get some items from the pantry, a line typically forms in the already-cramped space.
This has been happening regularly for nearly two years since many of the homeless ministry’s busiest services have been located in two small makeshift offices on South Woodlawn Street in Winter Garden.
“When we moved into the transitional housing, it was supposed to be a temporary thing,” Billue said. “We just couldn’t find a place to go. It didn’t exist. The offices and pantries are houses, and we took them over, renting from Ace Hardware. When we move into our new place, we will turn those back into transitional housing for our guests.”
By summertime, Matthew’s Hope will have a new home — with most of its services for the homeless under one roof and with room to expand its programs. This has been founder Scott Billue’s goal for years. As the ministry has expanded in its eight years, its services had to be scattered across Winter Garden.
Move-in is expected in June at 611 Business Park Blvd., off Story Road across from Orange Technical College – Westside Campus. The space is ideal, Billue said, because many of the homeless guests, as the participants are called, have been taking classes at the school and earning their GEDs and career certificates, Billue said.
Tech school students are assisting with build-out, cutting floors, installing plumbing and doing the framing.
“The work is being overseen by contractors and teachers, and it’s less expensive for us,” Billue said. “It’s giving the students opportunity, but our people as well.”
Matthew’s Hope clients are handling some of the trim work and building all of the furniture for the new offices. They also will create some of the space’s decorative pieces.
The new location will have 5,300 square feet in which to house the Hope Chest workshop, with its own office and showroom; administrative offices, with room for medical professionals and their services; and an expanded pantry and clothing and hygiene area to provide service to more people at one time and more efficiently. These are currently in three different places in Winter Garden.
It also is just around the corner from the Firm Foundation Preschool and outreach center, at 740 Ninth St., and the future Garden of Eatin’, at 981 Ninth St.
More importantly, Billue said, the new location is on one of the few Lynx bus routes in West Orange County.
The new building will certainly bring down the cost of operations, he said. Although the monthly rent is about the same, Matthew’s Hope will pay less per square footage.
“And then we have four separate warehouse locations that we store stuff in – when it’s all done, it’s almost a wash on the rent,” Billue said. “Where you save is on insurance, having one location as opposed to multiple; utilities, having one as opposed to multiple, and just efficiency in general.”
More space means expanded services, too. Tuesday is intake day at Matthew’s Hope, where guests can sign up for services such as getting medical help or a haircut, laundering their clothes and shopping in the pantry. Billue said there’s a possibility a second intake day could be added.
Matthew’s Hope has a nurse and a social worker on staff, as well as regular visits from a Veterans Administration representative, a nutritionist and a mental health worker.
Billue said the homeless guests are excited about the move because they understand it will make the system simpler for them.
“We don’t want their time to be stressful,” he said. “And sometimes we know because again, the more people you cram into an elevator, the more stressful it becomes. They’re trying to get their needs met, but, unfortunately, I can only let so many in at a time. And for privacy purposes, it’s hard.
“Our intent is for MH to never become like a sterile clinic,” he said. “Our intent is to meet you where you’re at, peel back the onion, learn who you are and what your individual needs and challenges are and design a program that will help you move through your particular jungle.”