Matthew’s Hope has been operating a successful Hope Chest for two years out of the woodworking space in the ministry’s facility on East Story Road. This sometimes has made it difficult for customers to see exactly what is on sale.
Come August, the homeless ministry will have its own retail space in the Tri-City Shopping Center, 1027 S. Dillard St., at the northeast corner of Dillard and Plant streets.
It will give the homeless carpenters a place to see their custom furniture on display and give them a sense of self-worth — and it also will provide additional income for Matthew’s Hope.
The ministry’s founder, Scott Billue, said because of COVID-19, Matthew’s Hope has seen a 63% increase in the number of homeless people seeking assistance in the last four months. When businesses and organizations had to temporarily close their doors in March, many of the people who were getting food elsewhere started turning to Matthew’s Hope.
This has depleted the supply of food and personal-care items, he said.
DUAL-PURPOSE RETAIL SPACE
Billue hopes to see the Hope Chest opened by August. It will be divided, with handmade furniture and household items on one side and an upscale boutique on the other.
“What we wanted to do was find some place with a lot of window space … that we could display the pieces like that $3,500 swing, stuff that people could see and they could actually come in and sit on it and feel the quality of it,” he said. “We’re building some very nice stuff. We’ve gotten good at repurposing things that are pretty cool.”
Merchandise will range from paper towel holders and wine bottle stands to farm tables and a piano wine bar to dressers and low firepit chairs. Carpenters are turning old baby cribs into bookcase and mini bars, and they’re creating unique planters.
About 97% of the items for sale are solid wood. There will be different price points, and buyers have the choice of taking home a piece that is unfinished, prepped or completely finished.
“We’re very particular on our wood,” Billue said. “We want to set ourselves apart from the others. We’re teaching the guys the value of their product.”
The boutique will offer the clothing and household items donated to Matthew’s Hope that aren’t appropriate for the homeless population, such as suits, designer jeans, decorations and wall hangings.
“It will not be a thrift store, and we will not accept donations there,” Billue stressed. “We’ll have a boutique where people can come in and find those designer jeans, designer shoes. We get stuff with the tags still on it. … We can sell, say, the designer jeans for $15, and I can take that and buy the jeans we need. The idea is to create income.”
This latest Matthew’s Hope project also creates more opportunities for homeless people to work. They and volunteers will staff the shop.
“We’re going to need people to clean, to sell, to sort, so that creates more opportunities for folks who might not get opportunities somewhere else. … This just gives them an opportunity to become independent and self-sufficient.”
Guests to the store will have the opportunity to relax in The Gathering Place.
“We’re going to have a community area where people can sit down and have some coffee,” Billue said. “The whole idea is: We’re a ministry, but we’re not focusing on that from the outside.”
Once a month, the Matthew’s Hope Chest will host community events such as wine tastings and speakers.
Another aspect of the boutique will be vendor cubbies in a showroom space. Entrepreneurs with merchandise to sell can create a small display that directs shoppers to their website. They, in turn, make ongoing donations to Matthew’s Hope.
“It’s for people who have something cool to sell but they don’t have enough to open their own store,” Billue said.
The plan is to keep the shop open six days a week.
LOW COVID CASES
The Matthew’s Hope mobile unit goes to the various homeless camps every Tuesday and Thursday to deliver medical care, food and supplies. By taking services to the people, Billue said, he and his team are helping the homeless stay close to their camps.
“The homeless have done a better job at practicing social distancing and doing what they can to keep themselves and the public safe than the public has done,” he said. “They’re also being very careful not to mingle with people on the outside. Their thought is, ‘I not only want to protect myself but the public in general.’”
Only one homeless person out of hundreds has tested positive for COVID-19, Billue said. “That’s pretty significant. This is a population that has been known to be an issue when it come to this type of thing.”