Matthew's Hope shelters 65 homeless people during hurricane

The shelter was open for two nights when Hurricane Ian blew through West Orange County.

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The Matthew’s Hope homeless ministry opened a safe shelter for about 65 people Wednesday and Thursday nights at its West Orange location. Matthew’s Hope president Scott Billue said some stayed both nights, others stayed the first night only and some stayed Thursday night after dealing with heavy winds and rain the night before.

“We set them up just like we did for the winter shelter,” Billue said. “We put them in the outreach center and lined them up. You line them up and put down bedding, and they sleep — and they’re safe and they’re warm.”

The local Matthew’s Hope organization serves about 1,300 homeless folks weekly, Billue said, so that means a majority of them stayed out in the storm with their belongings. Many remained at their camps because they couldn’t bring their pets with them.

“They’re so worried about losing what little they have, and they lose it anyway, and it’s dangerous,” he said.

The high winds destroyed many of the tents, and the rainwater ruined sleeping bags.

“We blew through a ton of resources,” Billue said. “By the time we fed everyone and made sure they had everything they needed, we probably spent an extra $10,000.”

Playa Pizza donated more than 30 pounds of bread to help feed the people staying in the safe shelter, and community members left food, clothing, hygiene items, blankets and towels.

“As far as the properties, we came out pretty good — just some downed limbs and really soggy land,” Billue said of its transitional houses.

Hurricane Ian further emptied the organization’s resources.

“We’re spending $15,000 to $20,000 every time we open our doors, and that’s without a storm,” Billue said.

Matthew’s Hope is open Tuesdays and Thursdays to provide services to the area’s homeless population.

To make a monetary donation, visit Donations of canned goods, hygiene products and other staples can be dropped off at 611 Business Park Blvd., Suite 101, Winter Garden.



Amy Quesinberry

Community Editor Amy Quesinberry was born at the old West Orange Memorial Hospital and raised in Winter Garden. Aside from earning her journalism degree from the University of Georgia, she hasn’t strayed too far from her hometown and her three-mile bubble. She grew up reading The Winter Garden Times and knew in the eighth grade she wanted to write for her community newspaper. She has been part of the writing and editing team since 1990.

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