For 34 years, St. Matthew’s House, a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit, has provided comfort, shelter, resources and guidance that truly touches hearts and transforms the lives of those struggling with homelessness, food insecurity and dependency. What began in Naples in 1988 as a humble soup kitchen has evolved into a comprehensive continuum of care designed to enable people in difficulty to lead lives of self-sufficiency.
St. Matthew’s House offers innovative, faith-based solutions to help individuals and families overcome some of life’s toughest challenges: poverty and addiction. Whether it is providing shelter and comfort to an elderly homeless woman or an unemployed mother and her children; the recovery opportunity for a young opioid addict after a serious sports injury; or food to a low income family with nowhere to turn for their next meal … hope really begins here.
Since its founding, St. Matthew’s House has never missed a day to feed the hungry. Today, we operate Justin’s Place community meals, pantries, homeless shelters, transitional and permanent supportive housing, and the Justin’s Place recovery program. Our continuum of care includes professional training and other educational initiatives that aim to give a helping hand rather than helping those we serve.
St. Matthew’s House operates the only emergency homeless shelters in Collier County. The people we serve are often the first and hardest hit in times of economic crisis and the last to recover. The needs for our services have increased exponentially during the COVID-19 pandemic, and we expect these needs to continue for some time.
In 2021 alone, St. Matthew’s House served 213,373 food insecure families. Our shelters served 677 homeless people, including 79 children and 23 seniors. In addition to providing the basic necessities of food, clothing, shelter and transportation for the duration of their stay, St. Matthew’s House provides comprehensive services to help those we serve move from homelessness to stability. and self-sufficiency. Also in 2021, Justin’s Place Recovery Program served 278 men and women with substance abuse disorders.
Our programs are designed to promote holistic rehabilitation rather than simply providing short-term relief or temporary housing. All residents complete a comprehensive admission assessment to identify underlying factors and vulnerabilities. They then work with case managers to establish clearly defined, reasonable and achievable goals for physical, mental, emotional, relationship and financial health. Our residents benefit from access to medical and mental health care, substance abuse prevention, legal assistance, educational opportunities, spiritual development, and life skills learning opportunities.
Unfortunately, there is still a waiting list for shelter accommodation. Currently, St. Matthew’s House has asked the county to accommodate 46 additional beds so that we can help even more individuals and families escape the hardships and dangers of homelessness.
St. Matthew’s House is not dependent on government funding. Our ability to continue our mission depends on the generosity of our donors and the support of the Southwest Florida community. St. Matthew’s House has also developed a unique social business model of retail and commercial operations that generates revenue to cover administrative expenses so that 100 percent of every donation goes directly to our life-changing programs. Social enterprises include thrift stores in Naples, Immokalee, Bonita Springs and Fort Myers, LuLu’s Kitchen, which is home to our public restaurant and Delicious by Design catering, as well as a car wash and aesthetic center. We invite the public to support Maison Saint-Matthieu by sponsoring these social enterprises and by donating canned goods and other staple foods for our pantry as well as furniture, clothing and other lightly used items for our thrift stores.
The public can also support St. Matthew’s House by participating in two major fundraising events: The Naples Automotive Experience, presented by the Naples Chapter of the Ferrari Club of America to benefit St. Matthew’s House, February 3-6, and Dean Lind Memorial Golf Classic – one of Southwest Florida’s largest and longest-running charity golf events on April 11.
To learn more about St. Matthew’s House programs and events and how you can help our neighbors in need, visit www.stmatthewshouse.org.
Steve Brooder is the CEO of St. Matthew’s House.