Hurricane Irma Couldn’t Keep This Senior Down SEPTEMBER 2019

Forces Greater than Nature

A word from Vann Ellison, President & CEO

It’s been more than two years, but I doubt any of us will forget the effects of Hurricane Irma. That is especially the case for many seniors in Collier County who, like Michele in this newsletter, were displaced by the devastating storm.

Michele was fortunate enough to find her way to St. Matthew’s House. Here, she received practical help and loving support that got her back into a place of her own just three months after she arrived. Many of her peers, however, didn’t know where to turn for help. They found it too difficult to negotiate the complicated process of getting assistance. Sadly, many are still experiencing homelessness.

Aside from forces of nature like Irma, there are many reasons for the growing number of homeless seniors in our community. Families break down. Children move away. Spouses die, cutting monthly social security payments in half. The survivors simply don’t have enough money for rent and other living expenses and they fall through the cracks.

Thankfully, there are forces even greater than nature and more powerful than a hurricane: hope ... compassion ... and your generosity. With help from friends like you, St. Matthew’s House extends the love of Christ to all who find themselves on the fringes of our community—and brings them back into the fold.

In the articles ahead, you’ll find some ways to help. Of course, we always appreciate your gifts and prayers as well. God bless you and keep you safe!

Did You Know?

  • According to the Naples Daily News, a recent survey in our community counted 635 homeless adults, of whom 59 were senior citizens.
  • The Hunger and Homeless Coalition reports that seniors are the fastest-growing segment in the local homeless population.
  • In Central Florida alone, 10 percent of people living in shelters are seniors (age 62 and up).

Opinion: The Face of Homelessness

by Joe Trachtenberg, Board Member, St. Matthew’s House

The face of homelessness in our community has changed significantly in the last decade. Once primarily men, we now see far more women, many with young children, and more elderly as well. The numbers on our waiting lists every single night for the past fifteen years bear this out.

In our economy, most people live without any economic safety net. The loss of a job or a home, a spouse, or even an illness, can quickly lead to a chaotic family crisis. For many, friends or family come forward with the necessary temporary relief. But for those without these resources, St. Matthew’s House, which operates the only homeless shelters in Collier County, is often the last resort.

You can read the rest of the article at the Naples Daily News.

Michele Finds a Safe Port in the Storm

There were no hurricanes in Michele’s native Connecticut—just a lot of snow. So when the former “ski ambassador” moved down to Florida to be with her ailing aunt, surviving Hurricane Irma was a new—and devastating—experience.

“We lost everything,” Michele recalls. “We came down from Orlando, going to where there was electricity.” The women stayed in a hotel in Fort Myers but soon ran short on money. Michele tried staying with a couple of friends, but neither arrangement worked out.

“We ended up at St. Matthew’s House—and I’m very fortunate and blessed that we did,” says Michele. She admits she was terrified at the thought of staying in a homeless shelter. But St. Matthew’s House put all of her fears to rest.

“The staff are wonderful,” Michele tells us. “They’re very caring. You can really talk with them or pray with them. They help you see that God has a plan for you.”

Michele, a senior citizen, never thought God’s plan for her would include being homeless. However, she credits staying at St. Matthew’s House with opening her eyes to what homelessness means. “Everybody has a reason for being here,” she explains. “We’re not all drug addicts or alcoholics. This place is for anyone who needs to start over. Things happen that change your life dramatically. St. Matthew’s House trains you so when you leave, you can work and support yourself. They prepare each and every person here for life.”

Clearly, it would take more than a hurricane to keep Michele down for long. After only a few months with us, she moved into a condo where she enjoys working on her art, reading and raising her Siamese kitten. St. Matthew’s House will always be close to her heart and she plans to come back and volunteer. “I’m in a wheelchair,” she says, “but I can do as much as anybody if I work at it.”

Join Us In Celebration

Justin’s Place Recovery Program Graduation

Everyone at St. Matthew’s House is looking forward to a very special event: the 29th graduation ceremony for Justin’s Place Recovery Program. We invite you to share the joy of the men and women whose lives have been transformed by Christ. You don’t even have to leave your house. Simply log on Monday, October 28 at 6 p.m. and watch it live!

Will You Help?

Our nearly 3,000 volunteers are the heartbeat of this organization. With more than thirteen locations across Southwest Florida and over 100 unique opportunities to serve each day, we rely heavily on—and are deeply grateful to—the men, women, and children who donate their time and talents serving with us. Last year, volunteers donated nearly $1 million worth of volunteer service hours!

We have urgent volunteer needs in the following areas and locations:

  • Fort Myers Thrift Store, Fort Myers
  • Kitchen Helpers at Campbell Lodge, specifically on Mondays and Fridays, Naples
  • Mobile Pantry Helpers, Naples

Fill The Pantry

We had a wonderful outpouring of donations during this summer’s food drive—as much as 15,000 pounds of non-perishable food items! However, there is also great need in our community and much of the food has already been used or distributed. As St. Matthew's House enters our busiest time of year, we ask you to help stock our pantry again.

Your donation of food will make a difference in the lives of men, women and children who are less fortunate. You’ll find a list of our current pantry needs on our website.

Monetary donations will also be a big help as together we care for the least of these. Thank you for letting them know they’re loved and cared for by God—and by His people.

2601 Airport Road, South • Naples, FL 34112



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