Local group helps homeless through home renovations



ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - A community in west Orange County has found a new way to find shelter for the homeless without government funding.

Matthew's Hope is a homeless ministry that started helping a group of men renovate six rundown bungalows into transitional housing.

"It's got me motivated to where I want to get my life going, I want to be able to provide for my family," Walter Mitchell said.

Mitchell said he was unemployed and homeless for seven years until finding Matthew's Hope, where homeless individuals must earn the right to live on site and have a job or work in the ministry's garden or food pantry to cover a weekly program fee.

"We try to set up real-life scenarios," Pastor Scott Billue, with Matthew's Hope, said.

Billue designed the program to encourage the homeless to work instead of expecting free things.

"You can either give everything away and end up with same problem or you can provide opportunity and start to eliminate some of the problem," Billue said.

The homeless can stay for three to 18 months while saving up to move into their own places. Billue's group purchased and renovated the Winter Garden homes through private donors instead of the government.

"Our government is broke so why dip into a pond that is already empty?" Billue said.

Local builders are helping with making the homes move-in ready, and they all have commercial-grade furnishings that were donated by churches and businesses.

After living in a tent for years, Mitchell and his family are ready to move into a home.

"It's going to be like moving into a castle," Mitchell said. "It just gives me chill bumps to think about it."

The group still needs to raise money to cover utilities and other expenses at the homes. Billue said they're also working on a day care for homeless children so their parents can go to work.