Rental crisis forces Florida nonprofit to expand due to increase in homelessness

Matthew’s Hope in Winter Garden says since the pandemic, they saw a 500% jump in the number of people using their services. Then it all leveled off. Now it’s skyrocketing again all because of the rental crisis. 

Whether it’s food, clothes, or transitional housing, Matthew’s Hope has been a staple for the homeless in Orange County. Now the sudden and shockingly high rental increases have more people going to them for help. "These aren’t little jumps. These are 35% jumps, things like this that we’re seeing. It is literally pushing people to the street," said Scott Billue, who runs the nonprofit. 

Billue said so many people are on the streets because of the rental and housing crisis, the nonprofit is now opening a second location in Cocoa. Construction is already underway. "Central Brevard is kind of a desert of services, and so we looked at this and had the opportunity to call this former church our home."

One of the reasons they picked this location is because of the sheer size of it and how many more people they can serve. The new space will offer everything the Winter Garden location has including transportation, daycare, and preschool for up to 70 children, and transitional housing. 

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Scott Billue said when it comes to rents, landlords need to start at least giving more notice to tenants, so people aren’t left with nowhere to go. "These are people that many cases, have decent jobs, but to take on that much that quickly, that’s something that typically you have to plan for." 

Billue said not only are more people relying on them because of the rental crisis. They’re also now staying in their transitional housing program for six months longer on average because they’re unable to afford current rents elsewhere. "We’re finding that we’re having to keep a few of our guests longer than we anticipated as we build up the opportunities for them to get into a normal place of their own. "Because of how much the rents have jumped, you’re looking at someone needing up to $6,000 or $7,000 to move into a basic home now," said Billue.

The new location in Cocoa is expected to open this Fall.