NAPLES, Fla. — A local homeless shelter is reporting a record amount of people who are in need of assistance in Southwest Florida.
Now, that shelter can finally offer more help.
On Tuesday, the Collier County commissioners voted to allow St. Matthew’s House in Naples to add 46 beds to its homeless shelter.
St. Matthew’s has been serving the homeless of Collier County since 1987. But as Naples’ population has boomed and affordable housing options have dwindled, more and more people are in need of help.
“The wait list is the highest we’ve ever experienced,” said St. Matthew’s CEO Steve Brooder. “That’s a function of society today and a lack of affordable housing. They’re driving people from their homes.”
More of those people can now go to St. Matthew’s. On Tuesday, the Collier commissioners unanimously passed an ordinance allowing the homeless shelter to add 46 new beds.
Soon St. Matthew’s will house 150 people, of all kinds.
“We’ve seen an expansion in our wait list for single females and families,” said Brittany Hargrove, senior director of shelters and housing at St. Matthew’s. “At last count, we had 33 single females who are fleeing domestic violence and other dangerous situations are on our wait list today, this morning.” Neighboring apartment complexes had concerns about the expansion. So St. Matthew’s agreed to install security cameras around its perimeter.
However, former Collier commissioner Donna Fiala spoke out against the expansion. Though she retired in 2020 after 20 years, Fiala was speaking as a resident of East Naples.
“People never want to express all the things we who live in this area have to deal with,” Fiala said. “Things missing out of their yard, cars broken into. They would never want to admit that because they don’t want to make St. Matthew’s House look bad.”
Fiala said expanding the shelter could bring more run-ins between residents and homeless people, even if they aren’t staying at St. Matthew’s.
“Those people, they don’t live at St. Matt’s,” Fiala said. “They’re drawn here because of St. Matt’s."
St. Matthew’s officials said they’re glad to address any concerns, especially from those who live nearby.
“We really want to be a good neighbor,” Hargrove said. “We would extend a neighborly hand to them. They’re welcome to come to our facility at any time. We want nothing but the best for their properties and for the people we care for.”
St. Matthew’s will add the beds without expanding any of its buildings. Shelter officials said the 46 new beds should be available in about two months.