St. Matthew’s House: serving the less fortunate among us

In the late 1800s and early 1900s “rescue missions” existed in many cities to serve widows, orphans and the poor.  While there are still some organizations that have “rescue mission” as part of their name, the phrase has become less familiar.  But the need to rescue the less fortunate is increasing.  And, today, there is a greater urgency with many more in need of food, shelter and addiction recovery. This is the St. Matthew’s House mission.

Lulu’s Restaurant in Naples helps generate revenue that supports the operations of St. Matthew's House
Lulu’s Restaurant in Naples helps generate revenue that supports the operations of St. Matthew's House
Campbell Lodge is the St. Matthew's House homeless shelter in Naples.
Campbell Lodge is the St. Matthew's House homeless shelter in Naples.

The statistics are alarming. There are more than 110,000 deaths each year in this country due to drug overdose. Enough fentanyl to kill every person in America many times over continues to flow across our southern border. Our homeless shelters have the longest wait list ever recorded with first time homelessness and elder homelessness increasing. Across the country, food insecurity is increasing due to inflation. It is at a 40-year high. The St. Matthew’s House Food Assistance program has served over 550,000 families with groceries since the start of the pandemic.

Steve Brooder
Steve Brooder

While it is heartbreaking to see these trends and the alarming statistics on the increased needs in society today, it is the personal stories of the people we rescue that are most important.

I think of Ana, age 96. She drove herself to one of our Thanksgiving turkey distributions.  Ana is a Holocaust survivor and wanted to make Thanksgiving dinner for her friends. She could only make that happen with our direct assistance.

There’s Sandy, in her 90s with medical challenges. She has a pacemaker and suffers from congestive heart failure. She was homeless.  Abandoned by her granddaughter, she was sleeping in a rented car in a Walmart parking lot.  Between our staff, our nurse case manager and other agencies, we helped place her in assisted living.

I think of Jillian, a 79-year-old whose home in River Park East flooded from Ian. She and her granddaughter waded in waist-deep water to flee their home. The day we were helping tear out the damage in the home where she had lived for 40 years, her granddaughter told us Jillian was at work cleaning other people’s houses.

Then there’s Nina, abused in her pre-teen years.  She started drinking when she was 14 and moved on to drugs. After her father died, she lived on the streets. During her time on the streets, she was shot three times and ended up in jail.  She came to St. Matthew’s House for help and graduated from our recovery program. She now works at St. Matthew’s House as a full-time employee and is happy and healthy.

I think of the father with two young boys who came to our Naples Homeless Shelter Christmas Day seeking shelter, and the 23-year-old woman fleeing abuse on Christmas Day.

I think about the young men and women who are dropped off at our shelter on their 18th birthday because their foster parents will no longer receive payments from the system.

I think about the nearly 800 men and women who have graduated from our 12-month residential recovery program who represent lives transformed.

And I think about the hundreds who are on the wait list every day to get into our homeless shelters — the only two homeless shelters in Collier County — or into our Justin’s Place men’s and women’s addiction recovery programs.

There is still much work to do.  To meet the increased demand for services, St. Matthew’s House has an aggressive four-year strategic plan to prepare us to serve the growing number of people experiencing hunger, homelessness and addiction. This plan includes increasing our capacity to provide resources and services through the reinforcement of both our staff and our facilities.

With the support of the community, we can lead even more people from Crisis to Care to Contributor. As a community, we have a responsibility to care for the less fortunate among us. Just as our society did 100 years ago, St. Matthew’s House will continue to be a “rescue mission” for those left behind.

I invite you to join with St. Matthew’s House as, together, we provide hope, help and healing to our neighbors in need. Shop at our thrift stores, patronize our Car Wash and Detailing Center or dine at Lulu’s Restaurant in Naples. These operations generate revenue that supports our operations so that every dollar donated goes directly to help those we serve. Cash donations are welcomed as well as donations of non-perishable food and gently used clothing and household items for our thrift stores. To learn more about our work and how you can help, visit

Steve Brooder is CEO of St. Matthew’s House.

This article originally appeared on Fort Myers News-Press: St. Matthew’s House: serving the less fortunate among us