WINTER GARDEN, Fla. – An Orange County ministry has created “Pastor Blessing Bucks,” a makeshift currency that allows anyone to buy vouchers they can give to homeless people they encounter, and ensure the money will go toward a positive use.
Instead of wondering if the money you donate is going, this voucher program at Matthew’s Hope in Winter Garden directs the homeless population to spend the currency on goods like food and other necessities.
“It’s a currency that can only be spent through Matthew’s Hope for things you truly needed,” founder and Pastor Scott Billue said. “This can be used in the pantry, it can also be saved up over time for something bigger. If they tear it up, it’s still going to Matthew’s Hope to help those in need. If they use it, all the better.”
Greg Johnson works at Matthew’s Hope now but remembers the temptation to spend charity given to him by others.
“When I was drinking, if someone handed me $5 for food, I would, being the honest person I was, I’d spend $0.99 on food and $4 on liquor,” he said. “How far does that get you?”
The issue of giving the homeless money isn’t something that’s expected to end anytime soon.
According to the Homeless Services Network of Central Florida, more than 7,000 interacted with different area homeless organizations in Orange, Seminole and Osceola counties in 2019.
At Matthew's Hope, they've seen 45% more people come through their doors over the last year
"We're continuing to see that growth, and I hope it doesn't what it did last year or we're in trouble," Billue said.
Anyone can buy Pastor Blessing Bucks at Matthew’s Hope along Business Park Boulevard in Winter Garden.