Orange County ministry fights growing homeless problem

Lack of affordable housing in the area fueling problem, ministry says

By Clay LePard - Reporter

WINTER GARDEN, Fla. - While some statistics showing homelessness in Central Florida are going down, the Matthew's Hope homeless ministry in Winter Garden believes the problem is getting worse. 

"I think we've got a tsunami heading our way and nobody is nearly prepared for it," Scott Billue, the founder of the faith-based homeless outreach ministry, told News 6. "There's 300-400 under our care at any given time. The last eight weeks in a row, we've taken in 10 new people each and every week." 

Billue said people's perceptions of what "homelessness" is needs to be updated, and added that's it's not just people living out on the street. 

"What we're seeing is people do have jobs, are working sometimes two jobs, and cannot create enough income for themselves and their family," he said. "Affordable housing is the greatest need we see right now. You just can't get into a place for less than $1,200, and that's for a 600-square-foot apartment."

A recent report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition detailed how Orlando has the most severe shortage of affordable housing for renters. 

Greg Johnson remembers how hard it was to find affordable housing. 

"They expect you to work for $8 and then pay $1,500 for an apartment," the staff member at Matthew's Hope said.

Johnson used to be in the program at Matthew's Hope, and became a staff member earlier this year. 

"One paycheck and you're done because of the housing situation and the price," he said. "You just can't get ahead."

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