Nonprofits say homelessness rising in Collier County

A nonprofit said homelessness is a growing concern for shelters in our area.

St. Matthew’s House in East Naples said homelessness is on the rise across in Collier County, and it’s looking for creative ways to serve them.

Vann Ellison, president of St. Matthew’s, said more than 300 people look for a place to rest their head on any given night. At the nonprofit, volunteers serve 1,000 plates of food each day.

For some people in Collier County, back alleys end up becoming homes. People in the area told us they’ve noticed an increase in the homeless population spending time here.

Executive Director Christine Weldon of Hunger and Homeless Coalition said homelessness is more widespread than people realize. Within 24 hours, the organization counted 498 people within Collier County who were considered homeless. That’s on top of the 1,100 students in the Collier County school system.

“It’s frustrating because we deal with it every day,” Weldon said. “We get the calls. These people have jobs. It’s your everyday kind of people.”

Weldon said, among the homeless, there is a specific demographic that is on the rise.

“Our highest growing number are seniors,” Weldon said. “It’s almost alarming how many senior citizens are becoming homeless on a daily basis.”

Both organization’s leaders told us donations are vital to help expand and continue to fund services to the increasingly homeless population.

Ellison said things trending right now include homeowners unable to keep up with expensive housing costs in a booming local economy, the opioid epidemic tearing families apart and senior citizens running out of money.

“Working class person or somebody who is employed is going to struggle to stay in housing,” Ellison said. “There’s a chronic court group of homeless people, but there’s a lot of people where there is a slight downturn — their own personal economy.”

Reporter:Jerrica Valtierra
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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