St. Matthew’s House saved a SWFL woman’s life and now she’s paying it forward

Published: May 11, 2021 4:50 PM EDT
Updated: May 11, 2021 5:28 PM EDT

A Southwest Florida woman is sharing her journey from being homeless to using heroin to now having hope for her future. All this, because, she says, St. Matthew’s House saved her life.

Now, she’s helping others who are in the same position she was once in.

Brittany Hargrove was once behind bars, addicted to heroin and struggled with homelessness. She felt like she needed a break in life.

“Honestly I was just tired, I was really just tired of begging for a couple dollars at a time,” Hargrove said. “Trying to find somebody would let me sleep on the couch, I was just looking for something different.”

Upon release from jail, Hargrove entered a year-long addiction recovery program with St. Matthew’s House. Of course, she was skeptical of where it would lead.

Ray Steadman is the vice president of Shelter Operations & Food Assistance. “I think when she first came here, it looked like she was here to figure out how she could get out of here,” Steadman said.

“Nobody wants to open themselves up to accountability from strangers like ‘yes please walk me through my past trauma and all of my mistakes,'” Hargrove said.

Fast forward eight years and Hargrove is sober, married, a stepmother, about to get her Master’s Degree and now is the director of the shelter she entered.

“I think that sort of catches people off guard when I tell them I have been there. But, to be able to connect with them on a level that builds trust through shared experience, I think opens the door [to] make an impact in their life so,” said Hargrove.

Steadman describes her as an inspiration. “It’s inspirational, Britney is inspirational,” he said. “It’s been a joy to really watch her to kind of let her take on some responsibility and really run with it and just really, really fine-tune the gifts that God had already placed her.”

“It’s almost immeasurable, the benefit I’ve received, just simply by showing up each day and giving my best to the people who God brings in through the doors honestly,” Hargrove said.

Hargrove says she takes her responsibility at St. Matthew’s House, as the director of the Campbell Lodge homeless shelter, very seriously. She promises she’s here for the long haul and wants to help rebuild the community.

Hargrove also wants to change the face of homelessness.

Resources for those experiencing homelessness

  • The Lee County Department of Human & Veteran Services’ coordinated entry phone line is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for those who need sheltering or homeless prevention services. The number is 239-533-7996.
  • The Coordinated Entry System ensures that all people experiencing a housing crisis have access to limited community resources.
  • The goal is to ensure homelessness is rare, brief and one time.