BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. — Matthew's Hope began as an effort to protect the homeless during cold weather snaps, but now the Orange County nonprofit has grown so much it's expanding services to Brevard County.

What You Need To Know

  •  The nonprofit organization Matthew's Hope recently opened a new location in Brevard County

  •  The group started 12 years ago in Winter Garden as an effort to help the homeless population during cold weather

  • Now with campuses in two counties, the group provides transitional housing, a food pantry, mobile outreach and a preschool

Officials in the organization say their main goal is to help people dealing with homelessness to get off the streets and into transitional housing, and help them find a new purpose.

Their hope is that eventually, the help provided at Matthew's Hope will lead to a place those in need can call their own.

Rodney Walton says he does just about everything in the Matthew's Hope pantry — he sorts and stocks donations, and then gets them ready to give out to the needy.

"A lot of people turn their nose up at homeless people, we don't," Walton said.

He says he grew up on a farm where he and his family spent the days doing hard work on thousands of acres.

"Growing up on a farm taught you good work values, and being responsible for yourself and everybody around you," Walton said, noting how his experiences growing up shaped him.

But somewhere along the way, though, he says he lost his way.

After years on the streets, Walton said he found his way to Matthew's Hope in Cocoa three months ago.

Since then, he's become an integral part of the nonprofit's work to help homeless people learn to help themselves.

"I met these guys, and ended up getting into the program two weeks after they got the building," Walton said.

The facility in Brevard County is Matthew's Hope's second location — for 12 years the organization has been operating out of Winter Garden.

But officials say they saw the need to expand to Brevard County and bought a former church on six acres of land on Forrest Avenue in Cocoa.

Walton is one of the people helping to renovate the property so it can be better used to serve the area's homeless population.

"Think of it as the toddler who is trying to walk — we're here to steady you if you fall, pick you back up," said Matthew's Hope founder the Rev. Scott Billue. "People we help are doing what needs to be done to get off the streets."

The pastor says a lot of the renovations being done on the property involves reusing what's already there.

"The metaphors are right there, because that's what we're doing, we are building people up, we are restoring lives," Billue said.

What started in a double-wide trailer has expanded into two campuses that serve 1,600 people, he said.

Among them are people like Walton who say they want to contribute and not just take.

"Makes you feel good about yourself," he said with a smile.​

Matthew's Hope in Cocoa is currently operating it's food pantry, mobile outreach and a preschool.

Once renovations are complete, Billue said they hope to add their transitional housing program by the end of the year.