Tuesday, January 07, 2014

St. Matthews House Official 'Loses It' At Community Meeting

Substance Abuse Rehab-Homeless Shelter President Argues With Community

LABELLE, FL. -- Homeless shelter and drug and alcohol rehab operator Saint Matthews House of Collier County sent officials and a lawyer along with two rehab clients to the Port LaBelle Inn Monday night for an "informational" meeting with neighborhood residents to explain their plans to purchase the 1981 motel and restaurant facilities.

The Collier county non-profit has contracted with the owners of the Port LaBelle Inn to buy the multi-million dollar facility and change it from Hendry county's only combination hotel/restaurant into a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility and "retreat" center.

St. Matthews House spokespersons told about 50 neighborhood residents attending that the hotel would close for public use and the organization would spend about $500,000 to remodel and repair the 33 year old building for men undergoing drug and alcohol abuse rehab, housing them on the third floor.

The second floor would be used for "conference" guests. The restaurant bar would be closed and the restaurant kitchen used to serve meals to the rehab clients and conference guests.  Men in rehab would use separate dining areas from guests.

Under 24-hour surveillance, the men would not be able to leave the facility without permission, nor would they be allowed to have cell phones or use a car. St. Matthew House rules allow rehab clients to leave the facility once monthly for only four hours.

After a lengthy presentation including testimonies from two current rehab clients, the whole program sounding somewhat like a fund raising meeting, staff cited all the good deeds the drug and alcohol rehab organization does including operating Collier county homeless shelters, five thrift stores, laundries, and catering services.

When question were solicited from the audience, it was quickly apparent that the meeting attendees were not buying St. Matthews House's arguments that a rehab facility was needed in Port LaBelle, and certainly not right across the street from 100 condos and townhouses, and the Port LaBelle Marina, all sited in one of the nicer neighborhoods of western Hendry county along the Caloosahatchee River.

Joe Trachtenberg, Saint Matthews House Board of Directors Chairman and retired President and Chief Executive Officer of Victaulic Co., a producer of mechanical pipe joining systems with 3,600 employees in Easton, PA., took the podium to respond to complaints from one resident about the organization's plan. 

Trachtenberg made what sounded like a threat that if St. Matthews House didn't buy the hotel and use it for it's rehab program, the building may very well become a vacant building, and a target for vandals, resulting in broken windows and trash thrown in the pool.

An uproar quickly came from the audience after Trachtenberg's remark, and one voice shouted out they'd "had enough" and invited the audience to leave. About half of group did leave, leaving Trachtenberg and his presenters to carry on best they could to finish up the aborted meeting.


  1. If Saint Matthews wants to make a difference in the drug community in the Glades they should buy the old hotel in Moore Haven. That is a location where a rehab could really make a difference

  2. It would create needed jobs and much needed economic develop for the area and would encourage other support businesses to move into the Glades County area.

  3. This program could also benefit the prison program and much needed rehab to get the prisoners back into the community. This would be a win-win-win plan for the whole Glades area. Hope Saint Matthews executives are reading your posts.

  4. Anonymous10:34 AM

    St. Matthews may not be giving up. They may intend on purchasing it privately for a hotel purpose and then establish the drug rehab operations once they have control of the hotel.

  5. Anonymous8:56 AM

    Upscale Naples residents trying to move their homeless and unwanted residents to a different location. This is dirty.