Fatal accident exposes plight of homeless
Victim lived in tent with others in the woods
NORTH FORT MYERS - A deadly accident last night in North Fort Myers is raising questions and awareness about the homeless situation in Southwest Florida. A homeless man was killed when he was struck by a vehicle as he was crossing US 41 and today we're learning he lived in the woods with a network of other homeless people. Four in your Corner's Mike Mason speaking with them tonight.
Mike Mason: “Friends of the man who was struck and killed say this is where he lived - right here in the woods. His house: this small tent behind me. He is one of many homeless people throughout Southwest Florida.”
Just after 8pm Thursday night this Ford F-150 hit a man as he was crossing US 41 in North Fort Myers, he died on the scene. FHP is not releasing his name - but close friends say they knew him as “Robert”. Robert's girlfriend is understandably devastated. His friends tell us he was 43 years old and lived in the woods off US 41 and Evergreen. So today we went there looking for answers. That's where we found Kent - he's been homeless himself for 3 years. Kent told us Robert had been living next to him in this blue tent with his girlfriend for the past 6 months.
Kent: "Well, as far as I know they were arguing and he said well, I'm leaving and he took off and the next thing I know I heard a big boom."
Robert was crossing the street on his way to this Sunoco gas station when he was struck. That's where the homeless go to buy much of their food and fill up buckets of water to do their laundry. Before moving here Kent says Robert lived in the woods behind the North Fort Myers library, a few miles away.
When we went there next we found a much larger homeless community. These two men were shocked when we told them what happened to Robert.
James Lewallen: “Oh my God. That's too bad man, I'm telling you at night people do not see us people. He should have had a flashlight in his hand, you know that's the thing."
It's no secret many homeless people often battle drug and alcohol addiction. But some say they do want a better life but it's just not so easy getting back on track.
James Lewallen: "I am willing to work, I still have two hands I'm positive on that. Just give me a chance."
As for Robert, we may never really know what he wanted to do with his life.
James Lewallen: "I can't believe it."
Florida Highway Patrol has not released the identity of this man since they haven't been able to contact his next of kin. The driver involved in the crash has been cleared of any wrongdoing.