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How a rise in overall prices may be affecting some seniors in Collier County

Florida is the hub for retirement, but a local homeless shelter told North Naples Community Correspondent Bella Line 20% of their residents are more than 60 years old.
How a rise in overall prices is affecting seniors in Collier County
Posted at 10:26 PM, May 08, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-08 22:26:56-04

NAPLES, Fla. — Florida is the epitome of the concept of retirement... and I mean, who wouldn't want to live here?

However, in this post-pandemic world, some say those retirement plans are showing some cracks. And St Matthew's House is on the front lines of it

"The seniors who lost their homes in the storm, they don't have the resources to move into a new place," said Michael Nojunas, director of the Campbell Lodge for St Matthew's House.

The storm he's referring to is Hurricane Ian, which continues to have an impact on life here in Southwest Florida, more than a year and a half later. "Even if they were able to keep the lease, the prices have gone up and they just can't afford it."

Nojunas says 20% of the people living at the Campbell Lodge right now are older than 60.

"We're finding a lot of seniors that are first-time homelessness," said Nojunas. "This is not something that they ever thought would happen to them. It's not that the system let them down but the world changes and we just can't change fast enough with it sometimes."

"Back then the saying was $10 a day. $300 a month you could have a house, an apartment, or whatever you wanted," said Ralph Woolam.

The Campbell Lodge resident told North Naples Community Correspondent Bella Line he moved to Florida in the 1980s, but with different factors in his life to go along with rising costs in recent years, he ended up homeless.

"The streets are rough for somebody who does not know," said Woolam. "I'm from Iowa, a real country boy, so it wasn't bad for me, but I do have pity for people who are not used to it."

Woolam said he spent 5 years homeless on the streets of Fort Myers.

"One night I was sleeping and my bicycle was stolen, all my property. I knew I had to ask for help," Woolam said. He proceeded to ride a number of busses and then walked the rest of the way to Naples at the age of 63 years young.

He's been living at the Campbell Lodge for 6 weeks.