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Back to the drawing board for homeless solution

Posted at 11:20 PM, Mar 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-02 23:20:39-05

LEE COUNTY, FLA — "[It's] A living hell living out here."

Rosemary Patterson says that's what it's been like living on the streets.

And while her neighbors at Lions Park are nice, it's just not the same as being inside, in a home.

"It's just been scary at night living in a tent for three months, I mean come on, once in a while but not three months," said Patterson.

But she says a recent plan to end her discomfort, didn't quite work for her.

"I didn't think the thing at Salvation Army was going to pass because it's just a quick fix," she said.

The plan she's referring to would have been a city and county partnership to get folks here out of Lions park and move them to a lot behind the Salvation Army on Edison Avenue.

It was a plan spearheaded by Fort Myers mayor Kevin Anderson at Monday night's city council meeting.

Those struggling with homelessness would be asked to move their tents for up to 90 days. And in that time they'd have access to food, showers and staff members who would work to plug them into services

“We have got to reclaim our public spaces, but we have got to it in a compassionate way that offers services,” said Fort Myers Mayor Kevin Anderson.

But the measure failed, mainly because council members had too many unanswered questions, like What happens on day 91 if everyone isn't housed? What happens when there's bad weather? And what happens when the lot reaches capacity?

“We’re transitioning from tent to tent. Not tent to housing. Not tent to services. From tent to tent from one ward to the next ward," said Councilwoman Terolyn Watson.

It was a conversation that was continued to some degree at Tuesday morning's Lee County Commission meeting.

"It sounded like the members who were against that proposal were against it because it was too much of a band-aid and it didn't have more of a permanent feel to it," said Commissioner Brian Hamman.

At that meeting, commissioners discussed the need for a homeless shelter where people waiting to be housed by the county could spend their time indoors and out of the elements.

"I want to get them under a roof as soon as possible so we can get them out of the elements and get them back on the path to permanent housing and success," said Hamman.

County staff has been given two weeks to figure out what it would take to make that happen.

It's a plan that may provide some relief to some, but not for Rosemary, who says she's expecting a call for her housing tomorrow.

"All we need is a hand up, a month's rent, security, we'll be fine. And I think we got it," she said.