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County services criticized after woman's death

Posted at 10:57 PM, Jan 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-01 23:01:25-05

FORT MYERS, FLA — Anna Driver and Douglass Mitchell were supposed to be starting 2021 as newlyweds.

"Today we were supposed to [go] down and get married," Mitchell said.

But instead, just two days before saying "I do," Anna died.

Douglass and his wife-to-be struggled with homelessness and were sleeping outside of the Fort Myers Regional library at the time.

He says he woke up to her breathing heavily on December 29 and she lost consciousness when he turned her over.

"She just slumped over, right into my arms," he said.

A police report from that night shows that Douglass did CPR on Anna until help arrived.

Douglass says doctors think Anna had a heart attack, but he thinks she had an allergic reaction to the new medication she was given for a skin infection.

"Her tongue was swollen. Her tongue turned purple and she was straight blue in the face," he said.

Douglass says a big reason Anna got that infection in the first place, was because they were living outside.

He claims they'd tried to sign up for housing through the lee county homeless coalition years ago and were wait-listed.

"We just need help to get our foot in the door. That's it," Mitchell said.

FOX 4 reached out to Lee county to learn more about the situation. A spokesperson sent us this statement:

County staff made many attempts to assist Ms. Driver.

Lee County Human & Veteran Services staff had been in contact with the deceased on a half a dozen occasions since 2019, working to identify and find her adequate housing.

Staff was in contact with her to help complete required documentation and offered assistance to place her pets in housing so she could engage in assistance for which she was eligible.

As recently as Oct. 19, 2020, Human Services attempted to make contact with the deceased, and she failed to respond.

In November, staff engaged with her again during an outreach event. She refused shelter and told staff she was entering a housing program not affiliated with the Homeless Coalition.

But Douglass says he and Anna didn't own any pets and that the county is lying.

"Them people never gave my wife a call. They never gave her a call," he said.

He adds that they did refuse housing on one occasion and this is why:

"If triage was the choice, no we was not going. No. Triage is worse than jail. I would rather go to jail," Mitchell said.

In the meantime, Douglass is starting off his new year in a motel, still searching for permanent housing and learning to live without the love of his life.

And he says he hopes the community will remember Anna like this.

"She was a very kindhearted and loving person," he said.

As far as this claim from the county is concerned: She refused shelter and told staff she was entering a housing program not affiliated with the Homeless Coalition. The county also claims that the couple refused its services because they had found another agency to help them; FOX 4 spoke with a representative for the group that was helping the couple. He told us that at the time, he was working to put them up in a motel for a short period of time.