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FMPD seeking reimbursement for homeless services

Posted at 10:24 PM, Apr 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-19 22:57:37-04

FORT MYERS, FLA — Lions Park may be clear, but the problem of homelessness in Fort Myers is far from over.

It's a hard truth that Fort Myers Police spokesperson Kristin Capuzzi told FOX 4 they were well aware of back in February.

"Homelessness has been around for millions of years and we're not going to tackle it in one month," she said.

Back then, they also told FOX 4 that they hoped to help tackle the issue, with a newly created "HOT team," which would allow an FMPD officer to partner up with local crisis managers, to link those struggling with homelessness to services.

"That's all that is, is each person you got to find their story, find what they need. We've got veterans out here, mothers, single parents," said Capuzzi.

And at Monday's city council meeting, the program was back up for discussion.

"Is there gonna be a full-time officer that's gonna be pulled off of duty for this?" asked one man.

The answer is "yes," though FOX 4 learned Monday that the officer leading the team has changed after the previous leader was promoted.

FOX 4 also learned that FMPD is looking to get grant funding to the tune of almost $100,000 for the position.

"If this gets approved we'll get reimbursed. But if not, it comes from our budget," said FMPD Deputy Chief Randall Pepitone.

Right now, the salary for the officer in charge of the hot team comes from the department's budget, but they asked the city to approve an application for HUD funding to pay them back for it.

The city council said "yes," and now it's up to HUD to agree.

"We'll hopefully get this [money] annually, but for now this is for one year," said Pepitone.

And if HUD does agree, there's a chance that surplus could be put towards expanding the program.

"It's tough for one officer, there's no question," said Capuzzi in February 2021.