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Homeless vigil sparks protest

Posted at 11:57 PM, Dec 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-21 23:57:45-05

FORT MYERS, FL — Under the gleam of an unusual display from above, was an unusual display of protest.

They came, as did Lee County, to honor the 19, who struggled with homelessness in our area and died this year.

But they say they stayed, silently, to call out the county for not doing enough while those people were alive.

“I have experienced homelessness myself. I have witnessed my friends lose everything. People live paycheck to paycheck," said resident Crystal Czyscon.

A big point of contention between the county and the group is Cares Act money.

Protesters say the county is sitting on $85 million that will be sent back to the federal government if not used by December 31st, but the county says all $134 million that they've gotten, has been handed out.

"There is a problem right here," said Jasmin Miller, who struggles with homelessness.

Then there's the actual number of those struggling with homelessness who have died.

Records show that this year, the county provided more than 140 cremations to people who live at or below the poverty line. The group says that's proof that dozens more folks without a home have passed away, but the county says it's likely closer to 19.

"Not everybody that's indigent is homeless. There are many families that live at the poverty level in lee county," said Therese Everly, Lee County Homeless Coalition Board member.

Both groups agree that there is more work to be done in the area, but the gap between them when it comes to how the work should be done is wide.

"To just blanketly say 'The county needs to do better.' at what? Give specifics," said Everly.

"The only thing that's going to work is if people stop lying and start helping and use the money for what it was given for," said Czyscon.