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Hope in the midst of homelessness at Lions Park

Posted at 10:41 PM, Feb 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-02 22:49:11-05

FORT MYERS, FLA — On a sunny corner in Fort Myers, is a little slice of hope.

"God done gave me another chance, I'm leaving the state to start over," said Benny Ray King.

King is a gospel singer and musician. And he tells FOX4 that he found himself on the streets of Southwest Florida last year.

"Sometimes life happens, and it could have been you," he said.

And as King finds his ticket out, a few streets over we found dozens camping out, in the cold in Lions Park.

Dawn Cullen says she's been homeless for a month and sleeping in the park for a week.

"And all it takes is just a couple of things. Mine started with red tide, lost a job and just one thing led to another," she said.

She says she's waiting on her disability checks to kick in soon, to help her get out of the park and inside.

Fort Myers Mayor Kevin Anderson says the homeless technically have a right to stay there, at least during the hours, the park is open to the public.

"The police have been tolerant with them at lion's park because if you chase them away from there there's no place left for them to go," he said.

It's a situation that might make you ask if the city should be stepping in to do more. But Mayor Anderson says private groups should be doing more of the heavy lifting.

"There's a lot of people that have a misconception of what the responsibility of government is. And the government is under no obligation to feed, clothe or house people," he said.

We caught up with the assistant Lee County Manager Marc Mora at the park and he sees it a bit differently.

"Yeah, I think government plays a big role in that. Primarily because a lot of the funding is passed through the county," he said.

Mora says the county offered to shelter people at the park and only eight agreed to go. He says it's mainly due to the fact that many have been kicked out of some of those same shelters in the past or are being asked to follow certain rules.

"There's some issues that we gotta resolve and that's why we're out here," he said.

As people from all sides of this issue look for solutions, King says he's leaning on grace.

"I believe with all my heart that God will touch people's heart to help people get off the streets and help them to start over in a fresh life," he said.