FORT MYERS, FLA — We've seen the tents and heard the despair. But what happens now that the people who once lived here are gone?
Well according to Lee County, since February at least 20 people who called Lions Park or the downtown Fort Myers library home are plugged into its "Rapid Re-housing Program."
"The ultimate outcome is for the individual to be self-sustaining and after a year or less in the program be able to pay their own rent," said Assistant Lee County Manager Marc Mora.
So here's how it works. If you're homeless and have lived in lee county for at least 90 days, you can call the county and apply for the program.
If approved, you're then given a case manager.
"They work directly with the individual to find the best fit," said Mora.
That best fit is housing offered at a below-market cost through grants and county partnerships with local landlords and property managers.
And if needed, the county will help you pay your deposits and rent for up to a year.
"All of the landlords have to go through an inspection," said Mora.
The county says the units and complexes used have to meet these HUD quality standards, which outline if the place is livable and safe.
They're standards that the property manager at the Waterford Apartments in Fort Myers, Larry Twinney, says he takes seriously.
He tells us a man experiencing homelessness will be moving into a unit on Wednesday.
"The people that are homeless aren't bad people they're just people that have had bad luck," said Twinney.
He tells FOX 4 that he's been partnering with the county to help house folks for about a year and has dedicated about 20 units to this cause.
"I've had people come in with their young kids and they cry, and it just breaks your heart," he said, "You get some bad eggs but on the whole, if you do your homework and you're good with them and you give them a decent place to live, they'll be great tenants."
But it's a program that the county says doesn't always move as quickly as they'd like, because they need more landlords to sign up.
And right now it's causing a bit of a backlog, with more than 350 people still waiting to be housed.
"If more landlords would take part of their building and say, 'Hey listen, we're gonna dedicate 25 percent to this community to help these homeless,' We wouldn't have this problem at all," said Twinney.
If you're a landlord who is interested in participating in the program, you can email Lee County at email@example.com.
If you want to be housed through the Rapid Re-housing Program, you can call 239-533-7996.