NORTH FORT MYERS, Fla. — Pictures sent to Fox 4 are showing the living conditions inside the new North Fort Myers hurricane shelter. Those photos show missing tiles and stained ceilings, conditions being addressed by the company in charge of the shelter.
CDR Maguire is a third-party contractor, hired by the Florida Department of Emergency Management under the Governor's Office.
"Those are inside the building, yes we can confirm that," said Melanie Michael, spokesperson for CDR. "They’re in the very, very back. They were actually roped and draped off."
She says no one is around the area shown in the pictures. We asked if we could see for ourselves inside the shelter.
"Probably not just because for HIPPA reasons," Michael said. "There are some special needs patients in there with medical needs and we have children in there."
Michael did share photos of the inside and they were taken before the shelter opened. She says they are working with the leasing company to fix the conditions.
The spokesperson also provided these photos of the inside, which were taken before the shelter opened yesterday. We asked to go inside the shelter, but the spokesperson cited HIPAA. pic.twitter.com/r5yOGDMdwU— Kaitlin Knapp (@Kaitlin_Knapp1) October 20, 2022
The former Publix was chosen because CDR works with the leasing company and it seemed like the best option, Michael said. It's an option people like Eric Best and Patrick Jester are using.
"57 years old and I have three little bags. That’s what's left of my life," Best said, holding back tears.
"I feel like there were a lot of things in my life that needed to be washed away and the flood did that," Jester said.
The shelter is housing 353 people, as of Thursday morning, most moving from the Hertz Arena. It was run by Lee County before the state contractor took over. Adults, children and pets are welcome.
"They have a warm bed, they have three hot meals a day, they have snacks," Michael said.
Displaced families also have access to showers, laundry services, and help from agencies such as FEMA and the Red Cross.
"The shelter is here for the duration," Michael said. "We want people to know that we are here for them."
People coming to the shelter have to register and provide ID whether through a license or another means. They also have to go through a background check.
Michael said they are not turning anyone away, so we asked if sexual predators or felons are allowed.
"They have been background checked, those individuals, and they are…they are going to be kept in a certain area," Michael said.
She says the facility it safe and there are law enforcement officers patrolling inside and outside 24/7. Once someone is checked in, they receive a wristband with a bed number. The wristband shows they have gone through the proper steps to be at the shelter.
"It also has everything that it needs. Is it perfect? It’s not perfect, but it is exactly what people need right now," Michael said. "It is safe, it is sound, it has been checked out by numerous people."
Those needs are something Jester and Best says they are looking for as they work to rebuild their lives.
"I have a job still. I’m just looking for shelter, transportation, and getting back to my life," Jester said.
The shelter is also accepting donations for displaced families. Michael said they've also ordered 100 more beds to reach a capacity of around 470 people.
The shelter is located at 189000 North Tamiami Trail in North Fort Myers.