Lee County Homeless Coalition holds vigil for homeless that have died

Reporter: Andryanna Sheppard Writer: Drew Hill
Published: Updated:

On Monday night, the Lee County Homeless Coalitioin honored those homeless people who have died with a vigil. A memorial day, of sorts, for the lives lost.

27 candles were lit and placed into 27 white paper bags with all 27 names of the homeless people who have died in Lee County.

The Lee County Homeless Coalition has held this vigil every year for the past 24 years. But, some of the homeless say that something needs to be done to make sure no more people die.

Alejandro Serebryakov says this can’t keep happening. “For people to be just dying left and right, there is no excuse,” Serebryakov said.

Therese Everly is on the board of the Lee County Homeless Coalition. “They were somebody’s mother, somebody’s father, somebody’s brother or sister. They were a part of us. They were a part of our community here,” said Everly.

On any other day of the year, the homeless population in Lee County says they aren’t treated as a part of the community. They say they’re ostracized, ignored and are not receiving the help they need to get off of the streets and back on their feet.

“There is a problem right here,” said Jasmine Miller, another homeless person in Lee County.

A problem that has s simple solution. “We can solve this if we just had shelters in place. What are they doing with this money?” said Crystal Czyscon, a homeless advocate.

Mayor Anderson says solving the City of Fort Myers’ and Lee County’s homeless problem isn’t that simple.  “What a lot of people fail to recognize is that they are categories of homelessness and one solution doesn’t fit all. It takes different strategy for each of those categories. So simply building a shelter is not an answer,” said Mayor Kevin Anderson.

Everyone who spoke tonight says the ultimate goal is to make sure this annual candlelit vigil doesn’t need to be annual anymore.  They also want to make it clear that homelessness isn’t just a Lee County issue or a government issue in general, it’s a societal issue.

The hope is that the whole community can come together to help fix it.

The homeless population says there were actually about 125 people who have died in Lee County. The County says that number may be inaccurate. That 125 figure is taken from the number of creamations. Only 12 were confirmed to be experiencing homelessness. The others were either people they could not find addresses for or those who could not afford funeral services, etc.

Also, many of the homeless people say that CARES Act funding has been misused by Lee County and isn’t actually going to help them. Lee County Government’s Communications Director, Betsy Clayton, sent us a breakdown of the county’s spending.

Lee County has accepted CARES Act dollars to help homeless people and to help with homelessness prevention. Some of the activities funded using these dollars include:

  • Homeless Outreach Team: $450,000
  • Housing Counseling: Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention: $200,000
  • Rapid Rehousing Program: $2.4 million
  • Homeless Outreach Center: $525,000

factsheet lee county CARES act spending

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