Fort Myers city council fails to pass plan to help homeless people

Reporter: Dannielle Garcia Writer: Melissa Montoya
Fort Myers city council failed to address the homeless issue during a meeting on Monday. A homeless camp has grown at Lions Park. (CREDIT: WINK News)

A plan to address a homeless camp at Lions Park in Fort Myers failed during Monday night’s city council meeting.

The homeless camp will remain at the park, near Lee Memorial Hospital. During Monday’s meeting council voted against a plan to bring 30 to 35 homeless volunteers to a fenced-in area on the Salvation Army’s property.

There, they would live in tents and have access to services.

Fort Myers Councilwoman Darla Bonk said she voted against the plan because it’s “a band-aid.”

The plan would cost the city $100,000 with the county kicking in another $300,000. For the price, she said, the city should have a more permanent solution.

“I don’t know that I have the right answer,” Bonk said.

“You know, I understand the argument somethings better than nothing,” Bonk added, but with this plan, questions were left unanswered.

Rosemary Fattaruso has been living at Lions Park, but she wants out. Her husband was laid off during the pandemic and her landlord kicked them out of the home they rented, she said.

“I just lay in my tent and say, it’ll get better,” Fattaruso said. “It’ll be better.”

Councilmembers Terolyn Watson and Johnny Streets also voted against the plan.

Streets said he would like to install FEMA trailers to house people or consider filling up empty hotels.

He said he’s not comfortable with putting people in tents.

Fort Myers Mayor Kevin Anderson was not happy about the vote.

“I was very disappointed,” Anderson said. “This was the first real effort to try and move the needle on homelessness and it’s just hard to believe that four council people shot it down with no plan in place as an alternative.”

“It is not the government’s responsibility to feed, clothe or house people … we do it out of compassion,” Anderson added.

The plan would have moved people closer to services that they don’t have now, Anderson said.

Anderson’s next step is to meet with St. Matthews House, a group known for helping people transition from being homeless.

For now, the homeless camp will remain untouched. Fattaruso and her family will stay put.

What the couple needs is hope. And there is not a lot of that at Lions Park.

“You just lay here all day long all night long,” she said. “What do you do? It’s hard.”

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