Homeless present at Fort Myers Park where children play, city working on solution

Reporter: Justin Kase Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
Credit: WINK News.

Children have been playing soccer right next to a homeless camp. We learned there are steps being taken to protect those children.

Before roughly 50 families step foot on a public field at Lions Park in Fort Myers, city officials from parks and beautification sweep it looking for things such as trash, human waste or even needles.

While kids and families are out playing the game they love, Fort Myers police patrol the area. It’s something families told us they appreciate.

“Some people just have a tough time right now,” said Mike Gannon, the franchise owner of Soccer Shots Southwest Florida.

People we spoke to understand the men and women sleeping in the park are likely out of options, with nowhere to go.

“Some of our parents were concerned about the safety,” Gannon said. “And so that caused us to say, ‘OK, what can we do as an organization?’”

Gannon reached out to Mayor Kevin Anderson for help.

“We’re talking about young kids, 2 to 8 years old,” Anderson said. “Parents should feel comfortable that their kids aren’t going to step in human waste or pick up a used needle.”

Gannon says they have not had issues with the people who call the park home, but parents say they appreciate the extra help from the city.

“We did notice that there is the sheriff that patrols here, which I do feel that is safer,” said Melissa Gladish, whose son is in the soccer program.

Other parents say the changes don’t make them feel safe enough to let their kids play there.

“It’s a park for the kids to come and have fun and, you know, playing around and be safe,” Silvana Pacifico said. “And I don’t think this is safe.”

We spoke to some of the homeless men and women at the park. They said they haven’t had any issues with the people coming by to watch over the kids as they play. In fact, they told us they’ve built a positive relationship with the officer patrolling every Friday.

Monday night, the city will discuss allocating more money to temporary housing for the people staying there while they wait for more permanent housing.

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