Business owners in Collier County plaza fed up with homeless issue

Reporter: Rachel Cox-Rosen
Published: Updated:
Business owners are upset about homeless people in their shopping plaza. (CREDIT: WINK News)

Business owners in one shopping plaza in Collier County say they are fed up with homeless people and drug addicts yelling and screaming and harassing customers.

It’s happening on the corner of Collier Boulevard and Vanderbilt Beach Road in North Naples.

Meanwhile, the Collier County Sheriff’s Office has promised to help the businesses.

They have an agreement with the plaza owner to remove belligerent people but business owners are skeptical, saying they’ll believe it when they see it.

Recently, a homeless woman was in distress, kicked around trash and yelled at people in the plaza.

Soon after, two Collier deputies took her into custody.

She struggled before they put her into the cruiser and took her away for treatment.

It happened in front of Michael Hamwey’s business Kava Luv.

Hamwey said the woman threw his sign away.

She’s not the only person he has run into trouble with. He has called the sheriff’s office 30 times in 2022.

“Clearly, you know, affected sales that night. It’s been affecting sales and it’s an ongoing problem,” Hamwey said. “I mean, people that I had as regular customers won’t come anymore just because they’re afraid.”

A few storefronts down, Rabila Asghar, the owner of Subway, said running a business has become stressful due to the disruptions.

“She was so scared,” Asghar said. “He was like a big tall kid and she was holding him like this because she was so scared.”

St. Matthew’s House helps the homeless population in Southwest Florida. (CREDIT: WINK News)

St. Matthew’s House CEO Steve Brooder said as housing prices and rents rise, more and more people will be left without a place to stay.

The nonprofit does what it can to help, including taking people in like the woman arrested by Collier deputies.

“It’s very traumatic,” Brooder said. “We’ve had elderly people dropped off. We’ve had people dropped off that are just discharged from the hospital or a jail. It’s very disorienting for people to be in that situation so we immediately try to come around and start the case management to find out what they need and what caused the homelessness and then be able to help them out of that situation.”

But St. Matthew’s House can’t help everybody.

He estimates there are around nearly 1,400 homeless people in Collier County and they simply don’t have enough beds for all of them in their shelters.

At the moment, there are 186 people on the waitlist.

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