People living under the Matanzas Pass Bridge forced to leave

Reporter: Michael Hudak Writer: Matthew Seaver
Published: Updated:

People living underneath the Matanzas Pass Bridge were kicked out. Many had lived there since right after Hurricane Ian made landfall.

The struggle to find housing since the storm has been unheard of. People have been doing all they can to have a roof over their heads while waiting for anyone to help them. This most recent eviction is another punch in the stomach.

“Where the **** are they supposed to go?” said Fred Caldwell.

Caldwell asks all the right questions. “How do you throw people out of somewhere when they have no place to live?”

“You started seeing little tent communities grow and grow and grow,” said Irina Mirabales, who lives next to the displaced people.

Initially, some of them were in tents underneath the Matanzas Pass Bridge.

“You come down here, and you see the people sleeping underneath there. I try to bring them some food,” Caldwell said.

He used to visit them and try to help them out. “It’s really sad. Everything sad.”

It was sad, but it wasn’t safe.

“There could be a lot of violence, a lot of people going into tents. There could be a lot of crime that happens with that,” said Mirabales.

She knows because of how close she lived to those tents.

FDOT fencing under the Matanzas Pass Bridge. (Credit: WINK News)

The Florida Department of Transportation put up orange and red fencing to tell the people living under the bridge that they couldn’t stay there anymore.

FDOT is starting the San Carlos Project so people can no longer pitch tents under the bridge.

When did people start picking up their things?

“I’d say probably about two, three weeks ago, she started to relocate,” said Mirabales.

Now those forced to leave will need to find another place to live.

“What else can you do when you lose everything? You know, shelter is shelter,” Mirabales said.

Maurice Dodds says the odds are not in his favor.

“That’s pretty much heartless,” said Dodds. “We got nowhere to go.”

He’s one of the dozens kicked out from underneath the bridge. “They just booted everybody out!”

FDOT confirmed that the project that removed the people under the bridge was happening but wouldn’t say anything else.

Dodds’ emotions about the day they got kicked out are intense.

“I could not say that on tv. That’s pretty much heartless. All these people that are live here that are still going through hard times. They still don’t have a roof over their heads. I got nowhere to go,” Dodds said.

Now, he’s living in a tent outside of the American Legion of Fort Myers Beach, about half a mile from where he pitched his tent before. If he could go afford to go somewhere else, he would.

“I can’t afford $2,000 a month. I mean, that’s the cheapest place I could find, even rent a room. I don’t have that kind of money,” Dodds said. “I need a roof over me, my wife’s head, and I need good solid work. I can do woodwork, concrete work. Tileworks sheetrock paint. I knew pretty much just about everything landscaping, and I worked hard. I just need somebody to help me out.”

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