St. Matthews House of Collier County wants to open a homeless shelter in Bonita Springs, and the group's choice of a location, is creating some controversy.
"We really need something for the homeless in south Lee County," said Vann Ellison, president of St. Matthews. "Right now, there is nothing to house them, to feed them."
Ellison's group is proposing to buy and re-model an old bank building at the corner of old US 41 and Bonita Beach Rd. St. Matthews is raising 6-million dollars for the 200-bed shelter, that would also serve to help people find jobs, go back to school, and stay off the streets.
"My passion is to help the less fortunate. This is the way to do it in the Bonita area," said Ellison.
"I think it's a bad location for that. The public has a negative connotation or perception of a homeless shelter, and we could lose customers because of that," said Tim O'Malley, mgr. of a sports pub across the road from the proposed site. "This is really the gateway to Bonita, and we want it to welcome visitors. I am afraid a shelter might turn people off, drive them away. There has got to be a better place for a shelter in this community," O'Malley told WINK.
City officials also have indicated, they have other plans and hopes for that corner, somehting other than a shelter. They are vowing to point St. Matthews to other locations around town.
Ellison says, fears are unfounded. "We have 22 years in East Naples, and we have declining crime in our neighborhood, where the shelter is located. Our neighbors know us there and have no problem with how we operate, how we help people. We can do the same in Bonita," Ellison told WINK.