Published: May 20, 2011 2:45 AM EDT
Updated: May 20, 2011 1:50 AM EDT

BONITA SPRINGS, Fla. -- A proposed homeless shelter is heating up debate in Bonita Springs. A local woman is so opposed to the idea, she has started an online petition to stop the shelter from being built.

The proposed site along Old U.S. 41 and Bonita Beach is where St. Matthews House wants to build a homeless shelter. It is within 100 yards of a gated community and it's why some said a homeless shelter needs to go somewhere else.

Vann Ellison is the President and CEO of St.Matthews. He said over the last five to six years, a need for expanding his services to the homeless has grown.

"We've consistently had a waiting list and we've seen that the need for additional spaces in south Lee County," said Ellison.

It's why they're proposing building a homeless shelter near the intersection of Old U.S. 41 and Bonita Beach Road. Dawn Salter lives minutes away and said if a shelter goes up, she'll move.

"I'm uncomfortable with the thought of having a homeless shelter this close to our home," said Salter.

Salter started an online petition opposing the shelter because she said there wasn't enough representation for those living in Bonita Springs.

"We feel that there maybe a need for homeless shelter in other parts of Lee County, Charlotte County, Hendry County. We don't have homeless issues here," said Salter.


Robert Pratt lives nearby and said he's all for building.

"It'd be a good thing because if there are people out there that need it, there is a reason why in need it," said Pratt.

Others worry about what the shelter could do to the community.

"Property values as well as the folks that maybe coming out of there everyday and loitering around," said Chuck Wolkerstorfer, who signed the petition.

Ellison said the online petition won't get in the way.

"People have a right to voice their opinion and to make their case. We believe as long as we make a case with honesty and integrity we will win," said Ellison.

Salter said they're looking for 1,000 signatures on the petition. Ellison said St. Matthews House is looking to get city council approval from the city of Bonita Springs and said that could happen this summer

To see the petition, go to