Homeless savor last few hours before Centennial Park set to close

Published: October 5, 2020 5:41 PM EDT
Updated: October 5, 2020 11:30 PM EDT

Monday is the last day that Centennial Park will be open. The City of Fort Myers is closing the park for renovations. So the homeless people who sleep there are savoring their last moments.

Frank Shaffer isn’t happy that he calls the park home, but he hopes that he’ll survive its closing.

“No. Hasn’t been that way for many years, but I get by. That’s what I do. I’m a Marine, we’re going to survive. We will get by. We always do,” Shaffer said.

The pavilion provides the only roof over Frank’s head, the only working outlet he has access to and the only running water he can afford.

“I’m 65 years old, and my check ain’t big enough to get any place. I get $634 a month and that won’t pay rent anywhere let alone much anything else,” Shaffer said.

Everyone who lives in Centennial Park is trying to savor their last few hours with a roof over their heads.

The city is going to renovate and revitalize one of the most popular parks in Fort Myers, but where will its residents go?

“In camps over in North Fort Myers, Fort Myers Beach, out into Harlem Heights,” said Ken Clairmont, a community activist. “Our fear is this is only going to exacerbate after the moratorium on evictions is lifted, because how many people have not paid the rent for months and now the moratorium is lifted and all the elections happen, where all these people going to go?”

Monday night, there could still be people sleeping at the pavilion. The city said it would put a fence up to prevent people from continuing to use the pavilion as a place of dwelling.

We have not received a clear answer about when the city will close the park for renovations, and it remains unclear where people will go if they eventually can’t sleep at the pavilion.

Shaffer says he’ll go wherever he can get what he needs — a working toilet and a little bit of love.

“Until they figure out how to get down the cost of living or figure out how to stretch money, I’m stuck where I’m stuck,” said Shaffer.