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VA puts homeless veteran in hotel amid set closure of Centennial Park in Fort Myers

Many people who are homeless in Fort Myers continue to figure out what their next step is, as the City of Fort Myers continues to prepare to close down Centennial Park for updates. This will force change upon those who have sought shelter under the park’s pavilion.

Now, a homeless veteran gets to sleep in a real bed, but he told us he worries his good luck will run out after two years of sleeping under the pavilion at the park in Fort Myers.

Veteran Frank Shaffer, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps, packed his electronics, his blankets and his cart Wednesday because he’s finally leaving Centennial Park.

“I am just elated, tickled pink, whatever you wanna call it,” Shafer said. “It’s hard to put into words that are acceptable for the camera.”

Hopefully, it’s for good.

“I was at the point that I was pretty much it isn’t going to happen for me anytime soon because I can’t figure out how to stretch $600 to meet today’s economy,” Shafer said.

Shafer told us the VA reached out to him after seeing our previous story and offered to put him in a hotel in south Fort Myers until they can help find more permanent housing. Old friends stopped by to say goodbye and see him off.

“Uncle frank is a survivor, you know?” former neighbor Lydia Ocasio said. “He was like, ‘Don’t worry about me, baby girl. I’m going to be fine.’”

And new friends donated their time and their cars to see him go.

“I happen to be a veteran. My dad is a veteran. There are veterans in my family, so just looking out for him,” veteran Ronin Earthclan said. “I think it’s really messed up that it has to come to this.”

We continue to wait for a response from the City of Fort Myers about when the park will be completely closed for renovations.

Even though he’s got a place to lie his head tonight, Shaffer won’t rest until 20 others do.

“Unless somebody strikes my voice, and I got one, I intend to keep at it until everybody is off the streets,” Shaffer said. “They are still people. They are still citizens. And they deserve the respect from everyone.”

Reporter:Andryanna Sheppard
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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