Homeless in Fort Myers gravitate toward park near hospital; City working on solution

A growing group of people experiencing homelessness have gravitated toward a new place to stay.

We noticed several tents at Lions Park near Lee Memorial Hospital in Fort Myers Monday, and we learned solutions are in the works to help people who are homeless.

Fort Myers Mayor Kevin Anderson said he will be releasing the names of people on the City’s homeless task force. Those selected will then have the next six months to come up with solutions for the city.

Since the city fenced in Centennial Park downtown, those who used a pavilion there as their home had to move somewhere else. People who live near the new location say the timeline doesn’t fix the problem right now.

Every day when Barbara Neeld walks out her front door, she sees people who are making camp at Lions Park.

“It’s very disheartening at first,” Neeld said. “I feel sorry for the people who have lined their tents up because I know they need a place to live, but there’s just it’s just not a good accommodation for them or the people in the neighborhood.”

Neeld said, since Centennial Park closed, more homeless people have moved into her neighborhood park.

“Five weeks ago, there was one tent,” Neeld said. “This morning, there were nine.”

She said it’s brought a lot of issues for her and her grandkids.

“I’ve seen drug deals go down. I’ve seen people using drugs,” Neeld said. “Ambulances come four, five times a month to the park just down the way there. There’s fights, fist fights. You can’t let children go to that park anymore.”

Mayor Anderson said he and the homeless outreach teams went out Monday to see the growing problem. Anderson said they offered help to the people living in the park, but only three or four people took them up on it.

Anderson told us the city is working on a plan, but for now at least, police can monitor them in one place and not in the neighborhoods. He also said they have to balance between the right to be on public property, but if there’s no other option, the city’s hands are tied.

Neeld says she’s tried calling the City several times and hasn’t gotten anywhere. She hopes something is done soon before someone gets hurt.

“There’s people going to sleep out here under this tree in my yard,” Neeld said. “We do have a heart, but there’s a limit.”

Reporter:Dannielle Garcia
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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