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City council votes against proposal to address homelessness in Fort Myers

A plan to help the homeless in our community failed approval. The partnership would have set up a homeless camp.

Fort Myers City Council voted against forming a partnership with Lee County and The Salvation Army after a heated discussion during its regular meeting Monday.

Most of the council felt a proposal was moving people experiencing homelessness from one place to another without a solution.

People who spoke up at the meeting said this was an attempt at a bandage fix, and it wasn’t going to work in the first place.

Council members were divided over how to address homelessness in Fort Myers.

“Doing nothing is not the answer,” Councilman Liston Bochette said. “It will only get worse.”

City Manager Saeed Kazeemi presented a proposal called the “Rapid Transition Collaboration,” a plan put together with the county and Salvation Army.

The goal was to bring 30 to 35 willing homeless individuals living in the city’s parks to a fenced in area on the Salvation Army’s property.

People would be housed in tents and connected to services for 90 days in the hopes that, at the end of that period, they would have permanent housing.

Some members of city council said this was a step in the right direction.

“Personally, I think it’s a good start. Is it the end all? No,” Councilman Fred Burson said. “But I would ask anybody on this council what would you suggest we do for the next 90 days?”

It didn’t sit well with most of the city council members, who said the plan felt rushed.

“We can’t keep putting Band-Aids on our problems,” Councilwoman Teresa Watkins Brown said.

“We wanna do something, but let’s not just do anything and forget about the dignity of the people,” Councilman Johnny Streets said.

It certainly didn’t sit well with some homeless advocates who went to the meeting.

“Why aren’t we literally housing them, not triage, but housing?” Denise Traficante said.

“You are taking them from freedom and putting them behind a fence,” Keith Campbell said.

The city manager said the county was supposed to discuss this at its meeting Tuesday, but since it failed 4-3 at the city council meeting, it’s unclear if the discussion will happen.

Reporter:Andryanna Sheppard
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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