The Working Homeless Part 4: Questions and answers

Published: December 17, 2021 8:22 AM EST
Updated: January 25, 2022 10:53 AM EST

You spoke to city leaders and people knowledgeable about homelessness. How are they responding?

Céline McArthur, WINK News investigative reporter: “I showed the story to [Fort Myers] Mayor [Kevin] Anderson, to an FGCU professor, the National Coalition for the Homeless and a local faith-based housing advocate. They all knew the problem existed, but were surprised someone went out to find the working homeless and tell their story. They all point to the shortage of affordable housing as a major driver.

Are they committed to doing something?

“No one has said, ‘Here’s the plan.’ There’s already a 548-household waitlist for housing in Lee County. However, they do agree that all stakeholders, including businesses who hire these people, need to get together to talk about it.”

MORE: Click here for continuing coverage in The Working Homeless series

Here is how Anderson responded:

“People feel that the burden of this problem sort of falls squarely on the shoulders of the local government and the taxpayer,” Anderson said. “Here’s a harsh reality: It’s not the government’s obligation to feed, clothe or house people. Now, with that being said, that does not mean we can’t be involved and participate in some way in trying to address this problem.”

Are the two men you profiled getting help?

“Mack, the one who works at the Luminary, says he does not want services. What he wants is the city to address affordable housing and wages. [Brent] Grayson, the one who works at Oasis, is now officially in the system, en route to getting services.

What’s next?

“A deeper dive into the process: What is it like for someone signing up for services? That’s the best way to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Holding our community stakeholders responsible. The only way something gets done is if they’re pushing for it.
Important to remember: They’re filling jobs in the service industry others don’t want. This impacts everyone.”