In order to help Island Sand Paper readers learn more about Town Council candidates, we have asked them to answer a series of questions in their own words. This is our second question:
How should the Town interact with other communities and organizations in addressing the homeless issue on Fort Myers Beach?
Ray Murphy’s response:
During my past tenure on Town Council I always believed that we didn’t have to reinvent the wheel. For problems we were experiencing we had a wonderful resource to draw from and that was The Florida League of Cities. There aren’t too many scenarios on a municipal level that the League hasn’t seen and dealt with for its members and I would start with them first. The homeless issue on the Beach is a complex one indeed. I would also make contact with our other municipalities in Lee and Collier counties and see how they are caring for the homeless in their jurisdictions. I’m certainly not an expert in this area but it seems to me that we have several opportunities to work together on a more regional basis to identify and provide for the more specific needs of our homeless people.
Rexann Hosafros’ response:
I am pleased with the way the town is interacting with various organizations regarding homeless issues. Council members have met with law enforcement and Anita Cereceda as point person has met with the Beach Ministerial Association. The pastors of Chapel by the Sea, Beach Baptist, Beach Methodist, St Raphael’s Episcopal, and St Peter’s Lutheran have stepped forward and are having regular meetings in order to provide strong solutions through unity. Several positive innovations have been suggested and are in the process of implementation. I am not aware if the town has interacted with other communities, but this is a good avenue to pursue. Often our town tries to reinvent the wheel when successful ideas exist elsewhere. I am most concerned that we, as a community, come together to address the dearth of mental health assistance (for all of us) on the island. I am hopeful that we might involve some of the generous nonprofits on the island with the incubation process for such a program.
Dennis Boback’s response:
The use of the word homeless is used to describe people in various ways. Some people are homeless through no fault of their own. Loss of a job, disasters, health issues, loss of income due to Red tide or other conditions beyond their control. They need a helping hand and take responsibility for themselves.
Then there are the vagrants who are also called homeless. However they are homeless because they choose to be homeless. It is a life choice for them.
I have learned the Beach Baptist does provide some counseling services however they cannot make them take advantage of those services and most do not.
They should be given 30 days to show they are trying to get that help for their, mental health issues, health problems, alcohol and drug addictions. Otherwise they are out of the program.
Other locations around Lee County have better access to these types of facilities and can provide those services.
I read Lee County is looking to open/provide a facility just for this purpose. We as a Town, the churches our neighboring communities and other organizations must communicate with each other. A data base must be kept so they cannot just move from one community to another without seeking help. If we all work together we can provide the services required, transportation to reach the various facilities then maybe we can we can make a difference. We all need to work together to give them a hand up not a hand out.
Dan Aller’s response:
The fundamental responsibility of any government is to provide for a safe and secure environment for its citizens, businesses, and visitors. If elected, I will work tirelessly to ensure these responsibilities are the number one priority of our town. Working together as a community, we must be proactive in preventative measures to remove the vices that often lead to homelessness, as well as addressing those currently in need.
Our town is not equipped with the resources and facilities necessary to meet the needs of a homeless population. These needs go above that of just a meal and a shower. I will work with the local churches, non-profit organizations, county services, and law enforcement to put programs in place that help get the homeless off the streets and find them the help they need to get their lives back in order. However, we cannot continue to enable those who choose not to help themselves.
Tackling the homeless issue must go deeper than just partnering with other organizations to aid those in need. We must be more proactive in working with the Sheriff’s Office to take a tougher stance on crime. A plan must be put in place that lays out our public safety expectations ensuring the LSCO has the resources they need to provide safer streets and neighborhoods, including dealing with the homeless.