Nearly a year ago, Suzie Bahan volunteered for the public safety committee because of an incident with a homeless person she encountered near her workplace on Old San Carlos. She wanted to help make the community safer. Last month it happened again. This time it was worse.
The homeless situation on Fort Myers Beach continues to be a big and growing problem. It’s an issue this current town council has not even attempted to address.
This week, Bahan told her public safety committee colleagues, “People are living under the bridge.” She said a man was following her late one evening when she took her dog for a walk. She had mace in one hand her dog in the other so she wasn’t able to call 911 as she tried to get away from the man.
She tried to lose him by ducking into an alley by Shipwreck on Old San Carlos and locking herself, and her dog, in her business, which is also located in the area. When she left the building and turned the corner to head home, he was standing right there. They were face-to-face.
Luckily he only asked for weed, then rolling papers. He also looked down at her hand and could see she was ready to mace him if she needed to so he took off. She told the committee, “I should not have to deal with this.” When she got back to her residence and called 911, the dispatcher told her being that she was home safe she didn’t need to send out deputies. That didn’t sit well at all with the committee.
The next night Bahan found two more homeless people sleeping on her property, another night someone was on her deck. “This is becoming more frequent and I’m scared. I’m scared at night and I’m not an easily scared person.”
Committee Chairman John Goggin said a community group needs to be organized to address this including the sheriff, the town council and the churches. “We need to come up with a holistic answer to this problem. This (the homeless) is a big problem.”
Committee member Tom Gressman was critical of the churches on the beach that provide services to the homeless. “The free showers, the free meals need to be moved off island.”
Vice Chair Heidi Jungwirth added, “The churches are enabling them. If they come here, why should they leave. They need to stop helping the homeless who are not helping themselves.”