Lately there have been many more people standing in the medians of dangerous intersections all over Lee County asking for food or money. On Tuesday the Lee County Board of Commissioners approved a new ordinance that makes that practice a crime. The new ordinance does not make it illegal on Fort Myers Beach.
In order for the new ordinance to include Fort Myers Beach the town government would have to opt-in. The town council could also pass a similar ordinance. The Lee County ordinance only encompasses unincorporated Lee County.
The new ordinance received a little push-back Tuesday with a handful of critics saying it’s an attempt to prevent the homeless from making enough money to buy food. However, this new ordinance also includes the fire department and any other organizations that raise money in the median of busy intersections. Every year local fire departments walk busy intersections with their boots in hand raising money. That is now illegal.
The Commissioners stressed this was all about safety. Safety for the people in the intersections and safety for drivers who are distracted by those walking the intersections.
In 2020 Lee County was ranked the 11th most dangerous county in the country in terms of pedestrian deaths with 22 people killed last year.
Dangerous uses include stopping and standing on a median or engaging in any physical interaction between a pedestrian and an occupant of a motor vehicle within certain areas of unincorporated Lee County.
The Lee County Sheriff’s Office intends to educate and raise awareness of the ordinance. Actual enforcement is considered a final step. Violations of the ordinance will be punishable by a fine not to exceed $500 and/or by imprisonment in the county jail not to exceed 60 days, as provided in Section 125.69, Florida Statutes.
The ordinance will be filed with the Florida Secretary of State within days and will become law.
People who are in the right-of-way because they are collecting money for food or basic necessities should call the Lee County Homeless Coalition Coordinated Entry System at 239-533-7996 to connect to available services.