At a joint press conference Tuesday, Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno, Lee County Commission Chairman Brian Hamman and Lee County Commissioner Ray Sandelli announced a new county wide program to help the growing homeless population.
Five Homeless Outreach Teams have been tasked with interacting with the homeless population to find out what their needs are. The teams are made up of a crisis intervention deputy, a trained civilian and a mental health professional provided by the county.
Marceno says the teams have been placed strategically in every one of the county’s districts. It was not mentioned if a team would be on Fort Myers Beach
The HOT teams provide the homeless with resources and help relocate them. They try to identify anyone who’s in crisis. They will first address their medical and housing needs. Marceno said he wants to have them build a better life.
Commissioner Hamman said the county is concerned about whether or not the people out on the street are getting the help that they need. “Obviously we’re concerned about safety, the safety of the homeless as well as the safety of the residents. We’re concerned about the people sleeping on the streets and in the parks. What we want to know is are those people getting help. With these HOT teams we are going to proactively seek out people who are homeless. We’re going to learn their stories and their needs. We’re going to seek their trust. And then we’re going to connect them with the services that make sense for them.”
Commissioner Sandelli said he called in 6 homeless people to talk to them. “I wanted to hear from them. Tell me your story. Where do you go? We took that information and we broke it down and that’s when we start to find that it’s not once size fits all. The best solutions are often found when different skill sets are combined to form a team. I think it’s this effort, in part, that will move us forward.”
Marceno admitted that the homeless population has been increasing in Lee County. He also said that “while we’re sympathetic, we’re not going to let people commit crimes. Those that commit a crime, regardless of who they are, will face the music on that crime.