Suzi Bahan appeared on episode #134 of Beach Talk Radio Saturday, October 10. On October 5th she was voted in as a new member of the Public Safety Committee by the town council. After an unpleasant encounter with a homeless person, while leaving her business one evening, Bahan says her number one goal is to restore the overall feeling of safety on the beach.
She told us last Saturday that the homeless situation on Fort Myers Beach is bad and needs to be addressed. “I think that we’ve got to stop….I have to be careful with how I word this…..I think that it’s very admirable what the church’s are doing because that’s the true meaning of being a church, to help the downtrodden and the unfortunate situations, but I think that if we keep allowing them to get access to clothing and food and showers, they’re not going to go away. What I’m saying is if we’re going to do that, if we’re going to feed them and we’re going to shower them and we’re going to provide them clothes, then I think there need to be stipulations to that. If we’re going to do this for you then we’re going to put you into job training.”
With nearly perfect weather year round, Fort Myers Beach has become a great location for people who do not have a home. The problem is there’s nowhere for them to sleep other than on the beach, the benches, the sidewalks or in empty buildings. It’s believed the homless man, Adam Soules who’s accused of killing Fort Myers Beach librarian Dr. Leroy Hommerding was living on the roof of the empty Topps building.
Bahan plans to bring a suggestion to the committee when she gets started. “I think what we would have to do as public safety committee is maybe talk to people that are interested in philanthropy. There’s obviously very wealthy people on the island. Maybe they would donate some property.”
The homeless situation is not only a Fort Myers Beach problem. We see the homeless population growing nationally and Lee County is dealing with it downtown at Centennial Park.
Bahan says Fort Myers Beach has to make a choice. “Do we want no homeless or do we want to help the homeless? I think we need to find a delicate balance between the two, maybe it’s church property, if that is something that they’d like to do. My thing is if you’re homeless ok, and I am extremely sympathetic to that, let me just reiterate that and I don’t want them hurt in any way. I think we need to help people, but you don’t get a choice. You can’t just set up camp on the beach. It’s not safe for them and it’s not safe for us. That’s nice if they want to live on the beach but…no.”
Another problem Bahan says that’s been brought to her attention is the panhandling that’s taking place. “They are making $300 and $400 a day panhandling. In season I’ve seen people hand them $20 bills. I have people who come into my business and the homeless are out there on the main walk and they’re panhandling. My customers have little kids and they’re scared and feel unsafe. I’m not saying that the homeless people we have are unsafe, I’m just saying it’s a generalized fear that they have. We’ve got to address that.”