Lee Homeless Coalition message: You Count!
Temperatures dipping to the high 30s had longtime and thin-blooded residents digging out the sweaters and coats last week.
Media outlets statewide also issued an only-in-Florida warning: Watch out for falling iguanas.
Yes, when it gets cold, the invasive reptiles go into a stupor that makes it difficult for their claws to cling to trees, palms and other vegetation. So they fall.
Yikes! Iguana showers! It’s almost as bad as finding out palmetto bugs have wings.
But lizard jokes and “chicken of the trees” recipe sharing aside, cold snaps here in Lee can be serious.
For some, very serious.
Fourteen women and children and 16 men accepted beds at the emergency shelter opened by the Salvation Army Tuesday night as a result of the weather.
Lee County has another 229 regular beds spread over two shelters operated by the organization. All are full.
We, like most communities, have our share of societal challenges. And yes, homelessness is among them.
The Lee County Homeless Coalition estimates that on any given day, there are nearly 400 individuals living on the streets of Lee County.
The total number of individuals who are homeless is estimated at 2,800.
Who are they?
Families with children.
From all previous walks of life, including a disproportionate number of veterans.
In other words, us.
Any one of us, possibly, given the circumstances that drive homelessness, both chronic and temporary: Mental health issues. Addiction. Family disruption. Loss of a job. Lack of affordable housing.
Twenty-three of us died while homeless in Lee County last year.
The Lee County Homeless Coalition, comprised of numerous organizations, ministries and service providers, continues to work to reduce the numbers.
To call attention to the issue and to provide the homeless and veteran populations in Lee County with access to needed goods and services, the Coalition held the 20th annual Homeless Service Day and Veterans Stand Down Saturday at City Gate Ministries in Fort Myers.
Services were provided during the event to anyone who is homeless, including provisions for food, hygiene kits, backpacks, flu shots, haircuts and information on VA benefits, organization officials said in a release announcing the event.
Referrals for substance abuse and mental health counseling also were made available.
“A Stand Down is a military term used to describe a brief respite from combat where troops could access a variety of services,” said Lee County Homeless Coalition Executive Director Janet Bartos in the release detailing the free-to-those-who-are-homeless event. “Our hope is to help homeless individuals get what they need by providing these services in a one-stop setting.”
More than 30 agencies were scheduled to that part in the event that also included the coalition’s annual Homeless Census. dubbed You Count!
We thank the coalition and all those involved for their efforts.
We all — we all — do count.
For more information on either the coalition or available services, visit the Lee County Homeless Coalition website, leehomeless.org.