The Lee County Sheriff’s Office now has an outreach center at the Beach Baptist Church.
The Reverend Shawn Critser of Beach Baptist Church says he welcomes members of law enforcement who have an office at the church they can use. The church is located in the middle of the island off Connecticut St.
The Lee County Sheriff’s Office said the location is temporary while the office searches for a permanent replacement for its former outreach center at Helmerich Plaza.
“The church is considered a good location for this outreach center as it allows us to utilize this space for our many crime prevention programs offered by this unit,” Lee County Sheriff’s Office Captain Anita Iriarte said in an email.
Critser said the sheriff’s office has access to the list of those who use Choice Market, the pantry on the church’s website. The pantry is used by the needy who work in the community or live locally, as well as the homeless. They must log in with their address when picking up food or toiletries. “If they don’t have a local address, they get help the first time and that’s it,” crister said.
Critser said the list of pantry users is made available to law enforcement, who are interested in “People trying to be off the grid and off the system. This slows them down a bit. »
Homeless services, as well as homeless attendance, have come under attack from some in Fort Myers Beach in the past two years since former library director Dr. Leroy Hommerding was stabbed in death by a homeless man. Crackdowns on homelessness became a campaign issue during the 2020 City Council race and a homeless man who was shot that year has bolstered calls from members of the city’s public safety committee to demand a reduction in assistance from community organizations that support the homeless with food and other vital necessities. The churches in the city all contribute to helping those in need, as it is part of their sacred mission.
Critser said this fall he hopes for the arrival of the sheriff’s office on church property. “will alleviate the problems of many people.
Critser sees the presence of the Lee County Sheriff’s Church on the church grounds “can only help” and go “Keep away the bad seeds. He says MPs will stop by from time to time and have access to the church building.
Critser said he hopes this will lead to a “better integration with law enforcement and our community.”
The church had been in talks with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office to provide space for the department for months.
Iriarte said an outreach coordinator for Beach Baptist Church is there four days a week. Irarte said in an email that the outreach coordinator is also “often at events, meetings or presentations elsewhere in the Fort Myers Beach community.”