Last month, the Bonita Springs City Council placed a moratorium on homeless shelters in Bonita Springs, which goes into effect May 18 and would prevent any permits for shelters until regulations are passed or for 12 months, whichever is shorter.
The moratorium won’t affect the construction of St. Matthew’s House, a 129-bed shelter in Bonita Springs, but St. Matthew’s will abide by the rules of the new ordinance.
This seems the best compromise between those who believe homeless shelters are a nuisance to neighborhoods and those who think it’s everyone’s obligation to care for the less fortunate.
Bonita residents have expressed the shelter will be flooded with “homeless” from all over Florida. Others said that homeless shelters are the most dangerous places in a city. And yet others that shelters lower the home values of the neighborhood.
Those same comments were heard many years ago when Pueblo Bonito, a 130-home community for migrant workers, was built in Bonita Springs. Those protesters were proved wrong many times over in the coming years.
The perception of homeless people as violent predators is unjustified, said Joe Jackson, a University of Florida legal skills professor who serves on The Florida Bar’s Public Interest Law Section Committee on Homelessness, in early April. “The fears that would say we shouldn’t have a homeless shelter anywhere near a school or a day care facility, are just unfounded,” he said.
St. Matthew’s House has filed its development order with the city. Charles Maurer, president of Development Associates, has a $3.5 million contract to sell 6.5 acres, including the empty Synovus Bank building at 9200 Cockelshell Court, to an anonymous trust in Naples. That trust will then donate the land for the shelter.
We urge the city to approve the development order and to all Bonita residents to open their hearts and minds and become part of this effort for the benefit of their entire city.