Lora Brooks has lived on her boat at the Fort Myers Yacht Basin since July 2017. It’s her only home that she shares with her two cats, Nemo and Mimi.
She was told Friday morning she needs to leave her home on the water in downtown Fort Myers and find somewhere else to stay because the marina was deemed unsafe and uninhabitable.
Everyone, including the nearly 40 people whose boats are their primary residences, was told to leave the area Friday morning by officials including code enforcement, fire marshal inspectors and police.
“I have no place to go,” Brooks said. “I feel hopeless, angry. They said that the boats can stay but we cannot.
“You spend your tax dollars on stuff that’s supposed to maintain your surroundings,” she added. “You pay your rent to people that are supposed to keep up your surroundings and keep your home area safe. And then you’re let down and told you just gotta go.”
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In a letter being handed to residents and boat owners, City Attorney Grant Alley said as the property owner, the city couldn’t safely allow the marina to be open due to the dangers or during damage assessment.
Residents on Friday morning blamed the city and Fort Myers Mayor Kevin Anderson and said the marina hadn’t been properly maintained nor had the city hired a dock manager.
“We get hurricanes here, bad hurricanes all the time,” Brooks said. “They should have been better prepared for this and they should have made sure that their residents were better prepared.”
But Anderson told The News-Press it would be the same if any other property was severely damaged.
“It’s no different than any other house that is deemed not to be safe or uninhabitable. We can’t stand by and let people live in unsafe conditions like that,” Anderson said.
“It’s just a devastating storm,” he added. “A lot of people have been affected and we’re doing our best to keep the city safe and recovering.”
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The letter given to residents claimed the marina lacked water, electricity, safe conditions for navigating the waterways and harmful environmental impacts. It said hazards included the fire department not being able to access resources it would need in case of a fire and distressed boats sinking or continuing to sink.
The city did not give a timeline for how long residents would be displaced. Anderson said the Federal Emergency Management Agency at the Gulf Coast Church of God, 9550 Six Mile Cypress Parkway, would be able to assist residents.
But Brooks is concerned about how she’ll get to work and where she’ll sleep at night.
“I live paycheck to paycheck,” the 62-year-old said. “I need a home. I need a place for me and my cats.”
The marina is its own community. Everyone takes care of each other. They cleaned up storm debris and got water connections set back up.
It’s filled with people Lorelle Justice calls family. She’s lived aboard her 27-foot boat at the Yacht Basin since 2018.
“I picked this marina out of several options. We take care of each other. I don’t think any of us have loved the marina more than we do now,” she said.
“I feel devastated. Abandoned.”
Contact Ashley White at email@example.com or on Twitter @AshleyyDi.
This article originally appeared on Fort Myers News-Press: Fort Myers deems Yacht Basin unsafe, tells residents to leave boats