The Sheriff’s Office has a Counseling Center at Beach Baptist Church | News, Sports, Jobs – FORT MYERS
The Lee County Sheriff’s Office now has a Counseling Center at Beach Baptist Church.
Rev. Shawn Critser of Beach Baptist Church says he welcomes law enforcement members who have an office at the church to use. The church is located in the center 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 Helmerich Plaza Counseling Center.
““The church is considered a good location for this counseling center because it allows us to use this space for our many crime prevention programs offered by this unit.” Lee County Sheriff’s Office Captain Anita Iriarte explained in an email.
Critser has said the sheriff’s office has access to the list of those using Choice Market, the church’s on-site pantry. The pantry is used by those in need who work in or live in the community, as well as the homeless. They must sign in with their address when picking up groceries or toiletries. “If they don’t have a local address, they get help the first time and that’s it.” said Kritzer.
Critser said the list of people using the pantry will be made available to law enforcement agencies who are interested “People trying to be off-grid and disconnected from the system. That slows them down a bit.”
Homeless services, as well as the presence of the homeless, have come under attack from some in Fort Myers Beach in recent years since former library director Dr. Leroy Hommerding was stabbed to death by a homeless man. Tackling homelessness became a campaign issue in the 2020 city council election campaign, and a homeless man who was shot that year fueled calls from members of the city’s Public Safety Committee for a reduction in aid from organizations in the community that do it support the homeless with food and other essential goods. The city’s churches all contribute to helping those in need as it is part of their sacred missionary work.
Critser said this fall he hopes for the sheriff’s office to arrive at the 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 will “Keep bad seeds away.” He says MPs will stop by from time to time and have access to the church building.
Critser said he hopes it will lead to one “better integration with law enforcement and our community.”
The church has been in talks with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office for months about providing space for the department.
Iriarte said an outreach coordinator from Beach Baptist Church is there four days a week. Irarte indicated in an email that this is also the outreach coordinator “Common at events, meetings or presentations elsewhere in the Fort Myers Beach community.”