Lines already forming for Obama's visit to Fort Myers

The Miami HeraldFebruary 9, 2009 

Several dozen people set up camping chairs and blankets outside the downtown convention center in Fort Myers, two days ahead of President Barack Obama's town hall meeting Tuesday.

First in line: Roy Hendrix, a formerly homeless man who showed up at 9:30 a.m. Sunday to secure his free ticket – one of 1,500 being given away.

"I get to see the president of the United States, in my town," said Hendrix, 51. "That's better than any rock concert or the World Series."

Jodi Sasloe of Fort Myers sat in a folding chair right behind Hendrix. She said she had been planning to camp out since hearing an announcement on the radio Friday about the president's visit.

"I was just like, 'I need to get there,' " Sasloe said.

Obama is coming to promote the $820 billion economic stimulus plan that the Senate is expected to vote on Tuesday. He chose this Republican-heavy swath of Southwest Florida because Fort Myers' unemployment rate has climbed to 10 percent – up from 6 percent last year – and its housing market is among the nation's worst.

Obama will tour neighborhoods in nearby Lehigh Acres before Tuesday's event. Streets around Lehigh Acres are dotted with homes in foreclosure and with unfinished construction.

Before Hendrix became homeless, he worked for 12 years at a pawn shop in town – until it went out of business.

Then, when the housing boom came to Florida, Hendrix found plenty of construction work, but during the past two years those jobs have all but dried up in the Fort Myers area. He lived in a tent in the woods until friends recently took him into their home, he said.

To read the complete article, visit The Miami Herald.

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