Why are local media channels afraid of the rescue mission?


Comments by a local citizen when asked his opinion of Mr. Washburns comments about the rescue mission




On a recent morning morning edition of the “Doc Washburn show” on 94.5, Doc went on a rant attacking anyone that felt the rescue mission should be moved. He went on the claim that they were an organization operating off of private funds (more on this in a future posting) and the community should let them be.  After the show, Doc was sent an email with with multiple pieces of data that showed just how toxic the rescue mission was on downtown and how they were not quite as “privately funded” as he would like to think. When pushed, Doc came up with all kinds of excuses as to why “he didnt have time” . Is this another case of our local media being unwilling to even entertain the idea that all is not as picture on the packaging shows it is?  When an organization attempts to do social engineering there are always secondary effects that are not always so pretty. Why does our local media stick their head in the ground and not report the details of the issue in their entirity??  Could it be that they are afraid of losing advertising dollars? Here is a bolt of reality, If downtown is continued to be burdened by a vagrancy problem created by the rescue mission, there will be no downtown businesses to sell advertising to. I am a Christian. I believe in helping those who are willing to help themseleves. I volunteer and donate to organizations that I know are doing the right thing by the people they serve and the volunteers who donate their time. I support organizations that have made positive impact on our community as a whole without creating a nuisance. The rescue mission does not fit that bill.


Why the rescue mission management will never be part of the solution

This is a screenshot from the Rescue Mission of Panama City’s website and a clear indicator of the  mindset for those unfamiliar with how the rescue mission sees themselves. Notice the comments in yellow? “Find solutions to the PERCEIVED problems of vagrants downtown”. How can the community that is interested in providing services to those locals in need but do it in a way that does not destroy downtown, have any kind of meaningful discussion if the rescue is unwilling to even acknowledge the impact they have on downtown? There is no PERCEIVED problem of vagrancy, there IS a problem with vagrancy.  The Panama City police report shows there IS a problem and the Bay County Sheriff’s report shows there IS a problem. The volumes of police reports from activities at 609 Allen street, home of the rescue mission, shows that the RESCUE MISSION is ground zero for a vagrancy problem. The calls that downtown citizens and business people have made to our Mayor and City Commissioners confirm that there IS a vagrancy problem. So how can one create meaningful dialogue with another party when they refuse to acknowledge a problem, are slow to participate in meetings and governmental forums and lastly declare an unrealistic value for their property making any type of buy–out impractical? In certain parts of the country what the rescue mission is doing would be called extortion. Then just to make it all better, they throw a couple biblical scriptures in to daze you and me. Reality is that the rescue mission will not change their thinking until we as a community demand better from them. Our community leaders have finally taken a proactive position to hold the rescue mission accountable even in the face of much backlash by a few naive individuals in our community that can only see the word “Christian” and “homeless” in the discussion. They are unable to see the situation in its entirety and form opinions and solutions based off of reason.

$50.00 an hour….panhandling

We have all seen them in our downtown area, the gruff looking individual that approaches you and ask you for a couple of bucks so he can buy a meal. Being good people we all have fallen for their stories and given money. But what is the truth? View the following video that profiles an undercover investigation by a Salt lake City, Utah reporter;


A couple of interesting quotes from Ms. Pamela Atkinson, the homeless advocate with the Volunteers of America interviewed in this video.  When speaking of panhandlers she says,” they are just getting money to support their style of living or their drug or alcohol habit”. Further in the interview she adds that “70% of panhandlers are not in the situation they claim”.  The summary of the video piece concluded that one should only give to soup kitchens, charities or churches that you know that you know are working to get people back on their feet. But what if you don’t know the organization is filtering those individuals that use their facility? The Panama City rescue mission by their own admission really have no idea who is really going in and out of their facility. They have hundreds of people with a variety of criminal records as one can easily see by viewing our “top ten” postings. The rescue mission is the draw for these people. We as tax paying citizens of Panama City should not have to settle for having our community taken over by the vagrant community. The rescue mission has responsibilities to the community from which it ask financial support. Rescue Mission management needs to come to the table and offer solutions that allow those truly in need to be taken care of while allowing downtown to blossom again as a thriving commercial and retail area. The rescue mission needs to acknowledge the secondary effects of what they do within the walls of their facility and how it effects the community around them.

Rescue mission continues their pursuit of expansion into Springfield.

SPRINGFIELD — While Springfield City Commissioners consider approval of a development order to allow the Panama City Rescue Mission to expand its Bethel Village program, an underlying concern keeps coming to the surface — that the Springfield location could look like downtown.

To allay the fear, the Rev. Billy Fox, executive director of the Rescue Mission, told commissioners in a written document the organization committed “as a condition of this development order, to never allow adult males to reside on this campus. Also, that there is no intent or desire whatsoever to open or transfer the Rescue Mission to this sight (sic).”

The city is considering approval of a development order for a proposed plan to add four single-family units and one dormitory to the existing residential facility at 2533 Transmitter Road. Long-term plans call for 12 additional residential units and a 10,000-square-foot clubhouse.

Commissioners discussed the plans during a Monday workshop and will vote on whether to issue the development order during their next regular meeting, Dec. 5 at 5:30 p.m.

Prior to the meeting, the Rescue Mission is expected to provide a traffic count for the current location so the city can anticipate the expected impact of the expansion and also determine the best place for an entrance into the property. Fox said the commission can pick the location of the driveway and they will accommodate it.

If approved, the development order would be valid for six months.

Because the Rescue Mission lost $250,000 in grant funding due to project delays, Fox said the organization does not have all the money necessary to complete the first phase of the expansion project.

“As people of faith, we plan and allow the Lord to provide for us,” Fox said.

He said he doesn’t want to delay the project any more because stalling could result in the loss of even more revenue.

If the development order expired, the Rescue Mission could file for an extension or let it lapse and start the process over later.

In April 2010, the City Commission denied a development order for expansion. The Rescue Mission appealed the decision to Circuit Court and in February Judge Michael Overstreet determined there wasn’t sufficient cause to deny the development order and remanded the application back to the city for another hearing or issuance of a development order.

The City Commission took the issue up at its May meeting, but commissioners posed questions about the application and the decision was delayed, with engineers for the Rescue Mission and the city expected to address concerns. Both sides suggested the other was at fault for the delay.

While the discussion Monday was primarily limited to whether the development order meets city code requirements, there was some philosophical discussion about whether the Mission should expand the program.

“The more we build the more we get,” Commissioner John Gipson said of building more resources to help the homeless. “We’re making more room for them to multiply.”

Fox replied that having more services does not attract homeless people to the area.

“They didn’t come down here because we have the best stew in town,” he said.

Mr. Fox is delusional if he thinks that building more infrastructure does not expand the volumes of  homeless and vagrants. It is proven fact that anyone in our community can see by spending just thirty minutes  in the area surrounding the mission.It is shameful that Mr. Fox will hide behind Christian double talk by making comments like “As people of faith, we plan and allow the Lord to provide for us” while turning to the legal system to sue a locality when he doesn’t get his way. The citizens of Springfield and Port St Joe have seen the effects of the mission in Panama City and have enough sense to realize that a similar facility will have a negative impact on their community. Thank you to Commissioner  Rev. John Gipson, Pastor of The Church of God in Christ Antioch Church for recognizing toxic impact of this facility and standing up for the tax paying citizens of Springfield.

Read more: http://www.newsherald.com/articles/springfield-98562-bethel-commissioners.html#ixzz1f4BAUeFR

County Commissioners vote to continue support of Mayor’s efforts tackle vagrant problem.

PANAMA CITY — Over the last 10 years Mary Robinson said she has watched her Grace Avenue neighborhood go from one of the best old neighborhoods in the city to one she feels is no longer safe in at night.

She told city commissioners 10 years ago she would take walks around her neighborhood, but now she pays for a gym membership; she used to have mail delivered to her door, but now she pays for a post office box; she used to be comfortable outside at night, but now she pays Gulf Power monthly for an additional street light.

In short, her neighborhood has changed, and she believes the Panama City Rescue Mission is the reason why.

The facility has become “big business,” she said, “expanding far beyond its original mission.”

She encouraged the City Commission during a meeting Tuesday night to act on the homelessness problem downtown.

Commissioners voted to provide continued support to Mayor Greg Brudnicki in his endeavors to work with a city-appointed task force to address the issue and gave him authority to, along with a city staff member, negotiate for the purchase of property for a Community Resource Center. Before a purchase could be made, the commission would have to give approval.

It might not be long before something comes back before the commission.

Emily Dowdy, chairwoman of the taskforce, said there’s a “sheer urgency of doing something substantial.” She encouraged the commission to “proceed with a willing suspension of disbelief” and take action soon because the situation downtown gets worse by the day.

Brudnicki said when he brings back a proposal for a site for the resource center he will also present to the commission signed letters from nonprofit organizations that intend to locate there and plans for how to support ongoing operations. He also plans to ask other local governments for support.

He backed off of a request included on the meeting’s agenda for the commission to earmark money for the project until there is more information.

Brudnicki said the city doesn’t have an option but to take action.

It is certainly our duty … to keep our citizens from being defrauded,” he said, and later provided examples of vagrants who make up stories or tell lies to evoke sympathy while panhandling. He also said there is a drain on law enforcement and health care resources because the problem isn’t being effectively addressed.

While commissioners indicated they support the mayor’s efforts, there was some discussion on what effectively addressing the issue would entail, including moving forward with both a law enforcement focus and creation of the Community Resource Center.

“I have the same temptation you do, and that’s fix it,” Commissioner John Kady said. The impulse, he said, is to run vagrants out of town, but there’s a danger of not thinking the project through.

“Blindly throwing money at the law enforcement side doesn’t make more sense than blindingly throwing money at the resource center side,” he said.

He said those involved have railed against vagrants, but the resource center discussed wouldn’t serve them.

Commissioner Kenneth Brown said he is open to the idea of the city building the Community Resource Center but was concerned that just building another building wouldn’t solve the problem because it might not result in any changes to the way things are downtown.

Brudnicki said having another place for the temporary homeless to go would allow the police to differentiate between them and vagrants and allow law enforcement to address vagrancy problems. There would be no reason for a homeless person to be downtown unless it’s for “ill begotten gains.”

Ms. Robinson hit the nail on the head. The rescue mission has expanded way past its original intent of a community based organization there for the purpose of helping those locals inn need get back on their feet. The management of the rescue mission have lost their ways and have become consumed by greed. The rescue HAS become BIG BUSINESS with millions of dollars floating through their organization. Why has the rescue mission management been the last party to the table when local government, police organizations and other activist groups have come together to find solutions to take care of our local homeless in a way that has less negative impact on the potential rejuvenation of downtown?

Read more: http://www.newsherald.com/articles/mayor-97550-negotiating-center.html#ixzz1f3ZA3HM1

Tonight’s “TOP TEN” from the mission address

Response to letter to the editor…

Friends and I went to the Festival of Nations downtown. Halfway through we sat on Downtown Improvement Board-provided chairs to watch dancers. Right behind us was a very drunk man. He fell twice within feet of my friends’ teenage daughter — a clear danger to himself and others.

I went in search of a police officer and found a DIB event staff member who radioed for help. At the same time, a citizen parked on the side street exited his car and was calling the police as well. He watched the falls from his car mirror. While waiting for an officer, we were informed this same man was “run off” the night before for trying to sleep in the area. An officer arrived and took the man to the side. I’m not sure what happened, but the officer sent him on his way.

He made it across the street, where something else must have happened, because now there were two officers and then three. By now people were watching this and not the dancers. Out came the handcuffs and he was marched across the street (in the middle of the festival). This drunken vagrant was being taken to wherever the police take them to sleep it off.

He will be let out and the cycle repeated. He is not a resident of the Rescue Mission, he is a vagrant, one with a drinking problem that the system plays like a washing machine — wash, rinse, repeat.

What I have on my desk is a three-page resume from a resident of the mission actively looking for a job — a hand up, not a hand out. You have a vagrant problem downtown, not a mission one.

What I find very odd is that since March we have attended almost every Saturday Farmers Market in St. Andrews and have never encountered a vagrant. They have day labor deck hands, Tan Fannies and the parole office. I have never come across a vagrant at Pier Park either. The mission is not part of the problem. The vagrants are the problem.


Panama City

Ms. Delaney in her letter to the editor makes some unproven assumptions and her conclusion that there are no vagrants in the St. Andrews area actually only serves to prove the point that the rescue mission IS the genesis of the vagrancy problem downtown. She commented that the drunkard in question “is not a resident of the rescue mission”. How does she know that?  Did she stop and interview the man? Is she sure this man has never been in the mission or used their facilities? Keep in mind not everyone who USES the mission is a RESIDENT. It is quite reasonable to believe  that this individual is downtown because those who have like minds and values of his are downtown at the mission as well.  

If the mission were to relocate to a vacant building off Beck avenue in St. Andrews, Ms. Delaney would begin to see the very thing she describes as missing there now…a vagrancy problem. Why are many in our community  so challenged in being able to see the true cause of the problem (the location of the rescue) or even recognize that there IS a problem that effects downtown residence and business people? The saying about “walking in another mans shoes” comes to mind….
Read more: http://www.newsherald.com/articles/friends-98427-downtown-drunk.html#ixzz1f1Qt1O61

Local law enforcement and government look for ways to lessen vagrancy

PANAMA CITY — A police officer snapped a picture of a man sleeping beneath a no trespassing sign and submitted it as evidence in a court case against him.

It might seem like an open-and-shut trespass case — and it was — but the case was dismissed.

There are strict legal requirements businesses must follow for no trespassing signs to be considered valid, and the ones in that case didn’t make the mark. Assistant State Attorney Robert Ball wrote about the case in a letter to Dutch Sanger, director of the Downtown Improvement Board, to explain why some cases of trespass are prosecuted and others are not.

The stringent requirements of that law and the vagueness of others are some of the issues law enforcement officers face as they try to police the vagrancy problems in Bay County, local officials have said.

Bay County Sheriff Frank McKeithen recently was requested by the Bay County Commission to write a report on vagrancy. In it, he wrote about the challenges, causes and effects it’s having on the county in general and Panama City in particular.

Addressing the homelessness problem isn’t solely a law enforcement issue, he said, but law enforcement should be part of the solution.

“Somewhere, somehow, someway, someone has to sit down and determine what laws are being violated,” McKeithen said in an interview.

One person who is doing that is Panama City Commissioner John Kady. He, of course, is not acting alone, but he was appointed by the City Commission to lead a task force to look into ways to address vagrancy through strengthening ordinances and enacting police initiatives.

In two reports, McKeithen’s report shed light on several problems, including that the state prison system dropped prisoners off at the Panama City Rescue Mission, that a number of homeless would like to leave the area but cannot afford to, and from Jan.1 through Sept. 12, 257 people arrested claimed the Rescue Mission as home.

Kady said he is using that report and another written by Panama City Police Deputy Police Chief Scott Ervin for background. Ervin did not respond to repeated requests for an interview made over several weeks through the department’s public information officer, Sgt. Jeff Becker.

“The challenge is one of protecting property rights, the civil rights of people,” Kady said.

McKeithen agreed, and said it’s important to make sure any law enacted is equally applied, whether someone is homeless or not.


Signs and ordinances

Among Kady’s ideas is to make it easier for businesses to take the steps required by state law to post legally acceptable no trespassing signs at their businesses.

Instead of waiting for a business to contact law enforcement, he suggested sending letters to all property owners with an enclosed letter they can sign and mail back, giving the police department the ability to issue trespass warnings to people. Officers would then go to the business and post no trespassing signs so business owners could be confident they are posted appropriately.

Kady said he’s also looking through the city’s ordinances and comparing them with other cities to find ways to more effectively prevent unwanted behavior and prosecute crime. He said Panama City has a bigger vagrancy problem than other cities of comparable size. In his report, McKeithen wrote he estimates there are 70 to 80 vagrants who live in Panama City.

In some instances, that means bolstered laws. There isn’t a lot of detail in the regulations on parks and other public spaces, he said, including hours of operation and permissible activities.

When it comes to issues like panhandling and loitering, it’s more difficult to make the city’s laws more stringent, he said.

Asking for money is protected by the First Amendment, according to a 2009 report by The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty and The National Coalition for the Homeless, “Homes Not Handcuffs: The Criminalization of Homelessness in U.S. Cities.”

Beyond regulating individuals’ activities, Kady said there is a need to enact and enforce regulations that deal with the upkeep of property and the effect a business’s clientele has on neighbors. That likely would go along with the creation of a nuisance abatement board, Kady said.

In Seattle, for example, a property can be declared a chronic nuisance if there are three or more nuisance activities during a 60-day period or seven or more nuisance activities within a 12-month period. Nuisance activities include drug-related activity, assault, fighting, harassment, prostitution, obstructing traffic and gang-related activity, among other crimes.

If a property is declared a chronic nuisance, a “correction agreement” is made with the city, which requires action. In addition, “the person in charge is subject to a penalty of up to $500 per day” until the property is no longer considered a chronic nuisance. A property owner who does not comply with the correction agreement can face a fine of up to $25,000.

Closer to home, Tallahassee is among cities with nuisance abatement boards to address concerns. A premises that has been used for certain drug-related crimes, gambling, prostitution or gang activity or repeated noise violations can be considered a public nuisance.

Any city employee, officer or resident can file a written complaint with the police department, which is forwarded to the city attorney’s office for determination about whether the complaint should be forwarded to the board. If it’s forwarded, the board holds a hearing to determine whether to declare the property a public nuisance, and, if so, can take action, including a fine of $250 for an initial finding of a public nuisance and a $500 fine for each subsequent public nuisance.

Those sorts of regulations protect neighboring property owners, who can be negatively affected through lower property values, Kady said.

The effects extend even further, McKeithen said.

“There could be a myth out there that this vagrant issue in downtown Panama City only affects the people in downtown Panama City. That’s not exactly 100 percent accurate,” he said.

The impact might be most obvious to residents and business owners in the immediate area, but it affects every other taxpayer in Bay County.

He estimated it costs about $50 a day to house someone in the Bay County Jail. During a meeting in October, members of the city’s homeless task force, a separate group than the one headed by Kady, said the cost of providing resources to the homeless is less than the cost of jail.

In their report, The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty and The National Coalition for the Homeless cited a 2004 study by the Lewin Group that suggested “jail costs were two to three times higher than permanent supporting housing or shelter costs.”


Law enforcement

Some of the problems that affect the way social service organizations are able to help vagrants also affect the way vagrants respond to law enforcement efforts.

Some have mental or physical disabilities and some have addictions; in some instances it’s “not like dealing with a normal person who follows normal guidelines and leads a normal life,” McKeithen said.

For some, jail might not be a deterrent, especially if the sentence is three to four days. A longer sentence could have more of an impact, he said, but the sentencing must fit the crime.

The law enforcement presence downtown, bolstered through a substation located on Sixth Street, blocks away from the Rescue Mission, has had a positive effect, Kady said.

No matter how many laws are passed and how strict the penalties, though, “We still can’t police it away,” McKeithen said.

He has worked with the Rescue Mission’s board of directors to enact new policies, including one that “anyone cited for panhandling, loitering or trespassing in Bay County will forfeit the opportunity for any services at (the Mission) for 30 days or more.” The Rescue Mission also has requested that agencies no longer list homeless people as living there unless they have a notarized letter of approval and more stringent regulations about who is allowed to stay there are in effect.

Kady said he would like to have the city formalize those agreements and reach an agreement with the Bay County Sheriff’s Office to allow deputies to enforce municipal laws within the city limits.

Other ideas Kady plans to present to the commission next month include regulations preventing public feeding, which he said can make the problem worse. For years, a group of local churches have been feeding the homeless twice a week in downtown Panama City.

Kady said he hopes the city can move quickly on some law enforcement aspects and provide funding if needed for enhanced police initiatives.

Many of these ideas are a great start but the community as a whole has still been unable to address the “elephant in the room”…the rescue mission itself. Until the rescue mission is relocated, the actions of our local officials will be only a bandaid on the problem. Mayor Brudnicki has shown much courage in exploring alternate sights that will enable our community to continue to service and perhaps better service those in need while removing the toxic effects of a facility in our commercial  and retail spaces in the downtown area.

Read more: http://www.newsherald.com/articles/solutions-98342-vagrancy-city.html#ixzz1f1J5Exe4

Numbers mean something…..

  • $2,093,239.00    total revenues generated by the rescue mission for the fiscal year 2008
  • $635,369.00   rescue mission annual salaries and wages (amazing piece of data as their “clients” are people who have no jobs)
  • $40,493.00   rescue mission employee benefits
  • $165,232.00  rescue mission fundraising expenses
  • $75,000.00  Annual salary paid to director of rescue mission, Billy Fox
  • undisclosed- Salary of Mrs. Fox as Director of Ministries
  • $40,890 median family income for Panama City residence
  • $1,224,911.00  Book value of land, buildings and equipment
  • $10,000,000.00 amount that Billy fox is demanding to sell the rescue mission property
  • 504 number of calls responded to by the Panama City Police department to the rescue address last year.
  • 72 number of arrest made at the rescue address last year
  • 15% percentage of ALL calls to PCPD made to locations within one-half mile radius of rescue mission
  • 49,106 number of “lodging” at the rescue mission in year 2010
  • 36,417 population of Panama City, 2000 census
  • 32% percentage of  vacant downtown retail space


Voices from the community…..

“Most are homeless by choice. They do not mind the care-free life. No bills, no obligations, and no responsibility. My husband works construction and has stopped and asked several times if they would like to work that day and make extra money. EVERYTIME they have said no. You cannot help those who do not wish to help themselves”     Melissa, Panama City, Fl.

“We took some out of town friends to Oktoberfest today and I was embarrassed at the homeless on  the streets of downtown. Panama City has become the homeless Capital of the world!. Our friends made the statement that they had never seen so many homeless people in one place, I said “welcome to Panama City” ”  John, Panama City, Fl.

” If you ban the Rescue Mission from giving free stuff to non-Bay county residents, lock up the vagrants roaming the streets and using Bay Medical Centers emergency room as a motel, the problem would go away within a few months. There is a lot of criminal behavior surrounding the rescue mission. just today, I had to take back a $1,000 wheelchair that two bums at the rescue mission had stolen from Bay Medical center. I was sooo close to asking a Panama City police officer to arrest them.”  Brian, Panama City, Fl.