LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Public shouldn’t pay for problems caused by mission

The letters and comments I have read lately in The News Herald regarding the downtown homelessness issues prompt me to respond. Unlike the writers in Thursday’s edition who hail from Wewahitchka and Youngstown, as a taxpaying property owner in Panama City, I am a stakeholder in this problem.

One of the writers noted that Pier Park and St. Andrews don’t struggle with these kinds of concerns. Why not? The answer is simple: These places do not have the Rescue Mission, which serves as a drop-off site of people in need for all agencies, counties, shelters, prisons, and churches in areas to our north.

In a Nov. 17, 2010 story on WJHG-TV, the Rescue Mission executive director, the Rev. Billy Fox, was quoted as saying that the mission serves six Florida counties and is also “really the better place to go in lower Alabama and southern Georgia.” He freely admitted that the homeless are being recruited to Panama City. The question I pose is, Should downtown Panama City be the catch-all for people in need who belong to other communities?

Most people downtown and throughout Bay County probably don’t mind taking care of our own who need help, but this business of deliberately bringing out-of-county people here for aid is unfair to the Panama City taxpayers, who are on the financial hook. Who else pays for the heavy volume of police and ambulance calls to the Rescue Mission, for the nights in jail those arrested spend?

I understand that the Rescue Mission is a privately owned property and its owners and proponents have rights. But what about the rights of the people who live and work and pay property taxes in the downtown area, and in all of Bay County for that matter? In the same 2010 story on WJHG, Fox said that the Rescue Mission, which is tax exempt, is valued at $10 million. He asked, “Do you have $10 million? Come, and I’ll talk about selling this to you. If someone wants to buy this, everything has its price.”

It doesn’t seem right that the Panama City taxpayers should shoulder the expense of the problems caused by troublemakers who come to the Rescue Mission, and if its board of directors cared as much for everyone in this community as they seem to care about people from all over the Panhandle, Georgia and Alabama, they would be eager to work with city officials in addressing these problems. The mission may be many things for many people, but one thing it is not — it is NOT a good neighbor.

PENNY LOVETT

Panama City

Read more: http://www.newsherald.com/articles/mission-98489-herald-unlike.html#ixzz1emWVyqQZ

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