More exclusive comments to “Move the Mission” from a County Commissioner candidate

Mr. Henry Lawrence, Candidate for Bay County Commissioner District 3, Green party

“Move the Mission” has been offered comments and views on the homeless and vagrant problem by candidate for Bay County Commissioner District 3, Mr. Henry Lawrence. We thank Mr. Lawrence for taking time to address this issue with our readers and offering his perspective and solutions for the problem.

“Regarding homeless issues in the Panama City area. The Green Party platform under Social Justice, Housing and Homelessness states:
We suppport measures to prevent homelessness before it occurs through raising the income floor for the working poor, ensuring living-wage jobs, affordable housing and health care including mental health and substance-abuse services.
We support strategies to move people rapidly into stable living arrangements and providing an array of necessary services to address the varied aspects of homelessness.
We call for the repeal of laws that criminalize homelessness, for the inclusion of homeless people in the decision-making about solutions, education for the homeless about voting rights and increased voter registration. We support providing the resources to monitor discharges from hospitals, jails and foster care to prevent discharging people to the street. We support increased job opportunities for the homeless who are able to work.

The decisions made in regards to the homelessness issue in Panama City needs to be resolved by the people who are most affected by it, and the elected officials who are responsible for that part of our community.
A round-table discussion might very well be the best way to find a solution, and it should include homeless citizens, downtown business owners, downtown area residents, advocates for the homeless and the elected officials and staff who will be most affected by those decisions.
If and only if I am elected as a Bay County Commissioner will I step into the fray on this issue, since at this time it does not affect me or my neighborhood in St. Andrews.
Personally the problem is not the homeless but the attitudes of many of the people who seem to be taking the problem in the wrong direction.
The Rescue Mission, from what I can see, does what they can to help, and should certainly not be beat-up about the good work they try to accomplish for the homeless of our community, as well as the visiting/traveling homeless who use his facility.
Helping each other in times of need is how we should be thinking, like the students at the high school who are helping there fellow students who are homeless. That’s the best example I’ve seen thus far. We can all do more to help the homeless, whether they live here or are simply traveling through.”

We at “Move the Mission” appreciate Mr. Lawrence taking the time to comment on the homeless situation but we are also discouraged that someone who is looking to take a leadership position in our local government is as uninformed of the wholeness of the problem and seems to take a “hands off” approach as he perceives the problem does not affect him. Quite frankly this is how we have gotten where we are. Mr. Lawrence opens his comments by pulling a direct quote from the Green parties webpage which outlines a carefully crafted national stance on the issues of the homeless. What Mr. lawrence needs to better understand is that when voters vote for for candidates at the national or even state levels, parties manner but at local levels voters are more likely to vote outside of party lines, voting for people who they know personally will tackle the problems of their local community. Although a party affiliation will indicate the tone by which one may operate, it shows nothing about a candidate’s ability to actually do the job they are elected to do. We as citizens of Bay County require more from a potential candidate than one that is able to “cut and paste” political phsyco-babble from a national parties webiste. We need a candidate that as part of his running for local office has a basic understanding of the needs of the community that he is asking to elect him. When Mr. Lawrence comments that “If and only if I am elected as a Bay County Commissioner will I step into the fray on this issue, since at this time it does not affect me or my neighborhood in St. Andrews” he insults us as voters. Thinking that voters should vote for him just “because” and once elected THEN he will begin to look at and understand the needs of the community is poor way to start an election. He then went further by claiming the problems of the homeless does not affect him as he lives in St. Andrews.  I assure Mr. Lawrence, the problems of homelessness, vagrancy, panhandling, transients, drunkenness, sex-offenders and bums ARE his problem. These problems affect everyone in Bay county and a newly elected official needs to completely understand that and be prepared to address the issue day one of their tenure.

Mr. Lawrence is behind the times when he advocates a “round table discussion”. Mayor Clemon created the ” homeless summit” as a  collaborative effort between the city of Panama City, Gulf Coast Community College, former Speaker of the House Allan Bense, B.P., Panama City Community Redevelopment Agency, Downtown North District and Downtown Improvement Board. During this summit, all parties involved were unable to move the ball forward. They were attempting to address with a feather touch a problem that requires a hard hitting hammer. Further in his comments on the round table, Mr. Lawrence comments that “homeless citizens” should be involved in the discussions. I would challenge Mr. Lawrence to look at his own comments of “Personally the problem is not the homeless but the attitudes of many of the people who seem to be taking the problem in the wrong direction.”. Those who are truly “homeless” are not “homeless citizens” , they are “citizens who are temporarily homeless”. It is a current status not a demographic. Mr. Lawrence right off the bat has forced people into a category with the thinking that that is who they are instead of  a transitional period of ones life. The answer is to provide help to those who use it to move to better positions in their lives. Those who are a draw on society as habitual vagrants and professional panhandlers do nothing more that create a negative economic impact on our community and use precious resources that could be used on someone just needing a hand up. 

Mr .Lawrence would be well served to read our blog on a regular basis to better understand that not everything that the Rescue mission does creates a positive effect. The problems are well documented and by Mr. Lawrence giving the mission a pass with his comments “should certainly not be beat-up about the good work they try to accomplish for the homeless of our community, as well as the visiting/traveling homeless who use his facility.” shows he is tone deaf to the what is really going on. 


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