More details of Rescue Mission’s onslaught of Port St. Joe

Reverend Billy Fox asked Port St. Joe Commissioners to leave perception out of the discussion Tuesday night.

Fox, the executive director of the Panama City Rescue Mission, addressed the commission about plans for a county presence by the mission, which Fox ensured would not provide food or shelter, but only counseling and referral services.

Fox asked commissioners if it was standard for a business license applicant to be required to address the commission.

“I’d like to ask the commission why we are being singled out,” Fox said. “What are we doing that’s not in accordance?”

Matt Scoggins, owner of the 5 Star Paint and Collision Center in Port St. Joe and the proposed space of what will be called the Gulf Coast Hope Center, said the organization only wants to help people.

“Eighteen years ago I was homeless and I had a 3-year-old son,” Scoggins said.

Now the owner of a successful business, Scoggins said the only reason he was given that opportunity is because somebody was willing to help him while he was in need.

“It’s all because someone was willing to give (my son and I) a helping hand,” Scoggins said. “We want to give people the chance to be productive citizens like I was given the chance to do.”

Commissioner Lorinda Gingell relayed feedback from her constituents, who have expressed concern about the bad reputation associated with the Panama City Rescue Mission, and fear it will be reproduced in Port St. Joe.

“Part of this is perception,” Gingell said. “This comes in as the Panama City Rescue Mission; that’s whose name is on this. If this was Matt’s Ministry under the bridge, we wouldn’t have this problem.”

Joe Atkinson, the future director of the Gulf Coast Hope Center, said the organization has done everything the commission has asked, including moving the location from Reid Avenue to North Port St. Joe.

Atkinson said the last thing they want to do is hurt the community.

“Fear is what scares people away from certain things,” Atkinson said. “The only way we’re going to overcome thins negative perception is to invite people to come see for themselves.”

Mayor Mel Magidson compared the organization to a “pink pony” applying for a business license, and that it was natural for commissioners to raise questions about the intentions of the center.

“I am personally convinced of what the intention is,” Magidson said. “If it causes problems, we can deal with that.”

Magidson asked Atkinson to promise that they wouldn’t provide food and shelter.

Atkinson said the organization has no intentions of providing shelter or food at the facility, which would prevent loitering because people tend to go where there is shelter and food.

There’s absolutely no space to sleep or feed anyone in there,” Atkinson said.

Magidson went on to say the commission was not going to vote on whether or not to allow the organization a business license.

“Unless somebody can give me a reason why we can deny this (license) to you, I don’t think we can,” Magidson said.

Magidson was not without opposition.

Residents raised questions of whether there was a need for the organization in Gulf County.

Steve Sheridan said the organization was hiding their real intentions of servicing people from out of town.

“This is an outside organization wanting to bring people in,” Sheridan said. “We don’t have a substantial homeless problem here. Our property and safety is going to be threatened.”

Amber Davis also addressed the commission in opposition of the Gulf Coast Hope Center. She said the community doesn’t trust the organization and the mission would end up costing taxpayers dollars in the long run.

“These concerns are not fear-mongering,” Davis said. “It’s what this organization presented- intentions to open up a homeless shelter.”


Incredible. Mr. Fox slides into Port St. Joe and comments that “I’d like to ask the commission why we are being singled out?” Readers this is the mindset that you should fear. Mr. Fox knows fully well why he is being “singled out”. His organization and facility has an extensive record of having a toxic effect on the downtown area where it is located.  If he were truly interested in becoming a positive and responsible civic neighbor in the downtown Port St. Joe area, he would have been much better received  if he would  have come into the meeting acknowledging that not only is there a “perception problem” of his organization but a real problem. Instead of asking the commissioners to leave “perception out of the discussion” he should have been willing to take on any and all concerns first by acknowledging the problems he has caused in downtown Panama City.

Commissioner  Gingell noted in her comments that “This comes in as the Panama City Rescue Mission; that’s whose name is on this. If this was Matt’s Ministry under the bridge, we wouldn’t have this problem.” I would challenge the validity of her statement. If Matt’s ministry had a poor history that was well documented as that of the Rescue Mission, there would be the same outrage as there is being voiced now. History speaks volumes. If one wanted to open up Matt’s toxic waste dump or Matt’s totally nude strip club the same thunderous roar would be heard from the citizens she represents.
Joe Atkinson, the future director of the Gulf coast hope center added his comments, “Fear is what scares people away from certain things”. Mr. Atkinsons makes these comments as though he is talking to a group of kindergarten students who have become scared by a thunderstorm outside. Fear of things that are real is what makes mature adults take action to eliminate those things that can hurt us. The rescue mission has no reason to be in Port St. Joe. Why does the mission management insist on expanding their  empire into communities where they are neither wanted nor needed? The reality is that it is greed. Without larger and larger numbers of “persons served”, the mission loses its leverage to be eligible for larger and larger grants and corporate funding. Port St. Joe has become the latest pawn in the chess game that is the rescue mission. 
The editors of this website encourage the citizens of Port St. Joe to pay due diligence to the  actions of the rescue mission management. Their activities will be like a slow growing cancer on your beautiful downtown area. One day, your commissioners will wake from their sleep and ask, “how did this happen?”
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1 Comment

  1. Roxanne Jones

     /  December 11, 2011

    Well, once again. “Not in my backyard” sayers. We’ve already seen what happens with a depot, then food and prayer offerings, and then lodging. I think it is great for someone to step up and share his story of rags to riches. However, the devil is in the details. Where, when and how? It is not necessary to bus people from other counties. They need to deal with their own homeless just like we are dealing with Mr. Fox and his enterprise.
    Incidentally, does anyone know how much capacity the Mission is supposed to accommodate?
    I think the building has a capacity limit for fire safety issues.


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