Nationally homeless numbers decreasing so why are Panama City’s numbers “off the charts”?

In the January 17th, 2012 release of “The state of Homelessness in America 2012” compiled by the National Alliance to End  Homelessness it offers the conclusion that despite the poor economy, homelessness DECLINED by 1% during the period of 2009 to 2011. They add that the decrease was likely due to a significant investment of federal resources to prevent homelessness and quickly rehouse people who did become homeless. Additionally in the report a number of major findings were posted:

* The nations homeless decreased by one percent or about 7000 people; it went from 643,076 in 2009 to 636,017 in 2011. There were decreased number of people experiencing homelessness on most of the subpopulations examined in this report: families, individuals in families, chronic and individuals.

* The largest decrease was among homeless veterans, whose population declined by 11%

*The national rate of homelessness was 21 homeless per 10,000 people in the general population.

* Chronic homelessness decreased by 3% from 110,911 in 2009 to 107,148 in 2011. The chronic homeless population has decreased by 13% since 2007

According to a recent News Herald article, Mr. Billy Fox executive director of the rescue mission is quoted as saying” Two people per day sign in new to the mission. Meals are steady and well over 700 per day” . The article additionally stated that the demand for services has INCREASED BY 30%. The rescue mission’s own website under the services tab shows a bountiful increase in numbers served each year from 2002 through 2010.

Mr. Robert Marbut, a nationally known expert on the homeless in a recent evaluation of Panama City characterized  our cities vagrancy problem as “off the charts”. Marbut said the numbers are six or seven times higher than San Antonio or St. Petersburg.

So, why such a discrepancy in the numbers? Why are nationally numbers steady dropping and Panama City has experienced a thirty percent increase? Why if the the national average is 21 per 10,000 in population are our numbers so disproportionally high? Using national averages a city of our size should have no more than approx 60 people experiencing some form of homelessness. If we only have 60 homeless, what is an organization with a budget of 2.3 million dollars doing with all that money? Why do they need a paid staff with total payrolls of over $625,000 per year? These are important questions to answer as one looks at the number of vacant store fronts in our downtown area. These are a hard numbers to evaluate as one looks at the loss of property values in downtown in the past five years. This information is worth pondering when one looks at the additional police services that are required directly due to the rescue mission. How long will we as citizens of Panama City turn a blind eye to the truth of what the rescue mission is doing to our downtown? How far must we decline before the community calls out the rescue mission for the toxic effects they have had on our community? Food for thought


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