“What’s up doc?”

As many who follow our blog post know, we have created our site to give voice to the issues that the rescue mission has created for our downtown community. Local media channels at best ignore many of the details of the story that give it a different perspective  and at worst hide the facts for fear of upsetting paying advertisers. This selective censorship of the details does our community a disservice by not giving them all the information needed to make choices of the needs of our community. Today on Doc Washburn’s facebook page, he finally took our issue under consideration. While Doc still had his show, one morning he went on a rant about how local government officials were “trying to run off the rescue mission”. I personally took issue with Doc’s comments and provided a number of key points that validated my claims that the rescue mission has had a toxic effect on downtown and that things were not as upfront in the operation of the mission as he would claim. (http://movethemission.wordpress.com/2011/11/30/why-are-local-media-channels-afraid-of-the-rescue-mission/) When pressed on the issue, Doc came up with all kinds of reasons why he couldn’t review the information that was sent to him and better understand all the facts of the issue. Maybe the real reason is he doesn’t care to understand the facts, we don’t know.

So let’s get into Doc’s posting from today shall we? First of all, we do actually thank Mr. Washburn for mentioning the link to our blog. Since its creation in November of 2011, we have received over 28,000 page views and almost 200 emails from people in our community who have thanked us for bringing them details of the issue that they were unaware of. The best solutions for our community will come about when all facts are out for people to understand and base decisions on. Ready gang? Here we go!

* Mr. washburn describes our blog as “professionally done by someone who has a budget and a mission and the writers have made postings a “full-time job” of it. While we attempt to bring facts in the most informative fashion possible, this blog  has neither a budget nor any professional writers. The blog is managed by three people who love our downtown and want to see it blossom again to a place that we, our families and neighbors would be proud to live, work, shop and dine at. Read the details at this link:(http://movethemission.wordpress.com/2011/12/14/faq/)

* Doc then says that there are a number of “anti-Rescue Mission posts that are written as if they are news reports. Oddly enough, none of them identify the “journalist. Come on Doc, are you at least reading them? The postings that are “written as news articles” ARE news articles. At the bottom of every news posting is the source of the article. Doc, this is basic research 101. How can any of your rants have any validity if you can’t do the basics of your research to see something as obvious as this?

*This next one is a charmer! “As I have said on numerous occasions, imho, there are a lot of powerful people in our community who have a lot of money at stake in moving the mission (so that they can profit financially in the construction of a new federal courthouse downtown)”  If it weren’t so serious, it would be funny. The GREED that Mr. Washburn speaks of is located dead center in  the rescue mission. This organization operates on almost THREE MILLION DOLLARS per year (3,000,000) and spends over $625,000 a year in payroll alone!!! Does it not strike you funny that an organization has so many employees and spend so many dollars on payroll to service people who don’t have jobs? There is some odd irony in that. Now take a peek at this.(http://movethemission.wordpress.com/2011/12/11/1000-piece-jigsaw-puzzle/) Do you know where the dollars come from that provide the big time salaries at the rescue mission? (Billy Fox and his wife have a combined income of over $125,000 annually as BOTH are employees of the rescue mission). The reality is that the mission is a money making machine. Each year they employee the services of nationally based consultants and fundraisers to drive as many dollars into the coffers of the mission as possible. The success of acquiring large nationally based grants (and YES! SOME COME FROM TAXPAYERS) is based on the mission having larger and larger numbers of “customers”. Why do you think the rescue mission has two board members that are attorneys? Why do you think the mission has wanted to expand to both Springfield and Port St. Joe and when those communities struck back that a facility was neither wanted nor needed, the mission management used legal action to sue these localities? (By the way, spending more tax dollars for the cities to defend themselves). The reason is GREED. It is shameful that someone has made an industry on the backs of the homeless.

* So Doc, you “have had enough” huh? We have too. We are tired of the rescue mission bringing in thousands of vagrants, drunkards, drug users, sex offenders from outside our community . Take a peek at who these people are and YOU decide if you want them next door to you. This is the police blotter from the rescue mission for a period of JUST 14 DAYS! (http://movethemission.wordpress.com/2012/02/05/another-top-ten-list-from-the-rescue-mission-facility/). Enough is enough. How much more should our community have to put up with? When are we going to take back our city? The time is now and our new mayor and city commissioners have shown the fortitude to take on the task.

* Let’s take a minute to get into some of the replies to Mr. Washburns posting…hmm, where should we start?

How about with Mr. Robert Broege. Robert writes: “The Mission shouldnt be moved. It should be removed. As long as there is a free meal, a free bed, etc., the dregs will continue to pervade the downtown area. Or anywhere it’s placed. Let us invest the money instead, in work programs and create jobs for these people who insist on living off of our Gov’t. Let us hold our Gov’t accountable for providing jobs for these people and making them productive members of our County. Instead of coddling them and encouraging their lechery and laziness. jmho…” Thanks for the post Robert. Here is the problem, as Doc responded, the rescue mission is not a governmental agency (although DOES accept tax payer money through back door channels). The property is privately owned by a 501-3c non profit “business”. They can’t be “forced” off their land but they can and should be forced to operate their facility in a way that is not detrimental to businesses and property holders in the surrounding area. For example, if I bought the property right next door to Doc, he may not like it but couldn’t do anything about it. Now if I decided to use my property next door to Doc’s house to store toxic waste, then Doc DOES have a say in what I do and how I use my property. The same applies to the rescue mission. They must not create a nuisance for the surrounding community. Think about this for a minute, how many other charitable organizations in our community have had the issues that the rescue mission has? Goodwill? Salvation army? Anchorage children’s home? Restore home for abused women?…….hmm, the answer is NONE. So the answer to YOU is to do exactly as YOU  say and invest YOUR money in organizations that do good things while respecting the community at large. Maybe a nationally known organization that is transparent in their operations is the answer to provide the services that are needed to get people back on their feet. Take a look at this (http://movethemission.wordpress.com/2012/02/05/sound-familiar/)

Let’s take a look at Brenda Stanley. Brenda post that “The mission should not be moved. Cannot understand why this is even being addressed. Does someone own the land that the mission is on and they have a better offer? I drive by that each time I go to my doctor and cannot see that it is a problem…” WOW, talk about head in the sand. Brenda, did you know that the police showed up to the mission over 1700 times last year? 14% of ALL police calls by the PCPD were at the rescue mission and you cant see that it is a problem. I encourage you to read our blog so you better “see the problem.”

How about Joe Washburn. I am assuming Joe is related to Doc. Joe ask: ” So these folks would not be homeless if not for the Mission?” Joe, the answer is yes and no. What has happened is that you and many other have over simplified the issue. This is exactly what Billy Fox wants you to do. First, you have define who the “homeless” are. There is  a percentage of people who have just found themselves in a series of very misfortunate events that have put them in a state of despair. With a simple hand up, these people are able to quickly move back to the ranks of contributing members of society. These are the people the folks at the rescue mission want to use as their “poster children”. We as a society should do things to help others get back on their feet. Even the most hardened of individuals can easily make the case that it makes economic sense to bring people in our community from being takers to being contributing, tax paying members of society. But what the mission folks don’t want you to think about are all those who have no intentions of improving their situation. They are there for the hand out. (http://movethemission.wordpress.com/2011/12/12/vagrant-insists-he-wants-hand-out-not-hand-up/) (http://movethemission.wordpress.com/2011/11/29/50-00-an-hour-panhandling/). The problem is we have WAY TOO many of the latter with no mechanism that distinguishes between those needing a help up and those wanting a hand out. To compound the situation, the sheer NUMBER of people that the mission draws to a downtown commercial area is problematic. The numbers of vagrants in our area are  way over what national averages say they should be. A nationally know expert and advocate on homelessness visited our city and pronounced the problem as being “off the charts”. Just to get statical data to make comparisons, he used cities that were ten times larger than we are just to find some reference points. Panama City cannot continue to be the dumping ground for every vagrant in the southeast (or further). So the answer to your question is a compound one, yes they may not be homeless if the hand outs are removed. If the handouts are removed and we still have homeless issues, it is easier to assimilate those in need if the numbers are more manageable. Here is a quick analogue, we all have the kooky lady who lives in our neighborhood who takes in all the stray cats. If she has 3, 4 or 5 cats it is a non-issue. Everyone just calls her the kooky cat lady and go on with their lives. Now if that same gal all of a sudden has 100, 1000 or 10,000 cat well now we have a problem. The mission needs to restore its activities to its original charter. It needs to provide the services that are needed to local people in need. It needs to become a good custodian of the philanthropic beliefs of our community. I am afraid GREED will prevent the mission management from making these fundamental changes in the philosophy of the organization.

What else is on here..Oh, here is a nice one from Doc himself (ever the libertarian) Doc say in response to Robert: “Doc Washburn ‎Robert Broege <<. I say… either provide a real solution or cut the homeless off and make them go somewhere else.>> Well, we could always follow the law. Like I said, do you have a suggestion that is actually legal…you know like in the real world?. Great answer Doc, YES let us all follow the law. The rescue mission by their own admission is breaking the law as outlined in the new nuisance ordinance (http://movethemission.wordpress.com/2012/05/03/billy-fox-acknowledges-mission-is-breaking-the-law/). Now Doc, you are not  going to come back and say that the mission has to operate with different laws or something silly like that are you?

How about Ms. Lisa Etheridge. Lisa commented:”Robert, have you ever spent any time at the mission? Do you know what they do? Have you EVER been in any situation in life where you could not overcome the hardship without the help of someone else? You seriously lack understanding for the frailty of health and wealth. Be very careful about judging others, or you may find yourself learning those lessons the hard way.” and then adds: “the Mission is a wonderful ministry that is fulfilling a command that so many of us ignore. Love others as we love ourselves.” This thinking is what has gotten us where we are. The inability to look at problems in their completeness. Many of us who are most vocal against the actions of the mission are the ones who have been quick to jump on the ship to help those in need. We have  participated in mission events, donated money and even taken a more personal approach to help by providing handy man jobs, donated clothing or in my case bought a bus ticket for someone who just wanted a way to get home to their family in Kansas. My advice to Ms Elthridge is to take her own advice and be careful of judging others. I am a Christian and a daughter of a Baptist minister. I moved to Panama City because I chose to be here. This is my home. I love my city and want it to be a wonderful place for me, my family and my neighbors. But i am also smart enough to call a spade a spade. Mr. fox can hide behind the banner of being a “Christian organization” and fool many in our community like Ms. Etheridge but he is not fooling everyone. One need to do only a little research to understand what the problems are. Ms. Etheridege, a question to you , if the mission is such a “wonderful ministry”, why the controversy? Why has Fox not been a better neighbor to the downtown community? Why would our elected officials unanimously vote for new ordinances to regulate nuisances? 

Robert Broege adds another comment saying:” I remember the homeless back when I was a kid when my Step Father had his photography studio down by the marina on Harrison Avenue. If the Mission actually worked? It would be out of business. The problem has never been resolved, because the homeless feed off of it”  Take a look at this post (http://movethemission.wordpress.com/2012/02/04/nationally-homeless-numbers-decreasing-so-why-are-panama-citys-numbers-off-the-charts/) and this post (http://movethemission.wordpress.com/2011/12/08/homeless-shelters-are-not-the-answer-to-the-homelessness-issue/) Robert is correct the problem is not resolved. The problem is exasperated by the rescue mission. The rescue mission is the DRAW for vagrants downtown. Mission management does NOT want smaller numbers. Smaller numbers  means less revenues. Follow the money. Why does it make any sense to any thinking person that the rescue mission wanted to open a full blown shelter in Port St Joe, a city that has zero homeless according to the state of Florida? More facilities to bring in more people to generate more revenues. Follow the money.

This takes us to Joe Wilson and Nicky Story Picken. Joe and Nicky have a unique perspective. Joe says; “OSHA should be called on about half of the businesses downtown. It’s a wonder some of them haven’t fallen down, killing people. Half the buildings on harrison avenue should be condemned“. and Nicky states: “The people complaining about it needs to spend time and money to make it better” These comments are actually kind of funny. It shows the reference points that people sometime start from when they are ill informed on an issue. Let’s talk about downtown for a second. Most of the buildings that are now located on Harrison were built in the late thirties and early forties. At that time, downtown was THE hub for commerce. All major retail outlets, banks and governmental buildings were located in this booming downtown. As the dynamics of our society changed our buying habits, commerce moved to to other areas of the city and county. The opening of the mall was the first shot to downtown that sent it on a downward spin. This phenomena is not unique to Panama City as many older downtown areas across the nation experienced the  same dynamic. It is easy to see even the next layer of change as pier park has driven businesses and shoppers away from our mall which drove business from downtown. Our world is a constantly changing one. Where the downtown community of merchants, governmental officials and property owners failed, is not being proactive in recognizing the changes and making the required adjustment. Downtown will never again be like Pier park. But that is the point it should not TRY to be like Pier park, it need to find its own niche that it can grow with. There are thousands of examples nationwide of older downtown areas that have reinvented themselves to become something unique and exciting….. places people seek out to visit, work at, go to shop and dine. Most city redevelopment organizations would be envious of the potential of our downtown being a waterfront city with structurally sound  buildings just waiting to shine again. I have experience with working with the Shokoe Bottom area of downtown Richmond Virgina (http://www.venturerichmond.com/downtown/projects-sbottom.html) and have seen first hand how a destitute, run down, downtown area can rejuvenate itself into a shining star. But here is where Joe and Nicky’s comments are relevant,  all of this takes money….. lots of money. But who in their right mind is going to invest in refurbishing buildings, buying inventory, hiring and training employees and buying advertising to promote their business when the area being promoted has an institution that systematically is growing larger and larger numbers of vagrants, transients, drunkards, sex offenders, criminals, panhandlers and drug pushers (all these are documented at our “top ten postings”). The answer is a simple one folks…NOBODY! People will refuse to invest in our downtown until we as a community decide that we have had enough and do the things required to make it better. It will require hard work, innovative thinking and tough decisions. I and many others believe downtown is worth saving.

Let’s now try Mr. David Lewis. David comments: “Rev. Fox is doing a remarkable job amidst a progressive and antiChristian neighbors. I fully support his work”. Silly comments at best. Fox is doing a “remarkable job”? Using what matrix? Is he doing a “remarkable job” because he himself says he is doing a remarkable job? It actually is easy to prove that the organization is doing a POOR job of truly helping those people that are just needing a helping hand and one can easily prove Fox is doing a “remarkable” job of ruining the community around him. And there it is…when all else fails in your argument call someone a “progressive”  and “anti-Christian”. Those are scary words huh? “Progressive” is that funny buzz word that really mean liberal..the opposite of conservative. A key belief in conservatism is being self reliant, not depending on others for your survival. So a conservative person believes that the core of what everyone should be is to provide for themselves and not mooch off the system…do I have that right? So someone who opposes a facility that creates an atmosphere of dependency while also damaging neighboring businesses that work hard each day to build a strong business, provide goods and services for the community, pay taxes and provide income for their employees is probably not really a “progressive” huh.  “Anti-christian”…really? Tell that to the number of pastors who have emailed is in support of our efforts. Tell that to REVERAND John Gipson, who sits on the Springfield commissioners and voted AGAINST the rescue mission expanding into Springfield. (http://movethemission.wordpress.com/2011/11/29/rescue-mission-continues-their-pursuit-of-expansion-into-springfield/) Using the “anti-Christian” label shows just how low your argument really is.

Oh, here is a nice one..back to Ms. Brenda Stanley. It appears she likes statistics. So here are some for her.

  • $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
  • 1704 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

http://movethemission.wordpress.com/2011/11/28/numbers-mean-something/

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

http://www.facebook.com/doc.washburn.5/posts/294435870641503?notif_t=mentions_comment

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3 Comments

  1. Steve Shadoan

     /  May 7, 2012

    Billy Fox and his organization “recruit ” homeless people from all over the country to come to Panama City. I have been arguing all along that the mission does not need moved OR expanded.. it needs closed. We have several fine organizations in Panama City that are more than capable and qualified to assist our people in need without going to the extremes of bringing in more “needy” in order to boost the numbers and justify their existence. Billy Fox himself made the comment that his facility was the destination of choice for Florida, Georgia and Alabama for his target population. Anyone who argues on either side of this issue owes to themselves and everyone else to become knowledgeable and informed BEFORE they voice their opinion.

    Reply
  2. Crystal McCauley

     /  August 2, 2012

    Instead of expending so much time and effort on compiling negative statistics- that energy would be more of a service to the community if instead it were focused on a reasonable solution rather than the problem. Getting bogged down in anger and intolerance is counter-productive.

    Reply
    • Crystal, thank you for your comments. In order to address any problem, those involved have to understand the facts of the problem in order to first, acknowledge that something IS a problem then secondly, collect and understand ALL of the data surrounding the problem and then lastly formulating and implementing a course of action that eliminates or corrects the problem. The purpose of our blog is to provide the community a centralized forum to learn more about the problems of the rescue mission and how it effects our community. We have over 90 post that anyone that was interested in the subject could easily gain the knowledge that they need to become better informed citizens. There is no anger or intolerance on our site only FACTS that are all verifiable my third party sources. There are great solutions available to our community. Our city government as we speak has a task force to develop a facility called REEF that will provide extensive services through multiple governmental, religious and quasi-private nationally based organizations that each have unique skill sets and resources to help those locals in our community who just need a step up to being contributing members of our society again.

      Reply

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