Port St. Joe commissioners taking steps to protect community from public nuisance.

Panama City- Gulf County Commissioners are taking a step they say will prevent a future problem with homeless people.

They’re considering an ordinance that regulates and controls the permitting processes for building any homeless shelters in the county.

Supporters say they’re only trying to protect Gulf County’s main industry, tourism, but one local man says it’s a direct result of the help center he opened earlier this year.

Gulf County Commissioners admit the county does not currently have a homeless population.

“We did want to get ahead of the issue to make sure we didn’t have the same issues the city of Panama City is having now,” said Gulf County Commissioner Warren Yeager.

Matthew Scoggins, who works with the Gulf Coast Hope Center in Port St. Joe, disagrees.

“Out of the 44 people i told you we’ve helped, I’d say at least 10 were homeless people. The city council is aware. We’ve talked to them about these people that we’ve helped and they’re aware of the people we’ve found sleeping under the bridge.”

The Gulf Coast Hope Center in Port St. Joe is affiliated with the Panama City Rescue Mission.

Scoggins says he helped open the center strictly as a resource for homeless people or those in need, but nearby residents fear he plans to open a homeless shelter.

“That’s the only reason that ordinance has come to light here is people with a personal grudge,” said Scoggins.

The ordinance would not prohibit homeless shelters. Instead it regulates where they can be built.

“We did specifically mark out our tourist corridor and those roads are basically Highway 98, 71, the C-30 Cape San Blas area where we do not want that type of facility service being within that tourist corridor,” said Gulf County Commissioner Bill Williams.

The proposal also includes a nuisance ordinance, similar to the one adopted in Panama City. A homeless shelter could be deemed a nuisance if emergency officials have to answer five or more calls there, within any 30 day period.

Gulf County Commissioners are holding a public hearing on the homeless shelter and nuisance ordinances on Tuesday at 6 pm



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