Major step forward made to relocate Rescue Mission from downtown area

PANAMA CITY — The Panama City Commission has provided theCommunity Resource Center Task Force with a place to put the shovel in the ground.

The commission was met with applause Tuesday as they unanimously approved the purchase of a $445,000, 70-acre parcel of land along the Star Avenue corridor, which will serve as the future site of theBay Area Community Resource Center.

Project Manager Jo Shaffer said the goal of the non-profit resource center is to provide a one-stop emergency assistance location for needy people in Bay County.

But for commissioners, the approval represented a potential solution for an ongoing issue with the homeless population near the downtown Panama City Rescue Mission.

Commissioner John Kady requested the city first require a written guarantee that the rescue mission would relocate before handing over the funding.

“When we started this whole endeavor it was for one single purpose and that was to address the vagrancy issue in downtown PanamaCity,” Kady said. “We still need to get back to the core. We have an issue with the rescue mission in downtown Panama City.”

Kady also required no further city involvement in the project, no recruitment outside of Bay County and a development period restriction of three years.

Shaffer said the task force would be willing to work with the commission during the 60 day due diligence period to acquire necessary permitting for the site.

“I’m very sensitive to the needs of the rescue mission,” said Commissioner Billy Rader. “One good thing about this is they would have a day center; they would have the people on board for counseling to help these people get back on their feet and have some self esteem in their lives. Somebody’s got to take that leap of faith.”

Commissioner Mike Nichols also spoke in favor of the project, stating that the center will provide a safe place with 24-hour security and guidance for people in need in Bay County.

Funding for the purchase will come from the Florida State House Initiative Partnership (SHIP), but the city must provide a $25,000 down payment before the area is annexed into Panama City.

The 26-member Community Resource Center Task Force was appointed by Mayor Greg Brudnicki 15 months ago to address issues with the homeless population and poverty epidemic in the area.

“Somehow I don’t think it’s coincidental that this item is on the agenda the day after Veterans Day and during National Hunger and Homeless Awareness week,” said task force chair Emily Dowdy, who addressed the commission Tuesday. “The task force has done its due diligence. We have studied best practices and processed how other communities have successfully transformed their homeless populations into productive members of society.”

Task Force members have visited transitional campuses includingSafe Harbor in Pinellas County, the Waterfront Rescue Mission inPensacola, the Renaissance Community Center in Tallahassee and Haven for Hope in San Antonio, Texas.

Panama City also received a visit from homeless expert Dr. Robert Marbut in January, to offer solutions on how to improve the area’s homeless situation.

The most rapidly increasing homeless population is building from veterans returning home from overseas, Dowdy said, something that could greatly affect Panama City’s large military population.

“It is our sincere hope that the (Panama City) Rescue Mission will take advantage of the opportunity to construct new, updated facilities on a secure campus,” said task force chair Emily Dowdy. “The rescue mission has been invited to be one of the first service providers to join the operation of the community campus and provide emergency shelter as they do now.”

 

http://www.bayarearesourcecenter.com/

 

source: http://www.newsherald.com/news/government/pc-approves-new-resource-center-1.49213?tc=cr

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