Mayor not giving up on shelter plan

PANAMA CITY — Despite a rejection by the Panama City Rescue Mission, city officials plan to move forward on efforts to relocate the homeless shelter.

The main concern expressed by the Rescue Mission was the distance from resources for clients.

“We can deal with the transportation issue,” said Mayor Greg Brudnicki. “If it is about transitioning and fixing the problem, you need an area for temporary housing to be able to do that. They can’t stay in a small, one-acre place.”

The plan was to bring in Volunteers of America and set up the Bay Area Resource Center, a development with enough land to house around 20 community organizations, including the Rescue Mission, Bethel Village and temporary housing for veterans, according to Brudnicki. A Community Center Resource Task Force was appointed by the mayor to find and research the best possible location.

City commissioners unanimously agreed the location of the Resource Center was to be a 70-acre plot of land along the Star Avenue corridor.

“It’s about having a facility that can house people and transition people at different stages,” Brudnicki said, emphasizing the Resource Center would have programs and regiments for the people in “transition.”

“We’ve seen this work in Pensacola, San Antonio — it’s not perfect anywhere,” he said. “It just boils down to us sitting down one-on-one and explaining what the plan is and having some compromises.”

Brudnicki said the lack of cooperation was due to communication.

“The Task Force obviously didn’t do a good enough job communicating to the Rescue Mission, the county and the residents exactly what needs to be done,” Brudnicki said. “When we started this process it was about the need to have a better location for the Rescue Mission to operate. It needs to be more about transitioning, not enabling.”

During the process, Brudnicki said the Task Force efforts became more about the 35 percent of people finding shelter at the Rescue Mission who are veterans.

“There are going to be so many coming out after the war that there has to be a place for these people to go,” Brudnicki said. “We wouldn’t be looking at 70 acres if it was just about the Rescue Mission.”

Commissioners unanimously agreed to purchase the parcel of land for $445,000. However, at Commissioner John Kady’s request, the city agreed that a written guarantee the Rescue Mission would relocate must be obtained before handing over the funding.

“We’ve got to educate everybody and figure out how we make it work,” Brudnicki said. “If we can’t make it work, then we can’t buy the property.

http://www.newsherald.com/news/government/mayor-not-giving-up-on-shelter-plan-1.53817

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