The News Herald editorializes on Fox’s termination

Replacing the Rev. Billy Fox as its executive director isn’t the first change the Panama City Rescue Mission has made recently, and it likely won’t be the last.
But it’s easily the most visible.
The mission’s Board of Directors did not publicly give a reason why Fox is leaving after eight years, nor did officials say who initiated the move. This alone should be a cause for great scrutiny. Removal of an executive director and his spouse without any public explanation and without an interim or permanent replacement in place is a well defined red flag that problems have been in play for some time. To quote Rev Henry Hazard, President of the board of directors of the PCRM “we have an understanding that he’s not to tell everything about us and we’re not to tell everything about him” There’s no question, though, that Fox had become a lightning rod for the mission, the face of its disputes with Panama City over feeding the homeless downtown and with Springfield in building a women-only shelter.
Several Not “several” . Several is to imply a minority. “Most” is the accurate word to be used in this sentence.  Panama City leaders and downtown business owners along with data provided by both the Sheriffs department and the Panama city police department blamed the mission’s policies for attracting vagrants from outside the community and accused them of loitering, panhandling, urinating and defecating on businesses’ private property, and generally scaring away the public. City officials and most people who live , work and love our downtown area saw them as an obstacle to revitalizing the downtown commercial corridor.
When Mayor Greg Brudnicki came into office in 2011, he made addressing the downtown homeless problem a priority. He appointed a task force to study the issue and propose solutions. At the top of the list was creating a Community Resource Center off Star Avenue that would be a one-stop shop of services for the homeless. The city hoped to entice the Rescue Mission to partner with the center and move from downtown.
The mission — a private entity that owns its property on Allen Avenue and receives no direct government funding  Oh boy…The news herald has become like an addicted alcoholic falling into Fox’s delicate, diversionary use of words. Note how convenient it is to slip un the word “direct” in this sentence to imply that they use NO government funding. The reality is there is significant dollars that roll through the coffers of the PCRM that are tax payer dollars.   — balked at that idea, sending the city back to square one.  This of course AFTER the PCRM board gave positive indications that they WERE interested in participating, moving the city to then make public announcements believing in good faith that the PCRM was on board then at the last minute Fox’s announces that they are NOT on board and never intended to be on board putting egg on the face of public officals.
The mission also drew opposition from Springfield officials and residents to its plan to expand its Bethel House Home for Women and Children, an addiction recovery program. Critics cited concerns about attracting the kind of crime that plagued downtown Panama City. In May, city commissioners approved a six-month moratorium restricting homeless shelters from opening within city limits.
Such high-profile opposition can create headaches for a non-profit that relies on donations for most of its funding. It is not the “opposition” that is creating the headaches. It is the actions and operating philosophies of an organization that systematically has ignored our communities cries to not create a toxic atmosphere in our neighborhood. 
You can’t blame Fox for all this, as he didn’t have dictatorial power. Actually, this is a bit off target. Although the PCRM, as are most non-profits, is to operate off a balance of power between a volunteer board and an executive director, as anyone that has spent time with non-profits will know, there is often a power shift where an executive director garnishes too much power away from the board who find themselves as a “puppet board” giving carte blanche approval to whatever the director wants to do. With big time money rolling in the front doors, Fox could leverage his position in a way that benefitted him.  As he overplayed his hand and public outrage became more pronounced. Donation dollars started drying up significantly.  With less money, newer (more reasonable) board members and the promise of an alternative facility that could easily provide the same services, Fox found himself too many steps away from the herd and became dispensable. Clearly, though, mission officials late last year recognized that a change in strategy was necessary. In early January, the mission announced it was curtailing services for the “habitual, chronic homeless” — those primarily fingered as contributing to the downtown problems. The mission’s website cites “political pressures from Panama City’s Council and downtown merchants” for the move. Instead, the mission decided to focus more on treating addictions that contribute to homelessness.
Later, the mission changed its name to Pathways Christian Recovery Ministries and created a new logo. The organization obviously is seeking to present a fresh image to the public, and either the Board of Directors or Fox — or both — realized that wouldn’t be complete without a new director. Another deceitful move. Note that the name change kept the old abbreviation, “PCRM”. Fox wanted to play both sides of the fence. When in the company of those who were supporters, it was convenient  to be called the “PCRM” to give the discussion the tone of a long term, well established beacon in the community. When it was less convenient to be the “Panama City Rescue Mission”, “Oh hey, thats not us we are the Pathways Christian recovery Ministries”. 
Ironically, Fox and the mission haven’t been in the news much lately. No thanks to local media outlets, such as the News Herald, that have been nothing more than a public relations firm for the PCRM.The public conflicts of 2011-12 have faded. Statistics indicate crime has declined downtown since the mission changed its policies. That’s progress. There has been a lot of pressure to move the mission to solve problems, but a makeover might suffice. But “suffice” will probably not do. A clean slate is needed. The damage to the 6th street corridor is extensive and the bleed over into downtown, the cove residential area and areas around the Sacred Heart hospital has left its impact. This is a direct result of the rescue mission. Slapping a coat of paint isnt “fixing” the problem. 

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Billy Fox and wife terminated from leadership roles of Rescue Mission

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The Panama City Rescue Mission is making some big changes.

Rev. Billy Fox is no longer the executive director. His wife Carol, is also no longer with the organization.

The board President, Rev. Henry Hazard says the mission is going to focus on addiction recovery and with that they need a change in leadership. Hazard says Fox did a good job there and the change has nothing to do with his performance.

The women and children are also going to be moved to a different facility in just a few weeks.

http://www.wmbb.com/story/23485844/rescue-mission-leaders-let-go-organization-changing-focus

From WMBB news department updated:

Reverend Billy Fox, is no longer the Executive Director for the Panama City Rescue Mission, the first of many changes that the mission is making.

His wife Carol Fox has also left the mission. Fox made no comment about the release.

President of the Rescue Missions Executive Board, Henry Hazard, says this decision was mutual.

“Billy Fox was an excellent Executive Director and will certainly have effective ministries where ever he goes,” said Hazard. “The board of directors has decided that it is time to move on and that is a direction which we are taking. We find that because of the foundation that Billy Fox gave us, we are able to do some changing.”

Nationwide, the number of women and children that are seeking help from the mission is rising.  Locally, they are taking steps to make sure they have enough space to house them.

They will open a new Bethel Village for women and children only, on 11th street in Panama City. The projected opening date is October 4th.

They will spend the next couple of days moving in and fixing up the old Restoration House.

The shelter for men will still be located downtown.

Along with feeding and providing emergency shelter to the homeless, the mission has looked into what they can do to help the community on a greater level.

They are shifting their focus to provide more substantial help to those with substance addictions.. Like on drugs and alcohol.

“Some of them maybe have made poor choices, but most of them are having problems with whether it is alcohol or prescriptions drugs or illegal drugs, they are having these addiction problems,” said Hazard. “Just trying to talk to them and do nice things and feed them then put them back on the street has solved nothing they are just going to continue on.”

Rev. Hazard says they have already started the process of filling the empty Executive Director position. He thinks that the board will have that decision ready to go in about a month.

http://www.wmbb.com/story/23490406/rev-billy-fox-no-longer-director-of-rescue-mission

From WJHG news department:

Billy Fox is out as the Executive Director of the Panama City Rescue Mission.

The move came during Thursday night’s Mission Board of Director’smeeting, but apparently the board’s been debating it for at least 2 years.

Board Members say this is the first step in a series of sweeping changes.

Panama City Rescue Mission Board Members won’t get into specifics about why they’re parting ways with executive director billy fox.

But after 8 years on the job, Fox will be leaving.

Rescue Mission Board President Reverend Henry Hazard says, “There were several reasons, and I would rather not go into that because we have an understanding that he’s not to tell everything about us and we’re not to tell everything about him but it was nothing immoral.” 

Hazard did say the board members had become weary of what he called a lot of negative media attention.

Much of that attention seemed to come from downtown residents and business owners, who claimed vagrants and the homeless were running people away from the downtown area.

Panama City Mayor Greg Brudnicki says, “We had a lot of truancy and a lot of calls – police calls – to the rescue mission over the years because there was a lot of incorrigible people mixed in with the truly homeless people looking for a home.”

City officials toughened the city’s panhandling laws, which helped with some of the problems; and they explored a number of options, including building a new homeless shelter out of the downtown area, but Fox refused to seriously consider relocating.

Brudnicki insists the city did not play a role in Fox’s departure, saying, “Absolutely not, I’m just as surprised as you and everyone else. I had no idea.”

Fox also fought a long legal battle with Springfield to expand the Bethel Village for women.

Despite the very public struggles, Hazard says Fox helped build the foundation for the Mission’s future.

Hazard says, “He’s got himself exhausted doing what he can to develop the rescue mission. There was no fault on his part in my opinion.”

Fox declined to comment.

The Rescue Mission has already removed his biography from it’s website.

Hazard says they hopes to have new Mission Director in a month.

http://www.wjhg.com/home/headlines/Rescue-Mission-Says-Goodbye-to-Billy-Fox-224641981.ht

From the News herald

The Rev. Billy Fox and the Panama City Rescue Mission have parted ways.

Fox and his wife, Carol, directed the Rescue Mission’s operations for eight years before Thursday’s decision.

The Rev. Henry Hazard, pastor of Heritage Bible Church and president of the Rescue Mission’s board of directors, would not say Friday who initiated the separation.

“In an attempt to serve the hurting people in our community better, the Rescue Mission is changing,” Hazard said. “This change includes a change in leadership and its emphasis.”

The new emphasis of the Rescue Mission, which transitioned to Pathways Christian Recovery Ministries earlier this year, includes a stronger focus on addiction recovery.

Fox said he could not comment on the matter due to an agreement.

An executive committee, consisting of the top five ranking board members, will oversee the mission’s operations until Fox’s replacement is named.

The Rev. Billy Fox and the Panama City Rescue Mission have parted ways.

Fox and his wife, Carol, directed the Rescue Mission’s operations for eight years before Thursday’s decision.

The Rev. Henry Hazard, pastor of Heritage Bible Church and president of the Rescue Mission’s board of directors, would not say Friday who initiated the separation.

“In an attempt to serve the hurting people in our community better, the Rescue Mission is changing,” Hazard said. “This change includes a change in leadership and its emphasis.”

The new emphasis of the Rescue Mission, which transitioned to Pathways Christian Recovery Ministries earlier this year, includes a stronger focus on addiction recovery.

Fox said he could not comment on the matter due to an agreement.

An executive committee, consisting of the top five ranking board members, will oversee the mission’s operations until Fox’s replacement is named.

The mission’s shift to focus on addiction recovery is because much of the homelessness is caused by addiction to alcohol, narcotics or prescription drugs. Many of those are war veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

“If they’re married, they come home from war and they’re a different person,” Hazard said. “Sometimes there are anger issues and other things that need to be dealt with; the spouse says, ‘I can’t take this,’ and then the person is out on the streets and resorting to alcohol or other drugs.”

Hazard announced the mission will be consolidating its women ministries Oct. 5 to the former site of the Restoration House on 11th Street. The facility will fulfill what the Rescue Mission attempted to do with Bethel Village in Springfield by housing solely homeless women with children and women with substance abuse issues. Three or four of the facility’s units will be reserved for women with children.

“If they do the same things as the Restoration House but helping women, it shouldn’t be a problem for the city,” Brudnicki said. “If it fixes people, great.”

The downtown facility will be reserved for men only, offering work and rehabilitation programs, Hazard said, but due to fire safety restrictions the capacity of the shelter will be reduced greatly.

“It’s not by our choice; these things have to happen,” Hazard said. “It breaks our hearts because homeless people hurt. Many have mental issues health issues and who is going to take care of them?

“But we can try,” he added. “But with more people becoming indigent and with the economy … it’s not getting better.”

http://www.newsherald.com/news/rescue-mission-looking-for-new-leader-1.206092?page=2al