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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