WJHG “Rescue mission announces changes”

Local television media outlet WJHG provided this article from their online addition. Unfortunately, the reporter asked few probing questions with knowledge of the overall issues associated with the Rescue Mission, its impact on neighboring businesses and property owners or uses of community money in the form of donations or grant money (taxpayer money). So we are going to help her along a bit:

PANAMA CITY — The Bethel Village program isn’t the only thing that’s changed at the Panama City Rescue Mission. What does this mean? Are you talking about the Bethel Village facility that was opened on 11th street at the site of the former women’s shelter? This is the facility that was opened using grant money (taxpayer fund) at a location already zoned for commercial use after the city of Springfield and the courts system confirmed that the facility was inappropriate for their community? Is this the same facility that had its director “resign under duress” just this past week as the PCRM down-scaled the scope of the program so signifiucantly that the now former director has formed her own organization to  pickup where the PCRM has now dropped the ball?

After former director Billy Fox’s departure the word you are looking for is “fired”. Mrs Fox was “fired” also, the organization changed directions, focusing less on sheltering the homeless and more on rehabilitation programs.

That has helped significantly reduce the homeless and vagrancy problems in downtown Panama City area By who’s matrix? If the problem at one point had reached levels “ten fold of that of comparable cities” defined by a national expert on homeless, even if you cut it in half its still a major problem.

The Panama City Rescue Mission used to house dozens of homeless people each night. The facility now has just 10 beds for overnight stays Dont think this just “happened”. First off, they were in violation of state fire codes and had been written up by the fire marshal mandating they lower the numbers or get shut down. Secondly, they dont have any money. They are a half million dollars in debt as they have been living high on the hog with donor money for years. The reality of what the mission is and is not is being seen by our charitable community and they choose to write their checks elsewhere

When Rescue Mission board members parted company with former director Billy Fox (again, “fired” is the word you are looking for ), they also abandoned his philosophy of marketing services to the homeless. Funny the choice of words used here as Fox denied denied denied that services were being “marketed” to the homeless community.

Rescue Mission Executive Director Thurman Chambers said, “After a period of time we want you to get your own place. This can’t be your home.”

The new focus is on rehabilitating those looking for help.

“Over a period of time you’ve got to look at your whole program to see what’s going on with this. And that’s when they put in the five night thing. You got five nights, you’re out of here if you don’t join the program which is recovery transitional or work program. There’s three of them,” said Chambers.
This change has played a role in improving the vagrancy issues in the downtown panama city. Again, by who’s matrix? Chambers? How about asking downtown business people and property owners the question. Some might argue new city ordinances banning panhandling activity was the beginning of the end. End of what? Even now as the rescue mission has basically cleaned house of any leftover personnel from the Fox administration, and having hammered finances operating in the red, they still refuse to acknowledge the toxic impact that they have had on the neighboring community and downtown. They refuse to lay the cards on the table and admit to all of the unsavory activities  that have been occurring at the mission . They refuse to participate with other local service agencies and organizations in a way that allows the blending of resources in a way that provides the best level of  need to those in our community who seek it.
The city also instituted a nuisance call program, evicting people from houses and businesses with excessive calls for police service No one has ever been evicted from a house or business due to the regulation. Even with the regulation in place, there are extensive benchmarks that have to occur in order for an actual eviction to take place.
In 2012, Panama City police answered 458 calls at the Rescue Mission.

Last year that number dropped to 236. So far this year, there’s been just 67 calls. Statistically, this years rate would reflect an INCREASE of incidents that would require police intervention. Even by this math, the police are showing up very day or every other day to deal with an issue at the mission. How much does this cost the city to have this much police exposure? 

And police teamed with the Bay County Sheriff’s Office to give homeless people a one-way bus ticket back to their homes. this is a limited program with limited financial resources. Despite all these measures, police insist they don’t target the homeless.

Panama City Police Department Major Kathy Rausa said, “I think that our officers do give just as we would any citizen seeking any type of help, the information to get help. Whether it’s to the rescue mission or veteran services or any other services that might help them.”


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