Five years later, this is where we are..

Five years ago a small group of local people while sitting down at a downtown restaurant saw a vagrant urinate in broad daylight next to a vacant business downtown. We each were disgusted by what we saw. The discussion led to each of us saying that we saw these kinds of things each and every day and then questioned ourselves as to why we, as a downtown community had to put up with such behavior? What was the cause of the kinds of problems that are associated with vagrants, transients, panhandlers, drunkards and criminals that had plagued our downtown disproportionately? With just the most minimal amount of research, the answer fell directly to the Panama City Rescue Mission. In asking questions, we found out the PCRM was not what they would like the community to think they were. Stories from reliable sources emerged about then director Billy Fox  and what his motivations were for bringing in more and more homeless to our community. We pressed local media to dig deeper past the “warm and fuzzy, feel good” facade that is wrapped around the activities of the mission. They refused even at one point telling us point blank that unless we had information about an actual crime that had been committed with documented proof, that they were not going to be reporting anything negative about the mission for fear it would effect their advertising revenues. So with that, five years ago our blog was created to report on the activities of the mission and how their actions have affected our community negatively. In our post we took a fair but hard-punching approach with reporting the facts. We made some people mad. But through all that we have had over 200,000 page views. We have had over 820 emails thanking us for taking the time to compile this information in a forum where people can learn the truth about the mission. We are going to continue to press the mission to move from the downtown area as its existance is still the major catalyst for the downtowns transient problem which must go away as the city has put plans in motion to revitalize our downtown and marina. We have seen positive results from our efforts. Current and former employees (and board members) over the years have sent us private messages  giving us information that is important for the community to be aware of. The former director of development who for a short period of time, offered to respond to our commentary. After just a few days of corresponding and our posting her comments, she informed us she could no longer continue the conversation. We speculate that director Chambers admonished her and demanded she stop her communications with us. Just two weeks ago and two years later after our last engagement with her, Ms. Bawn comments on a news-herald article regarding the rebranding of downtown that it is we, the creators of this blog that have “been the only thing that has helped to get the mission in the mind to move and its the only thing thats going to take the riffraff along with it”.

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Shortly after former director Billy Fox was fired, there was a shuffling of upper management with the head of women’s programs forced to resign and a new head of men’s programs put in place. Neil Hickem took the position of the mens program coming back to Panama City after having been away for a number of years. Mr. Hickem’s father had been a key  person in starting the mission many years ago as an organization to help those locals in need. Upon Mr. Hickem’s taking his new position, we approached him via social media to make him aware of many of the issues that surrounded the mission and asked him what he intended to do to fix the problems. It is our best guess that Mr. Hickem came to the mission thinking that it was the same organization that his father created and was unaware of the firestorm that Fox had started and Chambers hasdone nothing to extinguish. Mr. Hickem refused to respond to our questions and subsequently blocked us from his social media pages. But times does an interesting thing to people. Those who have true character eventually come to the realizations of the truth and are willing to confront those truths. Mr. Hickem posted these comments on a locally based Facebook page while commenting on the new potential marina project.

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These are people who were key employees in the day to day operations of the mission. These are the people that have seen first hand what the mission is  and what it can and cannot do. These are the people that are now willing to admit that the mission IS the problem with downtown.

Mr. Chambers, when are you going to shut this farce down and allow downtown to heal? Our community deserves better that what your organization has brought us.

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