Taskforce Committees Formed to Improve Rescue Mission

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A survey created to look at crime and the transient population in downtown Panama City seems to be taking another spin.

The Downtown Improvement Board created a survey asking business owners and homeowners in the downtown area how they felt about the homeless population and if the Rescue Mission Homeless Shelter played a role in their presence.

Eighty-seven percent said the Mission does in fact contribute to transient presence downtown, and most want the shelter moved, but what once seemed to be an adversarial issue has now become a quest to improve the Rescue Mission.

"There is no movement to do away with the Mission. It will be useful, wherever it is located," Mayor Gerry Clemons of the Panama City Commission says.

City officials aren't going to do away with the Rescue Mission Homeless Shelter, in fact, they're forming two separate committees to better meet the Mission's needs and even look for a new, larger facility for the shelter.

The recommendation to form these committees comes from Downtown Improvement Board officials who say it is the few vagrants who mission that have caused the most harm to the community. The recent murder of a transient in a wooded-area off of Harrison Avenue and a fire that destroyed a local business were both allegedly committed by transients, and made the issue salient to local officials.

DIB officials say better programs and a larger facility away from the downtown area might prevent those types of crimes, and Mission officials agree.

"Sit with us in a think tank. Let’s look at remedies. Come and see and offer suggestions. That's what I'd like to see," Thurmon Chambers, Executive Director of the Rescue Mission, says.

The Rescue Mission is still looking for two community members to join the committee that will look at the Mission's needs and how they can be implemented.

Panama City Commissioners will appoint members to the committee that will look for a possible new location for the shelter.