Local Agencies and Community Members Discuss Combating Homelessness

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PANAMA CITY-- Several local organizations are conducting their annual assessment of the homelessness issue here in the Panhandle.

The Northwest Florida Homeless and Hunger Coalition joined with a number of agencies to address some of the existing needs.

Organizers said the meeting had nothing to do with any recent hikes in the number of homeless people.

Organizer Morgan Burleson spoke at Wednesday's meeting to talk not only about past successes, but also to address the current status of the homeless population.

"We do have more families that are becoming homeless, more individuals that have never been in this situation before," said Homeless and Hunger Coalition of Northwest Florida representative Morgan Burleson.

"It's very hard once you're on your feet to stay on your feet. The economy got me it wasn't anything I did wrong I just lost everything," said former homeless individual Luanne Dickinson.

One organizer said the face of homelessness isn't just the typical homeless person on the street. "And a community as a whole in place to respond to families and individuals who find themselves in crisis is just, it's necessary," said Jackson County Wright Foundation's Shareta Wright-Green.

Local organizations and community members said it takes more than just one to combat homelessness in the area.

"Because knowing the resources that are available then we can set our programs to correlate with their programs, so that together we can try and alleviate some of the homelessness in Panama City and Bay County," said Heaven's FIRE Church of Deliverance Pastor Wesley Smith.

This meeting not only addressed homelessness in Bay County, but surrounding counties like Washington, Calhoun, Jackson, Gulf, and Holmes.

"Homelessness is universal to every county in the Northwest Florida area and throughout the country," said Wright-Green.

"We may not be an urban city environment, but we do have the same problems," said DIckinson.

Organizers said this meeting will help them budget money to the areas with the greatest need.