Ft. Walton Beach Cold Weather Shelters Must Obtain Permits

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Any Fort Walton Beach church or rescue missions that wants to open its doors to the homeless on cold nights, will now have to have a permit from the City.

"I actually commended the council on their decision and their willingness to step in and help our community, because this is a community problem,” said Sharon Schuler, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Ft. Walton Beach.

City council members passed the plan Tuesday night on a 3 to 2 vote.

They say it's a necessary move that will help provide better safety for people who volunteer at these temporary shelters.

"There were about a dozen people who got up and were either for or against it,” said Michael Beedie, City Manager of Ft. Walton Beach.

Now that City Officials have passed the ordinance, churches and rescue missions that participate in the cold weather program must fill out this application. City officials hope all the permits will be complete by October.

Many residents say they hope this is the first step in addressing the larger issue of homelessness, which seems to be growing in the city.

"I think there is a bigger conversation that needs to take place about homelessness in our town and we want to be a part of that,” said Mark Fitzhugh, of St. Simon’s Episcopal Church.

"The Chamber of Commerce has actually set up a solutions committee to try and find a piece of property and then find that funding to build that shelter,” said Beedie.

They City is not charging the churches and shelters for the permits.