Panama City -- Bay County has been trying to get a grip on its unusually high homeless population for several months. This time of year, the local Homeless and Hunger Coalition is in the midst of its annual homeless count and they say this year’s count is more important than ever.
Communities nationwide are tallying up their homeless populations. Getting an accurate count on the number of homeless is important as those numbers is what the government use to determine the allocation of funds for agencies that accept government assistance to help the homeless.
Reverend Billy Fox is the Executive Director at the Panama City Rescue Mission, and he says within the last twelve months the local homeless population has jumped nearly 40%. Fox echoes that of Dr. Robert Marbut, a homeless expert who recently visited Panama City to better understand its homeless situation. Fox notes an average of two new people check into the Rescue Mission per day. In January, 67 new homeless men and women have checked into the Panama City Rescue Mission.
Fox stresses the Panama City Rescue Mission does not receive the funding from the Coalition’s count because it does not accept government assistance. Other organizations that work alongside the Rescue Mission to aid the homeless receive the funding such as the Salvation Army and Goodwill as they provide services to aid the homeless.
The Rescue Mission is deeply entrenched in the annual homeless count because it contains the largest concentration of homeless in the six county region of Northwest Florida.
“We’re part of that process of them gathering information here in our six county area, we are the center for most of that because we’re the only folks doing it. We don’t get any of the money they are working towards, but agencies who work with us get it” said Rev. Billy Fox, Executive Director of Panama City Rescue Mission.
The homeless coalition expects to have its total homeless count complete next week.