Local Reverends Say "We're Not Enabling Homeless"

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Panama City - Looks like the controversy over homeless feeding activities in downtown Panama City could be coming to a showdown.

The issue is heating-up after last week's visit by a nationally known homelessness consultant. Dr. Robert Marbut says the Tuesday and Thursday night feedings may be contributing to the Panama City's unusually large homeless population, but the church groups that operate the feedings across from McKenzie Park say they won't stop.

For the past nine years around eight different church groups have fed the homeless in a parking lot next to attorney Carroll McCauley’s office. Over 100 homeless people show up each night.

"We're thankful for each and every person that does this to be a willing vessel and to give and care for people that's in need. Because we never know when we may lose our job or when we may lose our house's or may lose everything and be out on the street's," said rev. Richard Gill.

Dr. Robert Marbut served food at last Thursday night's feeding, but Marbut told local officials the practice needs to stop, because the churches are enabling the homeless population.

"We're not enabling, we're helping them. If we weren't then what would happen then? They would go out and steal from somebody, take from somebody, or hurt someone . We're not out to see that happen. What we want to do is make it nice and easy for them," said rev. Ron Dunnerstag.

Dunnerstag says he and the other churches will continue feeding the homeless, even if Panama City Commissioners pass an ordinance against it.

"We have 271 churches in Bay County and I’ll tell you what their all voters and I guarantee if they read the papers and see they locked us up for feeding then lets see what happens during elections then," said Dunnerstag.

Although they don't agree with city officials on the feedings, the churches say they are in-favor of Panama City Mayor Greg Brudnicki's proposal to build a multi-purpose resource facility to help the homeless.

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