Homeless under the Hathaway

Published: Sep. 10, 2020 at 5:50 PM CDT
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For most, the Hathaway Bridge is just another Bay County roadway. For some, it’s home.

“When I walk, over the last number of months under the bridge, I’m finding that because of a lack of resources I feel in the community there are homeless people setting up under there,” said Panama City resident Rich Blum. He is an advocate for the homeless, but he’s also concerned about the environmental footprint they leave behind.

“I’m concerned about our bays and our bayous and I’m certainly concerned about the plight of these worthwhile human beings that are just in desperate need of some attention and help,” said Blum.

Bicycles, tents, and even cooking utensils litter the rocks and sidewalks, but cleaning up could mean taking away the little these people have left.

Blum said, “If we clean up under the bridge that means we’re going to dislocate those folks that are living underneath there - where are they going to go?”

Law enforcement has received calls over the last several months concerning the issue.

“We’ve dealt with FDOT who maintain the bridge and maintain the roadways there, and on the west side of the Hathaway Bridge belongs to the Bay County Sheriff’s Office, it’s in the unincorporated areas of Bay County. Panama City Police Department own the east side of the bridge,” said Captain David Baldwin of the Bay County Sheriff’s Office West District Field Service Division.

He said although anyone is allowed to fish or hangout under the bridge during the day, camping overnight is not allowed.

“Basically we just extra patrol, make sure everybody is doing what they normally should be doing, not violating any Florida laws or county laws.”

Baldwin said law enforcement tries to help the homeless with resources when possible. But often cleaning up, means finding a new roof for the homeless to sleep under.

“It’s a matter of survival for these folks,” said Blum.

The Panama City Police Department sent us a statement reading:

“The Panama City Police Department would like to echo the Bay County Sheriff’s Office, in that we work with other agencies and citizens to address community concerns. We encourage citizens to reach out to the department with their concerns as well. Florida statute does not allow camping within 300 feet of a state right-of-way so our officers made contact with those under the hathaway bridge this afternoon.”

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