People told to move off of property on Back Beach Road, as homelessness rises in Bay County

Published: Jan. 8, 2021 at 8:08 PM CST
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After Hurricane Michael wiped out most of the affordable housing in Bay County, many people have been left homeless. The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have not made getting back into a home any easier.

“In Bay County there is a severe lack of affordable housing,” said Stephen Fett, director of the Panama City Rescue Mission.

Right off of Highway 98 in Panama City Beach near Allison Avenue a homeless camp set up in the spring.

“We made contact with the land owner, and when I talked to him on the phone, he stated to me that due to COVID concerns he was going to allow them to stay there until he sold the property,” said Lieutenant David Higgins of the Bay County Sheriff’s Office.

Because the camp is on private property, the Bay County Sheriff’s Office could not make the people move.

But within the last two weeks they’ve been told to move after the property owner faced code enforcement fines.

“We noticed more items that you could see from the roadway. We also noticed that they were starting to pile up debris on Back Beach Road,” said Higgins.

Fett said part of the reason we are seeing more homeless people around Bay County is the lack of places for them to go.

“It’s cold up north, and they’re making their way down here. Number two, we don’t have a men’s facility available right now, which we would probably be able to have 50 or so that wouldn’t be on the streets every single day,” Fett said.

He added that with the end of the evictions moratorium coming up, more people will be left homeless.

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