PANAMA CITY Fla. (WMBB) — For years, many local families have carried out a Thanksgiving tradition of helping feed the homeless at the Panama City Rescue Mission.
That won’t happen this year. Not because of covid, but because the mission is closed.
The Panama City mens Rescue Mission hasn’t been fully functional in three years.
Rescue Mission President and CEO Stephen Fett said it was severely damaged by Hurricane Michael, then a year ago someone set a fire inside.
“Repairs to the men’s mission required after the fire code enforcement strongly suggested that we add a new fire alarm and sprinkler system,” Fett said.
Together, they caused more than $500 thousand in damages.
Since the Rescue Mission was forced to close, there is no longer a men’s homeless shelter in Bay County.
Board members say the repairs are nearing completion and they’re itching to reopen, but in order to do that, they need help.
“We need the people of our community if they want that place to open sooner,” Fett said. “We need them to really come forward so that we can not only bring it over the finish line but then be able to furnish and staff it.”
Fett said they have big plans for the facility including bringing back evening community meals.
“That has been the most disappointing of all of the things that we lost over there was the ability to have that particular service for the community,” Fett said.
The shelter for women and children is still open and successful.
There are currently around 30 people living there provided with a bed, clothes, and hot meals.
Fett says in the last year they’ve had a better than 90 percent success rate of safety transitioning people into sobriety, stable employment, and safe housing.
“So emergency services only,” Fett said. “We expect them to go to work. We have multiple employers that will put them to work the next day.”
Shelter Manager Brandi Hamann said they always get calls from men seeking shelter.
She said reopening the men’s side is crucial.
“Once they get the men’s side up and running it will take a lot of the men off the street hopefully,” Hamman said. “Then they will do good with their lives as much as these ladies have done with theirs.”
Fett said he has plans to provide meals for both women and men in need on Christmas. He said he will put out details for that at a later date.
The main thing they need is money to furnish the facility and hire staff.