Residents concerned for homeless population with talk of Mckenzie Park renovations

Panama City

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB)– In the city’s mission to revitalize Downtown Panama City, officials have set their sights set on McKenzie park.

According to city plans, changes that they would focus on would be to improve landscaping, lighting and new pathways to make the park more family oriented and a space everyone can enjoy,

While some community members have expressed they are in favor of the proposed city plans, others are concerned that some citizens may be pushed out. Particularly, the homeless population that often reside in the park.

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“That’s the only place the homeless can go without getting a ticket or thrown in jail or trespassed and for the most part the majority of them are pretty good people,” said Panama City, Terri Manning.

Manning runs a Facebook group called, “Blessing the Panhandle” and works to feed the homeless on the streets. Manning was homeless herself after Hurricane Michael, and now considers it to be her life purpose to help others who are struggling.

Manning said she is concerned with the lack of resources homeless people have to turn in the community.

After the Rescue Mission men’s facility had a kitchen fire back in November, many more men are forced to take the streets, and with the pandemic, Manning fears the problem will grow.

“Once the moratoriums go away, the evictions are going to start and this is going to get enormous,” Manning said.

Attorney Larry Perry, whose business borders Mckenzie Park agrees.

“Right now the current administration wants to push away the homeless problem and basically ignore it. They have made themselves very clear that they don’t want anybody on the streets if they can help it, but they are citizens as well,” Perry said.

Perry said he and his office staff have taken the time to donate food to those out on the streets, adding that many are good people with pasts that just might surprise you.

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“When you get to know the people out there you’ll find that they have a backstory about them,” Perry said.

Both Perry and Manning are calling on the current administration to take action.

“You’ve got an issue you need to address and changing things up [in Mckenzie Park] you’re not going to change the situation,” said Perry.

We reached out to city officials for a comment on the issue and have yet to hear back.

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