It seems as though the same homeless debate going on in Panama City is now happening in Gulf County. On Tuesday, county commissioners will hold a second public hearing and consider two ordinances regarding the controversial issue.
The first would regulate and control the permitting process for anyone wanting to build a homeless shelter. The second would strengthen the county's current "nuisance" definition.
Panama City Rescue Mission officials believe the proposals are in direct relation to the opening of their satellite resource center in Port St. Joe, the Gulf Coast Hope Center. Reverend R. Joe Atkinson is the director.
"I know for a fact that it came to light because of us coming over there and some of the hysteria that is taking place here in Panama City has just translated itself to Gulf County," Atkinson said.
He says the Gulf Coast Hope Center will help prevent homelessness in Gulf County by provided resources and services from paying bills…to food. But Father Tommy Dwyer of the St. James Episcopal Church in Port St. Joe says the need is just not there.
"There are of course people who from time to time who will end up without a home, but it certainly isn't a major issue or focus in our town at all," said Father Dwyer.
"It's not very obvious but I believe it's because sometimes we are just not looking for it," Atkinson added.
The ordinances proposed will no prohibit a shelter from opening up, just regulate where it will go.
Co-owner of the No Name Café and former Port St. Joe City Commissioner Lorinda Gingell supports the ordinances, saying having a homeless shelter in a tourist area will only bring business down.
"It certainly did in Downtown Panama City. You had people being warned away and we don't want to get in that situation, we would like to be proactive in this and it doesn't need to happen," Gingell added.
Atkinson says there are no plans to open a shelter in Gulf County and that if these ordinances pass they will have no affect on the Gulf Coast Hope Center. Commissioners will discuss the ordinances and hear the issue at their meeting Tuesday, July 10th at 6 p.m.