Weeks of frustration and confusion from residents in the Cherokee Heights neighborhood came to a head Tuesday night, as they voiced their concerns about a proposed homeless resource center to the Panama City Commission.
Residents are concerned that the proposed 70 acre center for the homeless will be too close to their neighborhood up Star Avenue in Bay county. Moving out of their living rooms and into the commission chambers, residents made their feelings clear.
"When you force something down people's throat, they never like it," one resident said.
"We're putting all our folks in need out in the woods basically in a pen, in a fenced in area, 70 acres," one resident said. "It just looks bad."
"We deserve to be able to sit down with someone and discuss the impact the resource center will have on our neighborhood," another resident said.
Impact on the neighborhood was clearly on the mind of Charlotte Marshall, the principal of nearby Meritt Brown Middle School.
"My main concern is the safety and security of the students," Marshall said. "If the coin was tossed to your community, the cove, forest park, Glenwood, the funeral home...you'd be concerned as well."
Not everybody is protesting the center.
"I commend the recommendation to build this project which could be a model for the U.S.A. in addressing this homeless problem," resident Jack Harvey said.
Local religious leaders involved with the center say they're working to address security concerns.
"We've already talked to some of the homeless, we're already training them, we have some military people that are going to help, we have police officers that also offered to help," said Reverend Ron Donnerstag with the International Fellowship Assembly of God.
Residents say they wanted more input and communication on the plan, a misstep acknowledged by the city and homeless task force, which decided on the location of the center.
"We've been at this for 15 months and maybe we put blinders on and neglected some things we should have taken into consideration," said Emily Dowdy, chair of the homeless task force.
"We probably didn't do a good job of communicating to the residents out there," said City Commissioner Mike Nichols. "Let's make sure we're doing what's right not only for Panama City, but for the people that live in Bay county."
Principal Marshall and the task force are working together to organize a neighborhood meeting, where the two sides can come together and air out their questions and concerns. No date or time has been announced.