Changes Coming To Panama City Rescue Mission - WMBB News 13 - The Panhandle's News Leader

Changes Coming To Panama City Rescue Mission

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Panama City, Fla. -

As we head into the holiday season, the Panama City Rescue Mission can serve as a place of comfort and care. Some also say it's a breeding ground for vagrancy and crime. Next year, the mission says it's shaking things up to change its image and save resources.

Next years philosophy will be a return to the mission's original philosophy - namely helping those who help themselves.

Marie and Dave Rutenberg are putting in the hours at the rescue mission. For them serving visitors a warm smile and a hot meal is a privilege.

"It was very nice to see that we could do something, even a menial task that could help people," Ms. Rutenberg said.

Volunteers like the Rutenbergs aim to serve those that need the help. However, Reverend Billy Fox says they're having issues with those who don't want the help.

"We put a lot of the resources into those who are choosing a vagrant lifestyle," Rev. Fox said. "They're not getting anywhere and we're not able to help them."

Which is why the Rescue Mission is making changes come January, starting with available beds.

"Right now, they can get 5 consecutive nights in a 30 day period of time," Rev. Fox said. "Now that moves to 60."

That's not the only change.

"It's going to be case by case...they come and say 'well here's a change that's taken place in my life,'" Rev. Fox said.

He says it marks a return to their original philosophy, one that makes sense especially with the city considering a new community resource center for homeless.

"We've become all things to all people, not on purpose, but because the city needed it," Rev. Fox said. "Now the city is saying 'we'll take that responsibility,' we're glad to let them take on that populace."

While the center is in the works, Rev. Fox says career vagrants wont be allowed to drain the mission's resources.

"They're going to have to hang out somewhere and they'll be somewhere in the downtown area like they were 7 or 8 years ago," Rev. Fox said.

Rev. Fox and his volunteers stress it's always been about changing lives, but only if they are willing to take the necessary steps

"The people who really need to come here and want the services should be the ones who are served," Mr. Rutenberg said. "It's our privilege to help in doing it."

Those changes are set to go into effect at the mission in January. Meanwhile, the city will continue their discussion on a news homeless resource center at Tuesday's Panama City commission meeting.