Rescue mission

Panama City Rescue Mission calls for public help to rebuild homeless shelter lost in hurricane

PANAMA CITY – Stephen Fett says it’s up to Bay County residents to help his group reduces the local homeless population.

As president and CEO of the Panama City Rescue Mission, Fett said his organization was still working to rebuild and reopen its men’s homeless center more than three years after it was destroyed by the Hurricane Michael, a Category 5 storm that decimated much of Bay County in October 2018.

Stephen Fett, president and CEO of the Panama City Rescue Mission, walks through the organization’s homeless men’s shelter, which is still undergoing renovations after Hurricane Michael.

“I am a Christian,” Fett said. “I believe in God and I believe his timing is perfect as is his will for everything. I feel bad that the (homeless) men don’t have a place to go between Pensacola and Tallahassee. We need that people get involved and get involved. “

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He noted that Michael had caused approximately $ 500,000 in damage to the shelter, ripping off about half of the building’s roof with its high winds.

With the help of a small business administration loan, the mission was able to shut down the facility immediately after the storm. He then spent around $ 400,000 over the past nine months – collected from donations and other funding sources – to update the alarm system, kitchen, and electrical, heating, ventilation and air conditioning of the building.

Approximately $ 75,000 to $ 100,000 is still needed to repaint the shelter, furnish it and install new floors.

Although Category 5 Hurricane Michael hit Bay County in 2018, the Panama City Rescue Mission has yet to rebuild its homeless men's shelter.

Although Category 5 Hurricane Michael hit Bay County in 2018, the Panama City Rescue Mission has yet to rebuild its homeless men’s shelter.

“When it’s cold this winter and people ask ‘Why isn’t this open’, it’s purely financial right now,” Fett said.

He also said the group’s shelter for homeless women and children, which escaped the storm virtually unscathed, remained open. It enjoys a “96% success rate … of a safe transition to sobriety, stable employment and secure housing” for those it serves, Fett said.

Founded in 1973, the mission strives to “move people from suffering to fulfillment”, especially those who live in poverty or are homeless. It also helps in treating mental illnesses and drug addiction.

Fett said he served on the organization’s board of directors from 2014 until he became president and CEO in July 2019. It was then that he took office in the aim to transform the mission from a simple temporary homeless shelter to a mission to rehabilitate homeless people so that they can be reintroduced into society.

Located at 609 Allen Ave., the Panama City Rescue Mission's homeless men's shelter is still not open after being destroyed by Hurricane Michael in October 2018.

Located at 609 Allen Ave., the Panama City Rescue Mission’s homeless men’s shelter is still not open after being destroyed by Hurricane Michael in October 2018.

“(Before I took over) we fed them, we gave them shelter, but they were alone in a lot of ways,” Fett said. “There really was no program that was producing results like we are doing now.

“We were a place of detention for people and they never got better,” he added. “They have never changed. Now we want to move them from the status of taker to that of donor.”

Bay County is estimated to have between 300 and 600 homeless people, the majority of whom are men, Fett said.

Those interested in making a donation to help the Panama City Rescue Mission rebuild their homeless men’s shelter can contact Fett by emailing [email protected]

More information about the organization, including two eBooks created by Fett, can be found at www.pcrmission.org.

This article originally appeared on The News Herald: Panama City Florida, a nonprofit, asks for help to rebuild a homeless shelter