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Mayor Says Tent City is Unsafe as Many Refuse to Leave by Deadline


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Dozens of people in Bay County are searching for a place to stay as people are told they're no longer welcome at a Panama City Tent city.

Many of those people are workers, others homeless before the storm, and some are locals still picking up the pieces after being displaced by Hurricane Michael. The parking lot of Forest Park United Methodist Church is thinning out as residents are asked to pack their tents and move on.

"We had a lot of people that did not leave or respond to the deadline that was created by the city," Shawn York, the Hurricane Michael recovery director for the West Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church, said. However, some refused to leave on Monday and no one seems to be sure who set the December 10 deadline in the first place. "First of all, the church set the deadline," Panama City Mayor Greg Brudnicki said.

Regardless of whoever set the deadline, the church and its Alabama West Conference are working together to get people moving with things like gas cards and finding places for people to stay.

"The majority of people that are still here are people who came seeking employment and looking for jobs after Hurricane Michael," York said. Brudnicki said it's time for those people to leave.

    "They can go back to where they came from. They're not from Panama City. They're not from Bay County. Our goal is not to help those people. Those people need to be helped in their towns so I can help the people of Panama City," Brudnicki said.

On Monday, the church identified and found housing for eight local households still living in tent city. "We're working first to take care of the residents of Panama City and those that are homeless that wish to go into shelters," York said. The mayor said tent city is unsanitary and unsafe. "I have to keep our people safe and we can't have this situation in the city. I won't have it."

He said law enforcement has responded to 26 calls at tent city within the last 30 days. He said the calls are fighting, burglary, robbery and attempted sexual assault. "If I only have eight families, citizens, here, how can I keep them safe if I have 26 calls for service in 30 days," he said. 


Some people have been living in what's being called Tent City in the Forest Park United Methodist Church parking lot because they were displaced from their homes after Hurricane Michael.


Others chose to live in Tent City because they say they came down to the area to find work or volunteer.

Regardless of the situation, Monday was the deadline for Tent City residents to move out.

Panama City Mayor Greg Brudnicki says making them move is for the better of their own health and the safety of the community.

"We have a severe health risk on that sight. Besides it being unsafe, we've had domestic violence, we've had burglary, we've had attempted rape, we had a lady that ran her truck and caused $15,000 worth of damage into the theater next door. That's the issue," Mayor Brudnicki said.

He says every eligible citizen will have a housing solution and those from out of town, need to go back home or find housing elsewhere.

The deadline has brought a sense of urgency to move on, but Tent City residents don't have to do it alone.

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