nonprofits,local leaders & Grt.New Haven business sharing information
In one of those "render under Caesar" (check your New Testament for greater understanding) and what appears to be a NIMBY challenge, the Tampa officials are basically on-attack of a homeless shelter that by many standards, appears to be doing its job--providing shelter to the homeless of Tampa. But it's clear from the Tampa Tribune article, that not everyone is pleased with the job the Shelter is doing and for the moment, using the courts and law enforcement to solve their perception of the problem.
My takeaway from the article: what is the board's position on all this? I am of course presuming there is a board and that it plays some role like having at some point agreed to pursue a lawsuit. So if there is a board, how are they involved in supporting the work of the shelter? Have they established the policies that inform shelter related decisions (like standards for the physical space and the roles of volunteers)? Are they actively advocating/communicating with publicly elected officials over the issues? Are they communicating with the neighborhood folks who appear to be affected by the shelter activities. Re they offering or getting financial support?
There's a number of activities the board could be doing to address the shelter's challenges. These challenges should certainly not be on the lone shoulder of the founder/director.
Homeless charity to close by Tuesday
By Elizabeth Behrman | Tribune Staff
Published: September 3, 2015 | Updated: September 3, 2015 at 10:18 PM
TAMPA — A well-known homeless charity that filed a lawsuit resulting in the partial overturning of the city’s panhandling ban will be shut down by Tuesday, the charity’s founder and code enforcement officials said.
Code enforcement officials told Adolphus Parker, who founded Homeless Helping Homeless about seven years ago, that he has five days to clear out the homeless men and women from a makeshift shelter behind the non-profit’s headquarters at 106 E. Floribraska Ave.
“We’ve got to move everybody out of here, the office and everything has got to be shut down,” Parker said. “I don’t know how to pull this one off.”
Parker founded Homeless Helping Homeless in 2009. The non-profit organization offers beds to homeless people in multiple locations throughout the city and supplies showers, hygiene kits and about 3,000 meals each month. The charity’s homeless clients fill key staff positions.
Parker said code enforcement officials were called out to the Floribraska property while Tampa police were executing a search warrant there Wednesday morning.
According to the probable cause affidavit for the search warrant, investigators were looking for evidence that Parker and two of his employees were violating Florida statutes regarding towing and storing vehicles, scheming to defraud, failure to return leased vehicles and unlawful subleasing of motor vehicles.
While police were there, code enforcement officials determined the property is in violation of several zoning laws and that the makeshift homeless shelter behind the main building is “unfit for human habitation,” said city spokeswoman Christina Barker.
The city housing manager will work with the nonprofit to arrange assistance for the displaced occupants, she said. Including those in the main house, makeshift shelter and annex, 16 people will be without housing, Parker said.
Earlier this summer, the organization filed a federal lawsuit against the city arguing that its panhandling bans violate free speech rights and shut off a major source of revenue for the charity, which relies heavily on the private donations collected mostly through roadside solicitations. In June, the City Council voted to repeal part of the ordinance that banned solicitation on public roads.
The lawsuit is still pending.
Parker said he spoke with lawyers Thursday about filing a motion to suppress some of the evidence seized during the raid Wednesday because it relates to the ongoing lawsuit.
More than a dozen police cars were outside the charity’s headquarters Wednesday morning as investigators seized all electronics and tax and financial documents.
According to the search warrant, investigators were looking for evidence that Parker and two others were violating Florida statutes regarding towing, storing and leasing vehicles.
Parker said the only connection his title business and charity has to Cheap Towing is that the woman running the company is also one of his “heavily involved” volunteers.
“You can’t put that link together because there’s no connection other than she’s a volunteer,” he said.
The code enforcement violations just compounded his problems, Parker said.
The city said the storage units he had on the property were illegal, and he was also cited for operating a possible rooming house in a residential area.
Several months ago, zoning violations shut down the charity’s Bargain Center Thrift Store on Florida Avenue, which helped fund the emergency women’s shelter and transitional shelter, he said. He was forced to relocate beds to the Floribraska property, which he put in a temporary, covered structure behind the main building. He even built it on wheels to avoid further code violations, he said.
But that structure was deemed “unfit for human habitation,” the city said, prompting the order to vacate.
Jim McPike has been sleeping on one of the makeshift shelter’s 10 cots for a little more than two weeks.
“This place has helped me a lot; I feel bad about it being shut down,” said McPike, who is disabled. “I wasn’t really prepared for this.”
Staff Reporter Mark Wolfenbarger contributed to this report.