Friday, June 22, 2018
News Roundup

A third of Homeless Recovery properties fail code inspections

TAMPA — More than 30 properties that housed clients of Hills-borough County's Homeless Recovery program have failed basic housing inspections by county code enforcement, some with problems so significant and costly to fix that landlords have opted to stop taking the tenants rather than correct them.

That statistic was one of several discussed Wednesday by county commissioners as staff described a plan to replace Homeless Recovery by Jan. 1 with a program that would put local nonprofits experienced with finding housing for the poor in charge of county money.

No official action was taken by commissioners, some of whom expressed dismay at ongoing revelations about Homeless Recovery and called for more accountability from whatever replaces it.

County staff plans to ask local nonprofits that help the homeless for their advice before bringing a detailed plan for an outsourced program to commissioners for a vote in a few months.

Homeless Recovery has drawn scrutiny over the last several months as the Tampa Bay Times revealed the agency sent clients, including families with young children, to live in dilapidated, crime-ridden properties, paying their rent with public money.

Homeless Recovery's manager and his supervisor said they didn't have the money or staff to inspect properties. Both left the county the week after a Sept. 8 Times article appeared.

Since then, county code officers have inspected 85 properties that housed the program's clients.

Officers found 46 of them passed inspections for basic housing elements such as functioning smoke detectors and safe electrical wiring, according to Robin Caton, program manager with county code enforcement.

Some units require further inspections, Caton said.

Of the 30 that failed, some had easily fixable problems. But a few landlords said they would rather stop taking Homeless Recovery clients than fix even those.

"They just didn't want to deal with it," Caton said in an interview after Wednesday's meeting.

Commissioner Sandy Murman called it "unacceptable" that an agency designed to help the homeless sent people to live in substandard housing, but expressed optimism in the plan to ask local nonprofits for help with designing a replacement.

"Ultimately, what we're looking for is a community solution for our homeless problem," Deputy County Administrator Sharon Subadan said. "This is what they do well."

Hillsborough has a shortage of "bridge housing," Subadan said — places where homeless people can live for a few months while they work toward self-sufficiency. Homeless Recovery's replacement program should try to fill this need, she said.

Commissioner Kevin Beckner said the county shouldn't decrease the amount of money it spends helping the homeless. Homeless Recovery has a budget of about $1.2 million this year.

"I want to make sure we are not cleaning our hands of funding such an important thing," Beckner said. "These are some of our most vulnerable citizens … so we must continue to do our part."

The county will not decrease spending on homeless aid, Subadan said, unless commissioners decide it should. Homeless Recovery's employees will be offered other jobs in the county, and the agency's Tampa office repurposed for another use.

Will Hobson can be reached at (813) 226-3400 or [email protected]

Comments
The Daystarter: The Jameis Winston fallout; from CIA agents to minivan drivers; Pride comes back together in 2018

The Daystarter: The Jameis Winston fallout; from CIA agents to minivan drivers; Pride comes back together in 2018

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today.   • Get ready for a wet morning as the forecast calls for scattered showers and storms to start the day. There could even be thundershowers and lightning out there, according to...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Boy George, coming to Tampa with Culture Club, talks fame, Pulse and the term ‘LGBTQ’

Boy George, coming to Tampa with Culture Club, talks fame, Pulse and the term ‘LGBTQ’

It’ll still be June when Boy George arrives in Florida this week to kick off a summer U.S. tour with Culture Club. But the LGBTQ icon says it won’t feel quite like a Pride parade. "I also bake cakes for straight people," he laughed. "Tha...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Pride divided no more: St. Pete Pride comes back together

Pride divided no more: St. Pete Pride comes back together

ST. PETERSBURG — The 16th annual St. Pete Pride Parade is getting ready to march along the downtown waterfront the second straight year. But many hope to move past the division caused last year when the parade was uprooted from its original hom...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Florida eliminates Texas Tech at College World Series, faces Arkansas for title-round spot

Florida eliminates Texas Tech at College World Series, faces Arkansas for title-round spot

OMAHA, Neb. — JJ Schwarz hit a two-run homer and Florida built enough cushion to survive Texas Tech's six-run outburst over the seventh and eighth innings to eliminate the Red Raiders from the College World Series with a 9-6 win Thursday night....
Updated: 7 hours ago
Carlton: Could anything be more partisan than going nonpartisan?

Carlton: Could anything be more partisan than going nonpartisan?

So Hillsborough County commissioners — most of them, anyway — want voters to consider dropping political parties from certain elections, making those races nonpartisan instead.This would mean when you go to vote in those elections, you won’t know if ...
Published: 06/22/18
Joe Henderson: Hillsborough teachers have come to depend on foundation’s free supplies

Joe Henderson: Hillsborough teachers have come to depend on foundation’s free supplies

We have all heard stories about public school teachers reaching into their own pockets so their students will have basic classroom supplies.It goes on throughout the system because budgets are tight. The money allotted for pencils, markers, notebooks...
Published: 06/22/18
Kevin Knox to Knicks makes NBA history locally

Kevin Knox to Knicks makes NBA history locally

More than a year ago, Kevin Knox stepped across the stage at the Straz Center to receive his high school diploma.On Thursday, the former Tampa Catholic star was on basketball's biggest stage as he fulfilled his lifelong goal of making the NBA.Knox wa...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

It turns out the U.S. Supreme Court has a better grasp of the economic realities of the 21st century than Congress or the Florida Legislature. The court ruled Thursday that states can require online retailers to collect sales taxes even if the retail...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Plant City’s champion Al Berry, whose name shouted his passion, dead at 83

Plant City’s champion Al Berry, whose name shouted his passion, dead at 83

His name was Berry and berry was his passion — the strawberry that put his beloved Plant City on the map.Alfred "Al" Berry was born with the name, but he took on his role as chief promoter of Plant City through his four decades of work with the commu...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Missed time a good mental reset for Rays’ Matt Duffy

Missed time a good mental reset for Rays’ Matt Duffy

ST. PETERSBURG — Missing all of 2017 might have been the absolute worst thing for Matt Duffy.Frustratingly idled as he eventually recovered and rehabbed from ongoing left heel issues, he couldn't play the game he loved, couldn't show the Rays o...
Updated: 7 hours ago