Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hillsborough homeless executive retiring; agency looks to St. Louis for replacement

TAMPA — For the second time in two years, Hillsborough County's top homeless agency is looking for a leader. But this could be a quick search.

After 20 months on the job, Maria Barcus is stepping down as CEO of the Tampa Hillsborough Homeless Initiative. She told the board that oversees the Homeless Initiative that she plans to retire in August. For her replacement, board members are looking to the community they want to emulate — St. Louis.

The board is trying to lure Antoinette Triplett, a manager in the city of St. Louis' homeless services division, according to Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill, who is on the board. Triplett could not be reached for comment.

Barcus' tenure was a time of transition for the Homeless Initiative, which is responsible for coordinating the local effort to deal with homelessness. The organization has a new name (formerly the Homeless Coalition of Hillsborough County), a new board of directors and, for the first time in years, local officials trust its count of the local homeless population.

Barcus took over an agency with a shaky track record in January 2013. For years, the coalition had failed to produce reliable data on Hillsborough's homeless population, and thus was unable to measure its success or failure. The homeless census count fluctuated wildly under former CEO Rayme Nuckles, peaking at 17,775 in 2011.

Under Barcus, the number stabilized: 2,275 in 2013, 2,243 this year. Local leaders credit that as one of her chief accomplishments.

"She's done a great job, considering the circumstances," Merrill said.

Barcus, 62, said she plans to spend more time with her husband and their grandchildren. Before this job, she held similar positions at Miami-area housing assistance agencies for nearly 20 years.

"We've made some major, major changes that, I think, will provide a good base for moving forward," Barcus said.

Barcus earned $120,000, a base salary of $100,000 with $20,000 extra paid in lieu of health insurance (which she got through her husband's employer). The Homeless Initiative has a roughly $1 million annual budget, funded primarily by contributions from local governments. The board is still negotiating salary and other terms with Triplett, Merrill said.

If Triplett does agree to come here, Hillsborough will have plucked someone from an organization hailed by a national homelessness expert as one of the best. Triplett, from an office in city government, coordinates dozens of programs run by private and nonprofit agencies in St. Louis, which has decreased its homeless population by one-third in nine years.

Barcus has met the woman the Homeless Initiative board is wooing to replace her. Barcus traveled to St. Louis in January, along with Merrill and other board members. The trip was recommended by Phil Mangano, a national homelessness expert who told Hillsborough officials they should model their homeless services after St. Louis'.

Merrill returned convinced a St. Louis-like system, with some changes, could work here. Barcus was skeptical.

When asked this week about Triplett, Barcus declined to comment. When asked about St. Louis, she didn't say much.

"St. Louis is a very different place," she said. "Their homeless population is different, the weather is different. . . . I don't know how much of that is transportable."

Merrill, meanwhile, said a Triplett hire would be "huge."

"They've had great success (in St. Louis)," he said. "We wouldn't have to start at the beginning of the learning curve. We could go right to the middle."

Will Hobson can be reached at (813) 226-3400 or

Hillsborough homeless executive retiring; agency looks to St. Louis for replacement 05/25/14 [Last modified: Monday, May 26, 2014 1:02am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Editorial: Turn the heat up on AC problem in Hillsborough schools


    Hillsborough County School District students do not want to hear that their buildings are decrepit. They do not want to hear that Florida's legislators are complicit. All they want to hear is the sweet sound of a classroom air conditioner kicking in at full power. Anything less creates uncomfortably hot classrooms and …

    Superintendent Jeff Eakins and the current Hillsborough County School Board did not create this air conditioning mess, but they own it now.
  2. Man in bunny mask part of trio that breaks into Odessa McDonald's to haul away ATM


    ODESSA — A man in a bunny mask and two also-masked accomplices broke into a McDonald's early Wednesday, hoisted an automatic teller machine into a stolen minivan, then dumped the ATM and the van into a pond, deputies say.

    Three masked men, including one in a bunny mask, broke into an Odessa McDonald's early Wednesday and stole the ATM.
 [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
  3. Plan your weekend Aug. 25-27: Craig Morgan, Wearable Art 13, SNL's Pete Davidson, Rodeo Fest


    Plan your weekend


    Pete Davidson: Saturday Night Live star Pete Davidson will headline this year's University of South Florida Round-Up Comedy Show, a back-to-school tradition at USF. Expect to hear about his recent trip to rehab, since he's known for his confessional …

    The 12th annual Wearable art Fashion Show was held at the Dunedin Fine Art Center on Saturday evening, August 27, 2016.
DAVID W DOONAN | Special To The Times
  4. Richard Corcoran takes aim at public financing of campaigns

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, may not be running for governor — not yet anyway — but his latest idea will get the attention of those who are.

    House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R- Land O' Lakes, is proposing an end to public financing of campaigns. [SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times]
  5. Jeb Bush on the 'most ridiculous example of political correctness in history'


    Jeb Bush on ESPN's decision to pull commentator Robert Lee from a football broadcast at the University of Virginia.