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How Hillsborough county harmed the homeless it set out to help

How Hillsborough county harmed the homeless it set out to help

The Tampa Bay Times spent six months investigating Hillsborough County's Homeless Recovery program, a little-known government initiative launched in 1989 to provide safe havens for the poor. Instead, the Times found, it spent millions of tax dollars housing the homeless in filthy, crime-ridden slums.

Part 1

Port official ran squalid rentals

Published July 10, 2013
Part 2

Public paid for squalor

Published Sept. 8, 2013
Part 3

Rents paid, but was anybody home?

Published Sept. 28, 2013
Part 4

Filth didn't stop referrals

Published Oct. 27, 2013
Part 5

A home, but no help

Published Nov. 24, 2013
Part 6

'Robbed' by the system

Published Dec. 23, 2013
Part 7

Little action despite alarm

Published Dec. 29, 2013


In the wake of the housing scandal, the Times asked the seven members of the Hillsborough County Commission to take a position on homelessness. Click on their photos to view their responses and comment on their answers.

  1. County audit of Homeless Recovery program echoes Times stories

    Local Government

    TAMPA — Hillsborough County's Homeless Recovery program did not inspect properties where for years it sent homeless people and millions of public dollars, had no policies to respond to complaints that places were filthy and dangerous, and had insufficient controls over how it spent money, a county audit released …

  2. Money, political hurdles face Hillsborough in tackling homelessness

    Local Government

    TAMPA — In 2002, local leaders adopted a 10-year plan to end homelessness in Hillsborough County based on the "housing first" philosophy sweeping the nation. In 2005, the city of St. Louis adopted a similar plan.

    TP_339415_WALL_Lee_10 (06/02/2011 Tampa) Hillsborough County administrator Mike Merrill listens to discussion about a rec center in Brandon. [DANIEL WALLACE, Times]
  3. Hillsborough could get homeless shelter

    Local Government

    TAMPA — There is one stark difference between how Tampa Bay's two most populous counties address their homeless problems: Pinellas has a publicly funded homeless shelter. Hillsborough doesn't.

    That may change soon.

  4. Hillsborough County set to hand off troubled program

    Local Government

    TAMPA — Months after admitting Hillsborough County spent millions of tax dollars on a program that placed the homeless in slums, County Administrator Mike Merrill will unveil his plan to outsource the service this week.

    The Good Samaritan Inn on Florida Avenue was among sites used by Hillsborough’s now-closed Homeless Recovery program.
  5. Sweep leads to inspections, trash removal


    TAMPA — A six-month code enforcement sweep in North and Central Tampa has resulted in 4,517 inspections and the removal of 80-plus tons of trash.

  6. A third of Homeless Recovery properties fail code inspections

    Local Government

    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.

  7. Hillsborough staff: Use nonprofits instead of Homeless Recovery


    TAMPA — Hillsborough County government should close its troubled Homeless Recovery program and seek help from private social service agencies experienced at finding housing for the poor, county staff will tell commissioners today.

    William “Hoe’’ Brown owned filthy properties used by the program.
  8. Hillsborough homelessness agency exec quits after Times article


    TAMPA — The manager of a Hillsborough County homelessness agency resigned a day after the Tampa Bay Times revealed his agency sent clients to live in substandard apartments owned by former Tampa Port Authority chairman William "Hoe" Brown.

  9. In scandal's wake, Tampa mayor plans code enforcement sweep

    Local Government

    TAMPA — In the wake of a slum-housing scandal that brought down the chairman of the Tampa Port Authority and embarrassed City Hall, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn is launching an inner-city code enforcement sweep.

    William “Hoe” Brown, talking on a cellphone at the rear of his property, resigned as chairman of the Tampa Port Authority last week in the wake of a slum-housing scandal. Code enforcement officials discovered trailers on the property that were being rented illegally and deemed them unfit for human habitation. Brown, a top GOP fundraiser, claimed that he was unaware of the conditions in the trailers, despite the fact that his office was located at the same address.
  10. Chairman William 'Hoe' Brown resigns from Tampa Port Authority board


    TAMPA — William A. "Hoe" Brown resigned Friday from all of his public positions — including the chairmanship of the Tampa Port Authority — after he was outed this week for renting illegal and squalid properties to the poor and disadvantaged.

  11. Troubles persisted for years at Port of Tampa chairman's properties


    TAMPA — The dead body decomposed for two weeks inside an 84-square-foot apartment.

    William “Hoe” Brown talks on a cell phone Thursday at the rear of his property at 106 W Stanley St. Code enforcement discovered illegal rentals on the property this week.