Shelter owner blames city as homeless face eviction

- Jam-packed rooms, too many residents, and floors you can see straight through to the ground: It's not much to look at, but for some, it's the only home they have.

"None of us have nowhere to go. This is our only refuge," resident Tony Allen offered.

Allen has lived at the Homeless Helping Homeless facility in Tampa for three months.  But Code Enforcement is shutting the place down.

He and 15 other resident spent Friday packing their bags, preparing to return to life on the streets.

"By you shutting it down, you're shutting me down, forcing me to have to live on the streets, at a park, under a bridge or something," he continued.

"The homeless are already looked at bad, because they're given a label," Damien Ervin said.  "I feel like if they had more places like this, that label could be lowered."

The makeshift shelter is being given until Tuesday to clean house after the city deemed it unfit for human living.

"The wiring, the ceiling that needs to be repaired, you've got a leak in the front, you've got a leak in the bathroom, you've got a leak in the kitchen," founder Adolphus Parker listed.

They are problems that will cost thousands of dollars to fix -- money Parker says he does not have.

Parker started Homeless Helping Homeless six years ago as a unique charity, completely run by its clients.

"The officers, the directors, they are all current clients. The one who handles the bank accounts, we've got five accounts, the clients are on those accounts. The clients are handling the money."

"Not a penny in my pocket, nowhere to go," Allen continued.  "This man opened his place to me. I'm part of his staff."

It provides jobs, food, shelter, and even a laundry facility for homeless people like Ervin, who lives on the streets of Ybor and just wants clean socks.

"It's been about a week since I got to wash my clothes, because I don't always have the money in my pocket to come over here and do stuff," the 23-year-old said.

The order to vacate comes four months after the charity filed a lawsuit against the city's panhandling ban.  Parker feels that's the reason the shelter was targeted.

"Bad blood between the organization and the city of Tampa.  I don't think it's even about just repairing the stuff.  I think it's about total elimination."

Code Enforcement and police raided the facility Wednesday, saying they had reason to believe Parker was illegally storing cars from his towing business on the property.  They seized tax and financial documents.

Officials say the facility was deemed uninhabitable during that search -- a decision Parker says is only going to hurt the men and women he's trying to help.

"Everyone is hurting, really," he added.  "Everyone is hurting."

In all, 16 people will be displaced by Tuesday.

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