Second homeless facility shut down due to Tampa code

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A second facility housing homeless residents is being forced to shut down due to city code violations.

Last Thursday, code enforcement officers issued an order to vacate at the Homeless Helping Homeless residents on East Oak Avenue in Tampa. Nearly 30 residents were living in the nine-bedroom home, according to the charity's founder.

The house, built in the 1920's, was condemned due to rotting floors and walls and a plumbing concern, among others.

"Something has got to give, between liability insurance, [there are] certain things you just have to give. You just can't do it all, especially with limited resources," said Adolphus Parker, founder of Homeless Helping Homeless.

The charity is run by the same homeless people it assists, providing shelter, showers and food for residents of its three homes.

"It's very difficult when we [don't have] a place to say, 'This is our home'," said Fernando Lopez, who lives at the East Oak Avenue facility. "Or make a home, or try to fix a place to make it a home. All we need is a break. All we need is a chance."

One week ago, the Homeless Helping Homeless facility on East Floribraska Avenue was shut down due to code violations as well.

Parker said he feels the organization is being targeted by the city for ongoing lawsuits against a panhandling ban in downtown Tampa that has since been overturned.

According to the order to vacate, residents had until Monday to clear out the home on East Oak Avenue, but rather than returning to the streets, Parker purchased four tents and 16 cots to set up in the backyard, allowing the homeless to continue sleeping on the property, but not inside the condemned house.

"We won't have the actual, solid roof over our heads. You're going to have to worry about the mosquitoes biting you at night," said Jeffery Terry, who was previously living under a bridge in Tampa before moving into the facility.

Residents said the new accommodations are still safer than returning to the streets.

"They're either going to sleep here, or they're going to sleep on some other property or under a bridge," said Parker. "This is not a violation. You can't have a fire out here under the tent."

Parker, along with several members of Tampa's homeless community, is marching each morning around 8 a.m. in the business district of Davis Island, asking the community to donate towards putting a down payment on a new home that is up to code.