Archive for September, 2011

New Beginnings of Tampa homeless outreach will continue Saturdays

TAMPA – Every Saturday morning, Tom Atchison, the founder of New Beginnings of Tampa, leads a group that helps feed the homeless.

They do so at a public parking lot in downtown Tampa. Atchison admits he doesn’t have the permits required to legally conduct the feeding, but believes it’s still worthwhile because of the good it does for the community.

In addition to feeding the homeless, he offers them health care, legal advice and spiritual outreach.

“It’s feeding them to get them here,” Atchison said, “so we can talk to them about getting off the streets.”

For years, the city of Tampa has allowed him to operate without issue.

Recently, though, the homeless population of Tampa has expanded greatly. As other cities have banned panhandling, more and more of the homeless have moved to Hillsborough County.

According to the Tampa Police Department, they have seen a large increase in the number of complaints about the homeless.

In an attempt to appease some of the people who are upset, the city made the decision to shut down all homeless feedings on public property. That included Tom’s in downtown Tampa.

Atchison was upset by the decision and wanted to get the city to reconsider. On Wednesday, he was able to meet with Asst. Chief John Bennett from the Tampa Police Department.

Atchison explained to Bennett that he did more than feed the homeless. Bennett agreed there was value in what New Beginnings was doing.

“Based on what he says and my experience with the homeless population, what he’s doing can be very effective,” Bennett said.

Bennett agreed to work with Atchison and find a suitable solution. The first option is Atchison moving his Saturday morning feedings inside the Salvation Army on Florida Avenue.

That way, Atchison and his group can take advantage of the air conditioning and restrooms, and also be able to operate legally.

If Atchison decides that location is not suitable long-term, Bennett said the city would still be willing to find a different location that would work.


Story done by Jeff Butera while at WFTS Tampa Bay ABC Action News

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