Amid Republican convention's glamour, Tampa homeless move into abandonded house

08/27/12 Josh Holton
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In preparation for the Republican National Convention, the City of Tampa has spent a large amount of money sprucing up some of its finest neighborhoods in an attempt to bolster the city image to the international community. But not all of Tampa is lined with mansions, palm trees and newly paved roads, like its iconic waterfront along Bayshore Boulevard. Only a few blocks away from the city’s busy financial and nightlife districts lie unnoticed pockets of poverty which local activists point out are also in desperate need of repair.

One resident, Gladys Seabrook has been homeless and unemployed for about a year due to what she attributes to the economic downturn. But thanks to the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign’s efforts, she and her husband moved into a refurbished foreclosed home. Asking permission from neighbors, the group assumed ownership of the abandoned home. Vice Presidential Candidate for the Green Party Cheri Honkala founded the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign.

“A bank receives a large amount of money to bail out homeowners, but decides instead to foreclose on the family, chase them away in the middle of the night, give them cash for keys, makes another family homeless, continues to reap the wealth, and we’re just tired of it. We think that it’s really an archaic idea to have men, women, and children sleeping on the streets.”

Tampa is a dynamic city. Once home to a world renowned Cigar making industry, some neighborhoods are now among the wealthiest in the nation. Life Malcolm is a member of the Black People’s Advancement and Defense Organization, which he helped start around 2002. He was the tour guide for what he called the “Keepin it Real Tour at the RNC.” Malcolm said he wanted to show a side of Tampa that Mayor Bob Buckhorn might not want to be seen.

“He wants everybody to think that Tampa is Bayshore and beaches and nice shrubbery and beautiful palm trees, but he doesn’t want you to see the people sleeping on the sidewalks, people urinating in the alleys, all the boarded up homes, all the boarded up storefronts.” He said that the mayor and other elected officials haven't done enough to help reduce poverty in the city, despite grant money specifically given to help impoverished communities.

“These millions of dollars that the city gets whether it’s from the federal grant program like Weed and Seed, Hope 6, TIF grants, the rest of it like community Block Grants money- it never goes to the benefit of the poor people who they use to acquire the money.

In nearby East Tampa, boarded up and gutted houses line the streets. One of the neighborhood residents named Mrs. Matthew said living in the community has not provided a stable environment. She claims that electric bills run high, and neighbors rarely stay for long.

“Where I stayed at for a year on 14th street, I stayed in…three people moved in next door and moved out-they was moving in and out. And that’s all the time, even with me.”

According to event organizers their goal is to uncover the injustice of the millions of taxpayer dollars spent on hosting this elite 1% gathering at the Republican convention in Tampa, while many residents languish in an economic slump.

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