The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Lightning and Rays are among the local Tampa organizations currently benefiting from free homeless labor, according to a report from Will Hobson of the Tampa Bay Times. New Beginnings is an organization that offers food and shelter to local homeless people, but also uses them on work crews in various situations, none of which they are paid for, according to the report.
These unpaid labor crews are sent to stadiums and arenas for local sports teams and events, where they operate concession stands serving beer and food to fans. At the end of the day, New Beginnings takes the full share of the profits from the work and pays the workers with nothing but the aforementioned shelter and food.
New Beginnings founder and CEO Tom Atchison refers to this as "work therapy," while homeless advocates believe the actions are exploitative, and "possibly illegal." But the issues with the organization extend far beyond the "work therapy," given that these homeless are often working at places that can certainly afford to pay them, according to Hobson's report.
There are accusations that Atchison took the Social Security checks and food stamps of those in his program, even if the total net of those benefits exceeded that of what they owe to be in the program -- typically, $150 a week or $600 a month. Other allegations against Atchison include a lack of actual trained counselors on staff to overbilling the state in grant money.
It's unclear how much the Tampa sports franchises know about New Beginnings or the way a minister close to Atchison referred to its residents as "our property." But as much profit as those organizations make, they're still using homeless people for free labor and there's no excuse for that.