‘Appalling’: Tampa Army vet says he’d rather sleep in car than at taxpayer-funded homeless shelter

8 On Your Side

Watch Walt Buteau’s full report on code violations at New Beginnings here.

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Roger Hartnett has had enough.

The Army veteran, who recalls parachuting into Panama in 1989 to take down dictator Manuel Noreiga, recently decided sleeping in his car while waiting for a Department of Veterans Affairs housing voucher was a better option than staying at the Tampa Bay area’s largest taxpayer-funded homeless shelter.

“It’s horrible… and I love my fellow veterans, but it’s not fair to these guys,” Hartnett said.

Records reviewed by 8 On Your Side show the homeless shelter, New Beginnings of Tampa, was recently cited by code enforcement after responding to complaints.

Code Enforcement from the city of Tampa responds to complaints of code violations at New Beginnings of Tampa. (WFLA)

“It’s appalling,” Hartnett told 8 On Your Side. “I just can’t believe veterans are treated this way.”

Pastor Tom Atchinson, who runs New Beginnings, defended the shelter. He called the infractions “minor” and told 8 On Your Side the code violations happened “because they’re old buildings,” constructed in 1946.

“Just stupid things,” Atchison said of the code infractions.

He claimed that because of the age of the buildings, “we go through cycles where all of a sudden we get all the maintenance done perfect, then, we go through a cycle where things start breaking down.”

8 On Your Side Senior Investigator Walt Buteau looks into the homeless shelter and speaks with a local member of Congress about the veteran’s complaints. Watch his full report.

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