New Beginnings of Tampa is a program for homeless men who are charged $150 a day, or $600 a week, for room and board.
However, if they have no money, they must work for free to cover the costs.
The homeless men have worked for free at concession stands during games played by the Tampa Bay Rays, Lightning and Bucs. The homeless men have also worked the Daytona 500 and the Florida State Fair.
The homeless men have also toiled in moving, painting, landscaping, construction and telemarketing.
According to RawStory.com, the homeless mens' paychecks go directly to New Beginnings and its founder Tom Atchison, a pastor who explained his program to FSNTV in 2012 (video below).
Atchison claims the free labor is "work therapy"; however, labor lawyers and homeless advocates say it is “indentured servitude.”
The Tampa Bay Times reports that residents and employees claim that Atchison has taken homeless people's Social Security checks and food stamps, a claim that Atchison denies.
New Beginnings claims to provide counseling, but doesn't have anyone on staff who is clinically trained in addiction or mental illness.
"Because of what we do at those games, we can afford to take guys off the street who have nothing and give them the opportunity to work and get their lives back together," Atchison told the Tampa Bay Times. "We take the guys no one else does."
Lee Hoffman, a former New Beginnings resident and minister, countered: "It needs to stop. There are a bunch of homeless people who are being exploited."
“He would say, ‘They’re drug addicts, they’re alcoholics, they’re just going to spend it on cigarettes and booze,’” added Hoffman. “The only way they get any of it is if they complain hard enough.”
“This is outrageous,” said Catherine Ruckelshaus of the National Employment Law Project. “These workers are doing a job. They need to be treated with dignity.”
Atchison, who claims to have a doctorate in theology from an online college that went out of business, is applying to operate Hillsborough County’s new homeless shelter, which would bring in millions of dollars.