Sep 16, 2022 - News

Tampa city workers trash homeless resident's belongings

Joseph Gilmore. Photo: Ben Montgomery/Axios

Joseph Gilmore was reading his Bible under a bridge Thursday morning when a bunch of city workers jumped out of a pickup truck and started tossing his stuff into a trash trailer.

  • He didn't say anything as the workers loaded up bags of clothes, hygiene products and a shopping cart full of aluminum cans that his friend spent a week collecting to earn five or six bucks.
  • What's the use? "Florida sucks with this kinda s--t," he told Axios.

Driving the news: I witnessed the city of Tampa take a good chunk of the meager possessions belonging to two homeless men who have been sleeping under the I-275 bridge at Sligh Avenue.

Why it matters: They had so little to begin with that such a loss can be devastating in a way few people ever experience.

  • City spokesperson Adam Smith says the city regularly clears trash out of the area under the bridge, and others that draw residents' complaints. "But our employees know to treat houseless residents — and every resident — with dignity and respect."
  • He said employees should always give people the option of taking what they want before trashing things.

Flashback: Gilmore, 56, used to mess with homeless guys, he tells Axios. Before the pandemic, he lived by the water in Hudson, owned a remodeling business, and drove a Dodge Ram with tools in the back.

  • He'd dangle cash out the window at panhandlers. When they came closer he'd say, "Jump in the truck and let's go work."
  • Few ever did. He now knows a lot of them can't.

What's happening: The pandemic killed his remodeling business. Then he did seven months in Pasco County Jail for pawning another man's kayak to feed some hungry kids, for which he's not ashamed.

  • When he got out, he had next to nothing. He's been sleeping under the bridge for the last week and has lost 15 pounds.

The math: He can make about $100 a day using JobStack, an app that lines up daily construction work, he says. But those budget rooms on Nebraska Avenue — the cheapest in the area — cost $85 a night.

  • The pandemic, Gilmore guesses, pushed so many people into the streets that even seedy motel rooms are high.

So he walks to job sites in the rain, eats ravioli out of cans, looks after his friend whose feet are covered with sores, and sleeps on a dirty couch cushion under a bridge — all to save money for a Greyhound ticket to London, Kentucky, where he hears there are factory jobs that start at $20 an hour and land for sale for $1,500 an acre.


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