New Beginnings of Tampa articles were on the front page of another newspaper late last year that caused many people to believe that New Beginnings was exploiting the homeless.
A federal investigation for slave trafficking and violation of labor laws was ordered as a result of the newspaper articles.
Other news outlets across the country picked up the stories without checking out the validity of the articles.
Since the stories were published in several newspapers, it seemed to lend credibility to the articles.
The articles seemed to polarize readers into three main groups:
1. People who knew about New Beginnings because they had been in the program or knew someone who had been. They were angered by the false allegations of the articles and rallied to New Beginnings’ support.
2. People who knew only about New Beginnings through the articles. They were angry at New Beginnings because they believed the stories and thought the destitute and homeless were being abused and exploited.
3. People who had exited from the program because of breaking the rules and/or drug use. They used these stories to justify their failures in the program and in their lives. The addicts now had an audience to air their grievances and get back at New Beginnings.
Now that the dust has settled, the truth is coming out that the stories were not based on fact but on noncredible people telling ridiculous tales of woe. The few things that were factual were blown up so that a speck of dirt could look like a mountain.
After the careful and extensive examination of the financial records of New Beginnings and the interviews of several employees and clients, federal investigators concluded that there were no violations of record keeping or labor laws.
Now that New Beginnings has been vindicated, I doubt that the truth will get the same media coverage that the lies did.
New Beginnings makes no apologies for requiring clients to pay a part of their expenses by working. We want to teach them a work ethic and not to depend on the government and others to support them.
Work is not a dirty word but a great gift given to us by God to have self-worth and to be a part of community. Even in the Garden of Eden God instructed Adam to dress and keep the garden.
New Beginnings has survived but has had to cut a lot of services because of the loss of income caused by the bogus articles. We will continue to rebuild our services as the truth continues to surface.
New Beginnings has been helping the disenfranchised for over 15 years and will continue to do so.
To the staff and volunteers at New Beginnings it is more than a job.
It is a God-mandated calling to help those who need it.
Thomas Atchison, also known as Pastor Tom, is founder of New Beginnings of Tampa, which offers emergency shelters and transitional living for homeless and veterans.