Target 8: Tampa veteran living with rats, taxpayers pick up the bill

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Taxpayers are shelling out $60 million to house chronically homeless veterans, but you should take a look at what you are paying for.

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (H.U.D) web page, the H.U.D/V.A.S.H (Veterans Assistance Supportive Housing) program is providing rental assistance for 8,000 families. 

The best the program can do for a Tampa veteran is a rat infested apartment.

“I think it’s atrocious,” said Navy veteran Lee Hoffman. “My whole life I’ve never lived with rats.”

Days after moving his fiancee and family into a Lake Shore Drive apartment this month, Hoffman discovered he had a problem.

“Rats,” he said. “Rats in the tree. I’ve seen a rat in my hallway. My neighbor downstairs directly below me has killed eight rats.”

Hoffman lived on the street for years.

V.A. housing specialists found the Lake Shore Drive apartment for him as part of the H.U.D./V.A.S.H. program.

On the first visit, they discovered holes in the walls. A Marine who happened to occupy the apartment at the time had a message for the landlord who was among the visitors.

“The Marine said ‘you better tell these people about the rats,'” Hoffman recalled. “And then the owner, Lisa Tamplin, said ‘what rats?’ And then he turned around and said ‘I’ve been calling you about rats.'”

The apartment somehow passed a Tampa Housing Authority inspection.

Owner Lisa Tamplin told us she is doing the best she can. She is placing traps and repellant around the property.

Ms. Tamplin claims that from time to time rats come up through the sewers and gain entry to the house through air conditioner lines. She did confirm that the V.A. contacted her after Mr. Hoffman complained. According to Ms. Tamplin she placed traps in the apartment before Mr. Hoffman moved in as well as downstairs. She does not want to close the holes in the walls because she says she does not want the rats dying in the walls. She claims she thought she had the problem eliminated until last Thursday, when Mr. Hoffman contacted her with a complaint.

The owner assured Hoffman the rat problem was under control.

Not so.

“What’s atrocious is that guys who go in and serve our country come back and are put in this,” said Hoffman.

Target 8 called the Tampa Housing Authority Section 8 Counselor Kimsy Jenkins-Brown for some answers about why taxpayers are spending good money to house people in rat infested apartments.

Jenkins-Brown said she could not speak with me and referred me to her director, Margaret Jones. Jones has not returned the call.

Target 8 also reached out to V.A. Housing Specialist Sara Danon. She did not respond to the call either.

The government will spend $60 million on the H.U.D./V.A.S.H. program this year and this is the best it could do for Lee Hoffman.

“It’s telling me, you don’t give a s— about me, is what you’re telling me,” stated Hoffman. “See my finger nails, that’s how I’ve been since I’ve been here. I’m chewing them, I got no where to go.”

Following Target 8’s call, Jenkins-Brown relayed to Hoffman that the housing authority now plans to schedule a special inspection of his unit.

If you have a problem that you’d like investigated call our Target 8 Helpline at 1-800-338-0808.

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