Anyone Home? Pastor Moves Homeless Into (Seemingly) Abandoned Houses, Gets Arrested

November 14, 2012  |  

AP Photo/Chris O’Meara

Homeless people. Homes that appear abandoned. Putting two and two together, it would seem only logical to house the homeless in empty homes. But this idea got a Florida pastor thrown in jail.

Pastor Tami Robinson was arrested after she moved people into two abandoned homes in the Florida county of Hillsborough. Robinson, who says she thought she was doing a good deed, filled out paperwork with the Property Appraiser’s Office and then changed the locks on the doors. She turned the keys over to the new tenants.

It seems, however, she broke the law. “According to the Hillsborough County’s Sheriff Office, her crime involved burglary, fraud and grand theft. The pastor, along with another church member, were eventually arrested,” reports Clutch.

The Pastor isn’t taking the charges lightly. She is, according to Clutch, suing the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office accusing them of harassment and racial prejudice. From Robinson’s point of view she did not break the law because she took possession of the houses through an obscure legal concept called “adverse possession.” In Florida,  Statute 95.18 states that people can request that a judge give them “permission to take possession of a home if it has been abandoned with the condition that they, amongst other things, fix the home up, occupy it and pay the taxes for at least seven years.” Robinson says that she notified the homeowners through writing that she was going to attempt adverse possession.

“I didn’t want to do anything illegal and if this is so illegal, why does no one stop you and say, ‘You can be put in jail, be called a criminal, be charged with grand theft?’ At no time during my filing — or while talking to the Property Appraiser’s Office — was I told this,” Robinson told The Tampa Bay Times.

The police say the homes were not abandoned; one owner was in Texas at an Air Force Base, in active service while the other owner was set to sell the home in a short-sale.

According to 2010 stats, there are 57,687 men, women and children who are homeless in Florida. Do you think Robinson did the right thing?

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