By Ashley Lopez
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting
Florida’s largest newspaper won its 10th Pulitzer Prize on Monday.
According to the organization, the Pulitzer was awarded to Will Hobson and Michael LaForgia of the Times “for their relentless investigation into the squalid conditions that marked housing for the city’s substantial homeless population, leading to swift reforms.”
Hobson and LaForgia of the Times won for its six month long investigation of Hillsborough County’s Homeless Recovery program, called “A Home, But No Help.”
According to the paper’s description of the program, its “a little-known government initiative launched in 1989 to provide safe havens for the poor.” However, according to Hobson and LaForgia, “it spent millions of tax dollars housing the homeless in filthy, crime-ridden slums.”
It was the 10th Pulitzer Prize the Times has won and the second since it changed its name from the St. Petersburg Times in 2012. Hobson and LaForgia are the youngest journalists to win in the newspaper’s history. Their prize is the first the Times has won in the contest’s local reporting category.
… The Times’ coverage of Hillsborough County Homeless Recovery represented a joint effort of the newspaper’s Tampa newsroom and its investigative team. Bolstered by sophisticated analysis of government records and vivid, first-hand observation, the stories led to the most significant reform of the county’s social-service programs in 20 years.
It began when Hobson, at the time a police reporter working the night shift, looked into a tip from a homeless man who claimed that a prominent Republican fundraiser was operating a squalid trailer park in Tampa inhabited by the homeless.
Working with LaForgia, an investigative reporter, Hobson discovered that fundraiser William “Hoe” Brown had received $600,000 from Homeless Recovery over 15 years for homeless people he had crammed into properties including the bug-infested trailers and an extended-stay motel outside his Seminole Heights business office.
The Times’ reporting led to Brown’s resignation as chairman of the Tampa Port Authority. But that was only the beginning, as more revelations involving more landlords followed.
According to the paper, this investigative reporting project led to the firings and resignations of several county employees and the eventual dissolution of the Homeless Recovery program.
The Times won a Pulitzer last year, as well. Tim Nickens and Daniel Ruth of the Times won the Pulitzer’s editorial writing award for the paper’s “diligent campaign that helped reverse a decision to end fluoridation of the water supply for the 700,000 residents of the newspaper’s home county,” the Pulitzer committee announced.