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Domestic violence shelters improve living conditions following I-Team report last year

Posted at 7:30 PM, Dec 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-23 19:37:08-05

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Local domestic violence shelters are improving living conditions for survivors one year after the I-Team uncovered reports detailing broken air conditioning, moldy food, exposed wiring and cockroaches.

I-Team Investigator Kylie McGivern reviewed the Florida Department of Children and Families' monitoring reports for the 10 domestic violence shelters in the Tampa Bay area this year and there were still some issues, but the list was shorter.

Last year, former residents of the Haven, spoke up about the living conditions in the Clearwater shelter.

The Haven is part of Hope Villages of America, formerly RCS Pinellas.


“We’re not asking for, you know a 5-star resort," domestic violence survivor Jessica McBride told the I-Team in August 2019. "We just want to be able to take a hot shower and not wake up with cockroaches crawling on us in the middle of the night.”

An inspection report listed hot water issues and a sink in the kitchen disconnected, a bathroom drain not working property and bruised fruit that did not appear to be fresh.

You can read the latest reports from the Florida Department of Children and Families below:

The then executive director of the Haven told the I-Team when the state's monitoring report was released the next year, "those things won't be on it."

The Haven has kept that promise.

Tracy Wiecking became the Haven's new executive director in March.

“When I was interviewing for the position to come here, I had heard of some of the articles, read some of the articles," Wiecking said of reports from the I-Team. "We’ve done a lot of work to make sure that the facility is in good shape."

Wiecking said they've painted the shelter's bedrooms and bathrooms, are getting ready to paint the outside, are putting in new fencing, recently installed a new security system and hired a pest control company.

“What we want to do is take some of that day-to-day worry off their plate and allow them to start focusing on their healing, focusing on finding new direction in their life, working with them a plan, a way forward," Wiecking said of the domestic violence survivors who stay at the shelter.

The executive director told the I-Team there are now checklists on each shift to stay on top of the living conditions.

“We’re checking the food situation, we’re also checking for cleanliness, sanitizing, making sure the trash is taken out," Wiecking said.

As for a few new issues noted in this year's monitoring report from the state, like a mopping bucket with dirty water that was accessible to kids, Wiecking said the items were corrected while auditors were on site.

“We’re on track now so that Hope Village of America is in good shape, good hands, and that they’re proud of the work that we do," Wiecking said.

Not every shelter had an on-site visit this year, due to COVID-19.

A spokesperson for DCF told the I-Team, "Under normal circumstances, all domestic violence centers’ annual monitoring is completed onsite. However, as a result of the pandemic, there was a shift to desk reviews in March 2020. Desk reviews allow center staff to complete the Observation Checklist, certify it, and then submit it along with certain photos."


Some other Tampa Bay area shelters, like the Salvation Army of West Pasco, had more work to do.

The state's inspection found a wasp nest in the childrens' playhouse, one of the two dryers broken and a dirty oven.

The Salvation Army of West Pasco told the I-Team all hazards have since been corrected.


ABC Action News is committed to taking action against domestic violence. You can find a list of local resources, shelters, and a hotline for help here.