(above : not a homeless person or a recovering substance abuser, but Aramark’s executive chef Kevin Riley).

The recovering substance abusers serving beer & snacks to Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans, “leave the game sweat-soaked and as penniless as they arrived,” writes the Tampa Bay Times’ Will Hobson. It seems their services have been arranged by a company called New Beginnings, who trades shelter and meals in exchange for free labor. Hobson quizzed NB CEO Tom Achison, who claimed “we take guys off the street who have nothing and give them the opportunity to work and get their lives back together.” (link swiped from Baseball Think Factory)

For years, New Beginnings founder and CEO Tom Atchison has sent his unpaid homeless labor crews to Tampa Bay Rays, Lightning and Bucs games, the Daytona 500 and the Florida State Fair. For their shelter, he’s had homeless people work in construction, landscaping, telemarketing, moving, painting, even grant-writing.

Atchison calls it “work therapy.” Homeless advocates and labor lawyers call it exploitative, and possibly illegal. It is the latest questionable way Atchison has used homeless people, and public money, a Tampa Bay Times investigation has found.

• A New Beginnings contractor told the Times he overbilled the state for at least $80,000 of grant money, then gave the money to the program instead of returning it.

• While claiming to provide counseling, New Beginnings employs no one clinically trained to work with addicts or the mentally ill. One minister cited his experience running a motorcycle gang as his top qualification. The Times couldn’t verify the doctorate in theology Atchison said he earned from a defunct online school.

In a press release issued yesterday, Atchison denies using homeless labor and accuses Hobson of “hindering New Beginnings’ ability to function because of the thirst for Pulitzers and sensationalism” (“we at New Beginning are under attack by the powers of darkness, but God is at our side to walk us thru this”).