The children seem happy; their shrieks of delight fill the air when they find a barbell and a wheel rim and make a game of it. Two sluggish men wearing sleeveless undershirts watch from lawn chairs.

This is Hampton, 2014. There's no mortgage on the house; that was paid off years ago. There's no job to go to, no money for this generation to keep the family place fixed up. They don't have anywhere else to go, anyway. This is home.

The malaise that grips the place comes from generations of limited opportunity. It creeps in, takes hold, kills hope and dulls the spirit. When you can't get a break, you learn not to expect one. Hampton looks like a dog that knows what it feels like to be kicked.

The most recent census data show that the average income in Hampton is just under $30,000; about a quarter of the residents live below the poverty line.

"It's just sad, sad that it's getting this bad," said 34-year-old Justis Smith, who has lived in Hampton most of her life. "This is embarrassing for all of us. I think people just got lazy, and nobody was paying attention."

Smith's family runs a successful business fixing up bank-owned houses, and she'd love to fix up Hampton, too, but she thinks the place might be too far gone.

"Right now, honestly, I'd be too ashamed," she said. "It's not all a town of bad people." She believes the current sad state of affairs "isn't necessarily malicious," people at City Hall just "got a little careless."

For Hampton to make a comeback, "there will have to be a plan that provides confidence quickly," said Krassner, of Integrity Florida. "That community is going to have to find in their 477 residents some strong leadership quickly if their local government is going to continue. There may not be enough time and leadership in that community to restore trust."

But Mitzel, one of the former mayors, echoes the sentiments of many in Hampton when he says a whole city shouldn't die because a state representative got a speeding ticket and two law enforcement officials couldn't get along.

He hopes Tallahassee will give Hampton another chance.

"The government bailed out General Motors. The government bailed out Chrysler. Why can't the state of Florida bail out the City of Hampton?"

He has launched a campaign to "Save our Town of Hampton, Fla." It even has a Facebook page. And 81 followers.