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Holy Ground Homeless Shelter is facing eviction

HUDSON — Lisa Barabas-Henry taped the eviction notice above her bed and continued eating dinner and watching TV. Her mother, Jean Timmons, stared, the minutes ticking, waiting for her daughter to acknowledge the paper.

Barabas-Henry lives at the Holy Ground Homeless Shelter, which she founded in 1992. It is the only all-inclusive homeless shelter in Pasco County. And it might be evicted.

"Aren't you going to say anything?" said Timmons, who works at the shelter, like all of Barabas-Henry's relatives. Barabas-Henry raised her children here, the three she gave birth to and the countless others she has adopted. This is where thousands of people who came in off the streets worked through their addictions and found themselves again. And this is where many of them are buried, their ashes scattered, the ones so relieved to find a home that they never left.

"What are you going to do?" Timmons said.

"I'm going to eat this burger," Barabas-Henry said calmly Thursday evening. "And then I'm going to go to bed.

"I don't have any way to change the issue, other than prayer."

And so Thursday night she asked God to help her come up with the $7,900 she owes in rent. If she doesn't pay by 6:04 p.m. Tuesday, the eviction process will move forward.

Barabas-Henry — who got home Thursday morning from a nine-day stay at the hospital for several health conditions — said her monthly rent is $2,300 for the lot at U.S. 19 and Denton Avenue. That does not include utilities.

She got behind because of the economy — fewer donations and fewer people coming to buy goods at the Holy Ground thrift store. After people living at Holy Ground are there for 30 days, they are urged to get jobs off the property — and give a portion of their check to Holy Ground, which clothes and feeds them. But jobs are scarce and more people are coming to Holy Ground for help.

Friday, Barabas-Henry wasn't sure how many people were living there. Maybe 60, she said. Within an hour Friday afternoon, three people had come in asking to join the program. Holy Ground takes in everyone: the mentally disabled, single men, single women, families, addicts, felons.

Barabas-Henry also gives food daily to families in need and elderly shut-ins.

The Holy Ground program includes meetings — Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous — and church. People who come with warrants out for their arrest must turn themselves in, and after they serve their time, Barabas-Henry takes them in.

Residents are barred from using drugs or booze and urged to chip in to keep Holy Ground self-sufficient. Other than the past-due rent, Barabas-Henry said, the shelter is debt free.

"This is all we have," she said, tapping the eviction notice.

The owner of the property is Domenico Enterprises of Pasco Inc. in Port Richey. A woman who answered the phone for the company didn't give her name and referred questions to her lawyer. But she did say, "We've always had a good relationship, but that doesn't mean you don't pay your rent."

The lawyer, Beverly Barnett, said if the money isn't paid by the deadline, they will continue the eviction process.

"It's just one of those things. You can only go so far, but with the economy — we all have bills to pay," Barnett said, of her client's mortgage. "Everyone has to do what they have to do to survive."

Barabas-Henry understands that. To the frustration of her friends, she hasn't wanted to ask the community for help because money is tight for everyone now.

"If you send money, we send you a thank you card — not a reminder that you haven't donated this year," she said.

She said the people at her shelter have done all they can. They scrap for metal to sell. They do not beg on the streets.

"We try to make it on our own," she said.

Joe Salvato, 49, is terrified of Holy Ground closing. He battled a cocaine addiction for most of his life. He came to Holy Ground then left, returning to drugs. After not talking with Barabas-Henry for years, he called in March 2007. He asked to come back. She told him, without hesitation:

"Come home."

He has been there since and doesn't want to leave.

"Holy Ground saved me," he said. "There is no place like this."

Friday afternoon, just through word of mouth, people started coming to the shelter with donations. A check for $1,000. One for $500. A reverend with a personal check for $100.

Just $6,300 to go.

"I feel a sense of peace about it," Barabas-Henry said. "I know God will find a way."

Times researcher Will Gorham contributed to this story. Erin Sullivan can be reached at [email protected]

Fast facts

To give or get help

Holy Ground Homeless Shelter is at 8835 Denton Ave. in Hudson, off U.S. 19. For information, call (727) 863-9123.

Holy Ground Homeless Shelter is facing eviction 06/05/09 [Last modified: Friday, June 5, 2009 9:02pm]
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