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Pasco's Holy Ground Homeless Shelter hit hard by storm

People gather to pray Monday morning at the Holy Ground Homeless Shelter, which was damaged by Sunday night’s storm.

MAURICE RIVENBARK | Times

People gather to pray Monday morning at the Holy Ground Homeless Shelter, which was damaged by Sunday night’s storm.

HUDSON — The worst of Sunday's rough weather, of the dark clouds and flooding rain and tree-cracking winds, seemed to strike down here at a homeless shelter called Holy Ground.

A powerful gust, possibly a tornado, ripped through the property off U.S. 19 to the sound of splintering wood. It traced through the shelter, past the church and housing halls and the men watching a TV movie, tossing shingles into the wind. It whipped past the shelter's thrift store, where Monica Crook was inside fixing her dinner, and collapsed the walls next to her into a pile of soaked rubble. Crook, 40, began to shake with fear. And then the fierce wind was gone.

"It came like a train," shelter founder Lisa Barabas-Henry said, "and left just as quick."

The National Weather Service has not yet determined whether it was a tornado, but residents are convinced it was.

With it went the shelter's only source of money. The building they had used as a storefront was ruined; so was most of their donated furniture, clothes and sheets. The stuff they were able to save, a few cabinets and some toys, they piled in three clumps and covered with a tarp.

But the homes were fine, except for some missing chunks of roof, and the church was mostly fine, and no one was hurt. It was enough for some residents, about 35 men and women and children with nowhere else to go, to count their blessings.

"God was good this time," Crook said.

The sun came out Monday. A group of men, most of them residents, prayed and moved the pews inside the church, a repurposed mobile home with a cross on the front. They began to tear out the screws and sheetrock and hang new insulation. They said they wanted to finish by Sunday.

"Shame about the thrift store," resident James Hammerle said, standing on top of a floor tracked with drywall debris. "But we'll rebuild and be better than ever."

People heard about the scene from the news trucks across the street and came out with bottled water and wrapped mattresses and animal crackers for the kids. People moved chairs and put up canopies so other people could take a break.

Gary Grubbs of Brooksville's Grubbs Emergency Services came out in a dress shirt and cowboy hat and told Barabas-Henry he had some debris-hauling equipment that could help: a loader, a trailer, a hauler, all of it with professional operators and all of it for free.

"She didn't say much," he said. "She just kind of teared up."

James Taylor Jr. came out with his truck about 10 a.m. and brought Hawaiian Punch and hauled away debris and helped strip some drywall. He didn't "have a lot of money, just strength and energy." He figured he could help.

"If you can't turn to your neighbors, who can you turn to?" Taylor said. "We've got to rely on each other."

Times photographer Maurice Rivenbark contributed to this report. Drew Harwell can be reached at dharwell@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6244.

Pasco's Holy Ground Homeless Shelter hit hard by storm 04/26/10 [Last modified: Monday, April 26, 2010 9:45pm]

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