It was time to get the show on the road. Sue Campbell made her way past the rows of folded chairs to the front of the newly painted room to quiet the din of local notables and guests gathered for the grand opening of the ROPE Center's new sleep facility.
Then she apologized for the poor acoustics.
In a month's time, the white walls wouldn't feel so stark, and the ship-gray concrete floor would be covered with beds and footlockers that would dull the echoes.
"This has been a long time coming," Campbell said as her eyes welled up.
The new facility is the next step in a bigger vision, one that expands upon a ministry Jim and Sue Campbell started in 2009 when they opened the ROPE (Resource, Outreach, Prayer, Empowerment) Transitional Living Facility on a three-quarter-acre lot on Rhodes Road, off U.S. 19.
The Campbells, who also serve as pastors of the Prayer House on Ranch Road in Port Richey, have followed what Sue Campbell calls a "God-driven plan," providing a variety of services to the homeless through the ROPE Center and at their Community OutReach Center, at 14241 Water Tower Drive in Hudson.
Along with temporary housing, their mission provides clothing, bathing facilities, a soup kitchen, cellphones, mail services, support group meetings for alcoholics and substance abusers, educational and employment assistance, medical and eye exam referrals and more.
There are plenty of people to help. In January 2015, the Coalition for the Homeless of Pasco County counted 1,045 homeless people in Pasco County. Of those, 886 were unsheltered.
According to Sue Campbell, some 700 individuals have stayed at the ROPE Center shelter since 2009. More than 5,000 — including repeat customers — have taken advantage of services.
"We knew from the get-go that this would be a vast undertaking," Jim Campbell said. "So many people have already come through here. Most of them have come out with a better life."
Now there's a way to help more in a 2,400-square-foot building on stilts that sits adjacent to the ROPE Center. It is simple and modest in design, a bare-bones kind of endeavor that provides space for separate bathroom facilities and beds for up to 20 men and 20 women.
"We wanted to do something different rather than a traditional transitional facility," Sue Campbell said, noting that budgetary concerns also weighed into that decision. "This sleep center is a place where they can just come in and have safe shelter at night."
The roughly $420,000 for the building and land came from a Pasco County Community Development Block Grant, the State Housing Initiative Program and housing mitigation funds, said George Romagnoli, community development director for Pasco County.
The new dorms will offer a bed and storage for up 90 days for those who follow the Christian-based program to transition from the streets to employment and permanent housing.
There is no kitchen, but clients are welcome to frequent the Community OutReach Center soup kitchen, which provides continental breakfast daily and a meal on Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays, Sue Campbell said, adding they are working to find a solution for the other days.
"We are forming liaisons within the community with churches and places like Metropolitan Ministries that have food deliveries for the other days and some (clients) are eligible for food stamps so they can purchase their own food," she said. "My husband also has a vision for a mobile kitchen or food truck that would service more than one facility."
Presently the Campbells are working on fundraising to purchase bunk beds, footlockers and dividers for privacy.
The sleep facility brings them one step along their chosen path to help the homeless. But there's still a long way to go.
ROPE only provides shelter for single men and women, and that's not good enough, Sue Campbell said.
"There's such a need for family facilities," she said. "The calls that we have to refer out on a daily basis would break your heart — a single mother with a child, a family that lost their home. Unfortunately, right now, not every one that calls for help fits our criteria."
Contact Michele Miller at [email protected] Follow @MicheleMiller52.