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A time of healing was torn asunder

It has been a week since Lisa Allen had a home.

Friends have opened their doors to her, but she says home is still amid the pile of rubble at 11258 Oakhaven Drive.

"When I moved in there everything started coming together. It's like my life made a whole 180-degree turn," Allen said, leafing through pictures of the four-bedroom Autumn Run home that was destroyed in the tornado a week ago Saturday.

Allen, 24, is eight months pregnant and a recovering drug addict. The house, which is owned by a Largo man, also was home to four other single mothers battling drug and alcohol addictions. It was one of five recovery homes in the city.

"I really want to go home, but I have no home to go to," Allen said.

The women moved into the house after spending 28 days in Future Steps, a chemical dependency program for pregnant women at Metropolitan General Hospital. They named it Miracle House and those who could afford to paid $100 a month for rent.

"It wasn't the house, it was us girls that made it a home," said 32-year-old Marjorie Dubois, who lived there with her 3-month-old son Ty. "We helped each other out. We were a family."

They have gone their separate ways, some into the homes of friends and others in search of apartments, but the women say they are just glad that the storm did not take Allen's life or the three children she was babysitting.

"I was cooking hamburgers and corn on the cob, then I heard this freight train coming through the window," Allen said.

With two of the three children at her side, Allen hit the floor. "There wasn't time to do anything else." A 9-month-old infant was still in his crib.

"God had his hand on us because when I looked up all I saw was stucco and bricks," she said.

It also is God who has kept them from using the disaster as an excuse to return to old habits, said Margie, the mother of the three children who were in the house with Allen. She asked that her last name not be used.

"We made it through this so far without a drink or drugs. That's a miracle," said Margie, who is working with her husband to find a place to call home.

A few other miracles also have come out of the disaster that was blown into the women's lives by last week's tornado.

A Holiday Inn in Clearwater put the women up free of charge for two nights.

Donations of stuffed animals, food, clothing and a car seat have poured into Future Steps.

Dubois qualified for emergency assistance from the Red Cross and has received vouchers for food, baby formula, medicine and linen.

The hard part, said Tonyi Walker, director of the recovery homes, is listening to the rejection in the voices of apartment building managers and rental agents.

"There was one house that they really wanted," she said. "We told the woman that they were in recovery, she said we didn't have a problem. Two hours later, the house was rented."

Walker said plans are under way to rebuild the home on Oakhaven. Meanwhile, she said, "The same higher power that was working in their lives during the storm will also work this out."