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Holy Ground homeless shelter about to become homeless

Times The Holy Ground homeless shelter in Hudson is being asked to vacate its rented property on Denton Avenue. The shelter has operated there since 1992.  Shown here are Art Helmrich, right, and Warren Hendrickson preparing a large pot of hot oatmeal for cold-morning breakfast in 2014.
Times The Holy Ground homeless shelter in Hudson is being asked to vacate its rented property on Denton Avenue. The shelter has operated there since 1992. Shown here are Art Helmrich, right, and Warren Hendrickson preparing a large pot of hot oatmeal for cold-morning breakfast in 2014.
Published Oct. 24, 2018

NEW PORT RICHEY -- One of Pasco's first homeless shelters is about to become homeless.

Holy Ground shelter, which has operated on Denton Avenue in Hudson since 1992, is being evicted because its landlord is seeking to sell the rental property.

Shelter Director Lisa Barabas-Henry shared her plight with Pasco commissioners Tuesday morning.

"There's about to be a catastrophic event taking place in Pasco County. We are being asked to leave the property,'' an emotional Barabas-Henry told commissioners. "... I've never asked this community for one dime. I want to be an asset, not a liability to you.''

The shelter operates as a low-barrier facility, she said, open to people without identification and who might be unable to pass an immediate drug screening. That means it takes clients that other shelters won't. It serves single men, families and children including individuals with special needs. Approximately 40 people are staying on site now, she said.

Barabas-Henry said she received the eviction notice Sept. 14, asking the shelter to be gone by Oct. 1, but that deadline was extended to Nov. 1. Tuesday, commissioners said they would contact the landlord asking for an extension to Jan. 31.

The property is owned by Domenico Enterprises of Pasco Inc. Efforts to reach its president for comment were not immediately successful. Barabas-Henry said she made a purchase offer for the lot at 8835 Denton Ave., but it was rejected because the owner wants to sell a second parcel, across the street, at the same time.

This isn't the first setback for the shelter. Over the past decade, the Holy Ground operations overcame a prior eviction threat after it fell behind in its rent. A tornado damaged one of the buildings. And Barabas-Henry's weathered her own health issues and the death of her mother, Jean Timmons, who helped found the shelter and was known to everyone as Grandma Jean.

Barabas-Henry has identified another potential location for the shelter on Wister Lane and asked if the county could help provide an access road. County administrators said they would visit the property to determine if it was possible.

Relocating "would be the best, ideal outcome we could hope for, given the situation,'' said Don Anderson, CEO of the Coalition for the Homeless of Pasco County.

But without a successful relocation, the demand for services will put a strain on resources provided by other agencies.

"Obviously, this can create an enormous challenge especially if we're talking about individuals that really don't have any income,'' said Anderson "My suspicion is she has a number of individuals that are really going to need permanent supportive housing'' of at least a year.

That could include Barabas-Henry who lives on the property.

"When I began this,'' she said, "never in my wildest dreams did I think I would become a statistic at the end.''

Contact C.T. Bowen at ctbowen@tampabay.com or (813) 435-7306. Follow @CTBowen2.