PINELLAS PARK, Fla. - Smiling on a swing set may be pretty normal for most kids, but not for five-year-old Gabe, considering what he and his siblings were doing just a few months ago.
"They were just crying. They didn't know what to do. They were just as scared as I was," explained his mom, Stacey Krause. "Me and my four kids walked here with nowhere to go, not a dime in our pocket, without [anything]."
A drug addict at just 11 years old, Krause has moved her four children around a lot. Last June, they ran out of options, and showed up at Touched By An Angel Ministries in Pinellas Park with only the clothes they were wearing.
"I told them we'd be safe for at least tonight, and we've been safe for months," Krause said.
That safety, however, is now in danger, because her new home was recently served with a 3-day eviction notice which expired Wednesday.
Touched By An Angel Ministries, an emergency shelter and transitional housing facility, agreed to buy the old motel building on 62nd Avenue North in which they've operated for 4 years, but when the economy collapsed, so did the property value.
Now they say Cadence Bank, their landlord, won't negotiate a new mortgage that the ministry can afford.
"All the dreams of all the people here, seems like it's all going to crash," said Pastor Jeffrey Polhill.
That means 200 people now face homelessness again. Many are former criminals and drug addicts, once a strain on jails and social welfare programs, who now have jobs and pay rent.
"If the ministry does not find placement, these people will be released to the street like animals," said the shelter's attorney Norman Harris.
State Representative Darryl Rouson (D-District 70) is asking for help on their behalf.
"As a former homeless person and a member of the community leadership, we should all be concerned when a facility doing such good work is threatened with closure," Rouson said. "They have provided a safety net that's become a springing net, launching folks into recovery. Where are they going to go? My hope is the landlord reaches down and finds a way to make this work."
Depending on what happens in court, no one knows when families will face their last day in the Pinellas Park apartments. Touched By An Angel Ministries hopes the bank reconsiders.
Krause certainly hopes so, too.
She says she's sober, her kids are in school, and she's looking for a steady job for one of the first times in her life.
"Not only would we not have any place to go, but what we get here is way different from other shelters," she cried. "We get the word of God. We get love. We get what we need to live again."
The ministry also welcomes anyone who might be able to provide a new housing complex they can afford.
Anyone interested in learning more should contact the Harris Law Group at 813-443-0857.
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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