Nonprofit thrift store battling squatters to revitalize town with public park

Hornbrook Charitable Nonprofit, Inc. owns this lot but because squatters have been living here, cannot demolish the barn and home to create a new public park. (KTVL/Mike Marut)

Virginia Pelsor runs the only thrift store in Hornbrook as the president of Hornbrook Charitable Non Profit, Inc.

In July 2017, the organization acquired the property next door to the thrift store. Unfortunately, it's not empty.

"It's like a revolving door there," Pelsor said. "Every time we get one or two out, two or three come back in."

The squatters who are staying in the mobile home on the property refuse to leave, despite multiple attempts at forcing them out since they pay no rent or utilities.

"60 day eviction notice and we've done proofs of service, I'm told now we have a few more steps we have to do," Pelsor said.

If the squatters don't leave by Saturday, then they violate the eviction notice. Pelsor says some of them don't even believe the nonprofit owns the property, despite being shown the deed.

"We're trying to get the word out that yes, this is thrift store property and yes, it needs to be cleaned up desperately," Pelsor said.

As far as cleaning up, Cyndi Moore - a member of the HCN board and property manager - says there are at least a dozen malnourished cats on the property along with garbage strewn about the lawn, a chicken coop filled with trash and a barn filled with garbage.

Pelsor and Moore want to clean it up to prepare to build a park in its place. Moore believes a public park may revitalize Hornbrook's community.

"We were more active and we were more family oriented [when I was growing up]," Moore says. "Everybody just stays inside now. ... I think it would be huge."

Moore has lived in Hornbrook for 40 years and wants the park to be a start to a massive change.

"I love this town - always have," Moore said. "A lot of people think it's just a dirty town, but it's not. There's a lot of soul in this town."

Pelsor and Moore have no idea how long it would take to build a park, considering they need to get the squatters out, clean up the property, demolish the mobile home and barn and then start construction; but they're using the thrift store to try and fund that process. They plan to name the park Kay Bryan Memorial Park.

If you would like to help, Pelsor says she can be reached through her P.O. Box 235 in Hornbrook.

Pelsor believes any help may be able to be written off as a charitable donation since the donations would be going to a non-profit organization.

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