BRADENTON HERALD, December 16, 2003


Office set up to clear park residents' confusion
Trail Mobile Home Park was purchased, forcing occupants to move

Herald Staff Writer

Rumors, accusations and confusion brought a coalition of people together Monday to hammer out more housing help for remaining residents of a dilapidated trailer park.

Representatives of the prospective property owner, Manatee County officials, local social agencies and activists living within the park will open an office at 3:30 p.m. today at Trail Mobile Home Park to assist residents with relocation needs.

"It seems the new owner is committed to solving this problem in a very positive way during this holiday season," said Luz Corcuera, program development director with Healthy Start Coalition of Manatee County Inc., which has clients in the park at 3503 14th St. W.

Up until this past weekend, there was confusion about when residents would have to vacate their homes and where they would go.

Some residents contend they were intimidated and told they had to leave by Monday, according to Joan Mahon, a social worker and community activist.

"A number of folks said a gentleman was at the park saying if they don't leave, the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) will deport them and take their children away," Mahon said.

She said lawyers and agents from Florida Rural Legal Services, which represents farmworkers throughout the state, met with the residents Thursday and gathered statements from them.

Rachel Micah-Jones, of Florida Rural Legal Services, said some residents contacted her office about allegations of harassment and asked for help.

"We took statements to document the situation," she said. "Our immediate concern was whether the residents were being evicted unlawfully."

Corcuera, who was one of the organizers of the effort to help park residents, said a group of concerned people met with Manatee County Commissioner Pat Glass to seek help in making sure the future property owner follows the proper process in relocating residents.

Glass arranged for Manatee County Sheriff Charlie Wells, Home Ownership Made Easy representative Laraine Chulla and several officials from various county departments to tour the trailer park Monday to discuss the situation and what can be done. Home Ownership Made Easy LLC signed a contract in October to buy the trailer park.

She said most of the problems arose because of lack of communication or misunderstanding by the residents.

"The goal is to assist the people with relocating," Glass said.

Chulla said Home Ownership Made Easy has already provided assistance to several residents to find new living quarters and has given money for relocation expenses.

She assured the residents Monday they had until Jan. 30 to find new accommodations.

"We need to get them to understand we are all working together," she said.

Juana Perez, who has lived in the park for two years, said she was hopeful a resolution to the situation was possible.

"If it is done with everyone's well-being in mind, then it's fine," Perez said.

The park, owned and operated by a trust controlled by James Maglione of Sarasota, has had a history of problems dating back many years.

Last August the county posted many of the trailers as unsafe structures and found many code violations. A lawsuit was filed against Maglione last year when the county declared the park a public nuisance.