It is not unusual these days, in communities where people own their homes but not the land, for park management companies to sell out. At this approximate 120-acre park, the Seminole Tribe who owns the land but had contracted it out as a mobile home park through 2024, bought out the lease for an undisclosed amount, and have changed the terms.
A tribe spokesperson says that there is a housing shortage and that they need the land so that 200 tribe members can live on ancestral land. One of the current residents asks, "We have empty lots and empty houses. Why can't we live together?" That doesn't seem to be an option however, and homeowners must be out of the park by the end of June 2013. If they stay past the end of this year, their rents will increase about every two months.
|The protestors were hoping for some news coverage today or perhaps a visit from Senator Bill Nelson; they got me instead.|
At a peaceful protest today, I met some of the residents.
MEET TROY BOLON"How do you tell your kids 'dad's homeless,' " asks Troy Bolon who moved to Florida from California ten years ago. In the months ahead he will be losing his home, the one he lives in with his elderly parents and handicapped brother, and he will also be losing work. Troy takes care of 100 lawns in the community which account for about 1/3 of his business. He believes the residents of the park are entitled to more time and better compensation, and he is officially looking for new work.
MEET ALFRED SILVAAlfred has lived at the park for 26 years. He moved from Rhode Island. put about $40,000 into his 1978 home. He tells me he has been a hardworking man all of his life, has never gotten a speeding ticket, and that the stress is making him sick. With about $10,000 to his name, all he wants is a fair offer to move. "Don't embarrass us with a $3,000 offer," he says.
MEET KATHY MAYNARD
Kathy Maynard moved to the Estates 7 years ago. She sold her condo and put $125,000 into a luxurious 1,800 sq ft. manufactured home which she shares with her 10 birds, including Bonkers, a 37 year old blue macaw. Kathy Maynard has a good job. She is an accountant, and because she makes a decent living, she doesn't qualify for compensation. She has already secured a new lot for her house in a reputable community because she has to be settled by the time tax season comes around. She will be using most of her retirement savings to relocate, and will also have to find another place for her and her birds to live for 4-6 weeks during the moving process.
MEET DEO BOODRAM AND PEARL RAMLOCHAN
Deo came to the protest with lots of paperwork including the rental agreement he had signed in 2010 when he moved from New York. He paid cash for his home, put in a new bathroom, and made other improvements. His sister Pearl has lived here since 2002. Her husband is disabled. They plead, "Just don't put us on the street."
Jamie moved here to take care of her mother nine years ago. When her mother passed away in 2008, she stayed. Jamie has no idea what she is going to do right now. She's not worried so much for herself as she is for the older people. "I'm here representing the elderly and people undergoing chemo" she says, "I have to be their voice." Helping others makes Jamie feel better, and ultimately she says, "It's in God's hands."
MEET DONNADonna moved to the Estates on May 12, 1973. Originally, she told me, it was a family park. Her children were born here but Donna said they had to leave the park recently.
I met others: Carol, Richard, Heidi, and Thomas. Some folks are in better shape than others. They have families that will take them in or they have other homes or a decent savings to fall back on. Some want to get out as quickly as possible so as not to contribute another dime to the tribe. Many believe that they will get kicked out, the land will go undeveloped for years, and then a parking lot or additional casino will be built.
Feelings of abandonment, fear and stress are palpable. Self-preservation is a must, yet many folks worry about their friends -- those who are older, more frail and poorer. Richard Ferraro, age 69, says, "I'm not worried about me. I'm crying for others." The residents of Seminole Estates feel that the rug was pulled out from under them in a sly, calculated, and cold maneuver.
To be continued..............