A year ago, we learned about a mobile home park where the residents were being forced to leave.
As often happens with areas of prime real estate, the landowners decided to sell to developers. Land being sold to a developer isn’t unusual. What captured the imagination of the reporter and photographer sent to cover the residents’ protest about the deal was that many of these families had nowhere to go and no resources to leave. The rent there was cheap, especially in the face of rising rent that has about squeezed dry the amount of available affordable housing in Greensboro.
And it can cost thousands of dollars to move a mobile home. Money that many of these families had poured into buying and, for some, renovating their mobile homes. Or it was money they simply didn’t have.
Reporter Nancy McLaughlin and former photographer Kenneth Ferriera came back from that initial assignment with the same thought: “We need to follow what happens to these families.”
Over the next year they interviewed and photographed several of the families. They stopped by for quick chats to get updates and sometimes joined the families for meals as they shared their struggle to stay in their homes.
Since many of the families spoke Spanish, Ken looked around for someone who could serve as an interpreter. Andrew Holzman, who was a visiting assistant professor at UNCG at the time, offered to help. Holzman specializes in 21st century Mexican literature, film and cultural studies.
The time spent in that reporting, with details gathered by all three over many months, can be seen in Nancy’s last story on the mobile home park. Here’s a snippet:
The laughter of children and the smell of dinner wafting out of windows as the sun sets — along with the mobile home that kept the holiday icicles around its roof all year — are gone from the lot of land along Hiatt Street.
The kinds of routine things that aren’t missed until they are missing.
College applications were completed and military enlistment papers were perused at dinner tables within the neat rows of mobile homes once fronted by a sign welcoming visitors to Jamison Mobile Home Park. Newborns were brought home from the hospital and learned to later crawl and walk in homes here. Cancer was fought here.
The same family rituals unfold daily in the Irving Park, Warnersville and Aycock communities. What made the difference — and bit of tragedy, say some — is that the mostly immigrant neighbors of the Jamison Mobile Home Park were on borrowed property.
Here’s Nancy talking about the evolution of this final story:
“As I recently rode past the empty mobile home lots except for rubble, I remembered the laughter of grade school cousins months before the mass displacement of the families, giggling as they bounced around on a couch in one home figuring out homework. I had been on this stretch of Hiatt Street dozens of times and also could still envision where the high school senior was writing the essay for a competitive college scholarship — the kind that pays for everything plus a stipend to experience the world around her — when she saw the neighbor’s mobile home being moved. The fight to stay that started a year ago with neighbors, who mostly owned their homes but not the land beneath them, was over on Hiatt Street.
“And these are the kinds of stories that demand an epilogue. The families are all gone. And yes, that college essay written while the family was grieving the loss of life as they knew it helped that student win the scholarship.”
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Valeria Medina Lara (left) plays in the front yard as her parents Brenda Vanesa Para Mosquda (center) and Miguel Angel Medina Garcia prepare to take a portrait in front of their home at the Jamison Mobile Home Park on Hiatt Street in Greensboro on Oct. 2, 2021. Earlier that year, the landlord told residents they had to leave because the property was being sold to developers.
Most of the mobile home pads sit empty, with trash, utility connections and two abandoned trailers all that remains at the Jamison Mobile Home Park. Residents lost their fight to stay at the Hiatt Street park in Greensboro after the landowners decided to sell the property to developers.