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Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2007 02:32 pm

Free parking

Trailer park tenants win a reprieve after Good Samaritan intervenes

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Applegrove Mobile Home Park was supposed to be vacant earlier this month, but tenants have additional time to relocate.
PHOTO BY DUSTY RHODES
Untitled Document Residents of the Applegrove Mobile Home Park have received a reprieve from the eviction notices that were hand-delivered to them a few days after Christmas. The little trailer park, nestled between the end of Spring Street and the railroad track, just around the corner from the Warehouse, changed hands in December, and new owner Brian Jay Shirley wanted the place cleared out by Feb. 1. But tenants — some of whom had lived there more than a decade — said their trailers were too old to move and cited an Illinois law requiring mobile-home-park landlords to give tenants at least 12 months’ notice [see Dusty Rhodes, “Trailer park trashed,” Jan. 4]. “You’re looking at 10 or 11 families that are soon to be without homes,” tenant Amanda Adair told a reporter in January. Now, however, 27-year-old Adair and her young family are having their mobile home moved free of charge into another Springfield trailer court, thanks to the efforts of Bobbie Hahn, founder of Loving God Out Loud ministry. Hahn, who has worked in the mobile-home business, not only found other parks willing to donate moving services, she also persuaded attorney Duane Young to represent Applegrove residents pro bono to negotiate a compromise with Shirley. Shirley agreed to let the tenants stay at Applegrove rent-free through the end of May, Young says. “[Shirley] was, in some respects, fairly generous, I thought,” Young says. “Once we connected, he seemed reasonable and my folks seemed reasonable, and we struck a deal.”
Shirley, who declined to return calls seeking comment in January, elected not to respond again this week when Young relayed a request for comment. Hahn says she intervened at the request of a city employee. Hahn has been involved with Mayor Tim Davlin’s task force on homelessness and often works with such agencies as Contact Ministries and the Parent Help Line. A former mobile-home dealer, she had operated a business called Two Sisters Mobile Home Finders, locating trailers for customers. She knew that scrapped mobile homes end up in the landfill and homeless families end up crowding shelters. So in 2005 she began matching homeless families with vacant mobile homes. “I just saw two problems that could help each other, and I thought, ‘Why not?’” she says.
Over the past year and a half, Hahn’s organization has put 18 families into refurbished trailers, sometimes dealing with landlords reluctant to accept tenants with credit problems or criminal histories. “We don’t discriminate against anybody for anything at all. We don’t make people go to church. We try to just help everybody,” she says.
For the Applegrove residents, Hahn’s task was somewhat easier: She just had to find parks willing to accept older mobile homes. She found two parks willing to move their trailers for free and a third willing to give new tenants six months’ free lot rent. Hahn also connected Applegrove tenant Colt Farley, whose home had been knocked off its foundation during the 2006 tornadoes, with a grant that will allow him to purchase a conventional single-family home. Hahn says the tenants aren’t the only ones who benefited from the situation: She says she made several cherished new friends — Farley, Adair, and another trailer owner, Judy Relford.
“It’s just a good feeling,” Hahn says. “There’s nothing more gratifying in life than seeing some efforts from everybody accomplish something good.”

Contact Dusty Rhodes at drhodes@illinoistimes.com.
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