Friday the 13th Nightmare Coming to Milton

Hey, Pensacola area, get ready for a slew of homeless families and individuals to hit your shores. They’re not the despised “outsiders.” No, they’re from Milton where they’ve lived, albeit mostly hand-to-mouth, for years.

Looks like a safety net. But it’s not. Photo by Diane Nilan

Their bedraggled trailer park, sitting on the outskirts of the Naval Air Station since before good ol’ Hurricane Ivan visited in 2004, has housed families, couples, and individuals thanks to FEMA. Some moved on, a few bought their modest trailers, wanting to never rent again because you’re vulnerable when you are a tenant, and some rented from Ms. Carla, owner of the park.

Through no fault of their own, due to the illness and infirmity of Ms. Carla and structural difficulties that need fixing, a judge issued an order to turn off water to this park on Friday July 13th, effectively evicting the residents without really evicting them. Those with children really have to go because the authorities will swoop in and wreak havoc upon parents for neglecting kids.

Having spent more time than the average Milton visitor at this trailer park, knowing Ms. Carla and another owner-resident, Melissa, I have a few observations to share with you:

  • Those being evicted will have nowhere to go. The few local existing shelter beds can’t handle an influx of dozens of kids and adults.
  • Affordable housing does not exist in this community (or anywhere), nor does subsidized housing.
  • Children who experience homelessness have a much greater risk of being homeless as adults.
  • Once you become homeless, you never want to be homeless again. Some living in the park have been and will be again. (See my film, “on the edge: Family Homelessness in America,” featuring Milton’s Melissa and 6 other women. YouTube https://youtu.be/vo_14qhrx9A)
  • Trailer parks, apartments, motels, and campgrounds — where those evicted will turn for a place to live — are expensive, have few openings, and are no replacement for having your own neighborhood. Not just in Seattle — all over the country, mobile homes are doomed:

Why don’t they just pick up and move their mobile home? Well, the word “mobile” is misleading, because federal regulations deem her home and many others here too old to move to another park. Usually when a park closes, the homes don’t move, they get demolished.

Humble abodes in Melissa’s trailer park. Photo by Diane Nilan

Across the country, with my 3+ decades of experience working on the homelessness issue nationally, I’ve seen how trailer parks are evaporating. They’re one of the few “affordable” housing options for those who can’t afford the rents of today. If you doubt me, check the report “Out of Reach,” (www.nlihc.org) to see what it takes to keep a roof over your head.

This park is no exception. Some residents have bad credit. Some have felony convictions. Some have had multiple evictions. None have money to relocate. They’ll beeline to the shelter in Pensacola. Most will get turned away because of no vacancy. They’ll move in with friends, families, acquaintances, pay for motels, or sleep in their vehicles, stay in campgrounds, or bounce between all of the above.

That’s how homelessness happens (my PDF list of how homelessness happens). It’s not their fault, just like it’s not the fault of millions who share that label.

They desperately need legal help to forestall this rapidly unfolding disaster.

Until our country prioritizes human values — to make sure everyone has a place to sleep, food to eat, and the help to survive, much less thrive — we will see more of this. We cannot ignore the issues that push people into homelessness and then complain about having homeless people on our streets.

Elected officials, lawyers, social service workers, educators, health care providers, and those with power to help — step up and really take serious steps to end homelessness.

Now, for those in the Milton trailer park, the clock ticks until the Friday the 13th shutoff.

Homelessness creation, coming to your community. This is how it happens. Now you know. Now it’s up to you.

Iconic sight in Milton, FL. Photo by Diane Nilan

Founder/pres. HEAR US Inc., gives voice & visibility to homeless families & youth, ran shelters, advocate, filmmaker, author, 15 yrs. on US backroads.

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