By Berta Suarez, community resident and activist at the Desert Palms Mobile Home Park Community
For years now, residents at the Desert Palms Mobile Home Park community have been experiencing unbearable and unjust living conditions. Residents are saying no more to the discrimination and threats to the health and safety that residents, children, persons of special needs, and elderly face.
They will address Lancaster City Council on Tuesday, Oct. 14 at 4:30 p.m. to demand an immediate end to these abuses of vulnerable residents.
Living Conditions at Desert Palms Mobile Home Park
The well-water system has been deteriorating for many years. Brown water frequently comes out from the taps and pipes, and the drains fill with sediment. Because the system is in such bad shape, there are frequent, unannounced water shut-offs that leave our children, persons of special needs, disabled, elderly, and sick with no water for our homes, sometimes for up to three whole days. Residents who are ill and disabled are unable to cleanse their soiled bodies of urine and feces, putting their health at tremendous risk.
During one of the recent water shut offs, a special-needs child with epilepsy had convulsions because there was no water to operate the swamp cooler that he needs to maintain the temperature of his home. The water system has degraded to a point where it has been suggested that residents use stagnant pool water to flush their toilets and for other basic needs.
There are also ridiculously high electricity, gas, utility, and rent bills. One resident paid around $300 for electricity and $200 for gas, a total of nearly $500 for utility bills alone. Though she complained that these figures were incorrect, she has yet to be reimbursed! She is not the only one who has received these astronomical utility charges, even though the utilities are submetered at each mobile home and the park owns solar panels on the property that get free electricity from the sun and provides income from the main utility company for the extra power provided to the grid.
Rent is around $400 to nearly $500 per month for the space rent alone. These charges are extremely high considering the lack of amenities and the humble home structures. For example, the swimming pool has been closed, the laundry room full of broken laundry machines is closed and the clubhouse is closed, no longer available for the use of the residents. Instead it is being rented out by the park for use as private storage. The playground that was open for the kids to play in has been dismantled and closed, and children are now prohibited to play near the shaded areas near trees on the property.
There is no grass to speak of. Management threatens to have guests’ vehicles towed due to the insufficient parking spaces, and continues to threaten our guests even when they park in unused dirt patches on the property.
Retaliation against community members
This Mobile Home Park is what many poor and special needs children, elderly and the sick call their community. This is their home. Too many residents are afraid to speak up about these issues for fear of discrimination and retaliation from management. Despite this fear, residents have been hosting meetings at their homes to address these issues and have spoken to the mayor and city council at Lancaster City Council Meetings regarding the intolerable living conditions at the park.
Since I, Berta Suarez, spoke with the mayor at the City of Lancaster Council Meeting on August 26, 2014, city workers and LASD deputies have been investigating the Desert Palms mobile home park and have been speaking with park management regarding the water and other issues.
No changes have been made as of yet.
Because these complaints have led to investigations, the park management is now retaliating against residents. Management has recently given letters to residents involved in tenant meetings stating that they need to perform needless and exaggerated repairs to the exterior of their mobile homes. If they do not complete the repairs by the third notification letter, they will be evicted and charged $500. Management has not given tenants enough time to perform these tasks, demanding they be completed within seven days from the original notice. These are families who struggle to provide basic necessities for their children and are clearly unable to set aside work days or come up with the funds to pay for paint and other supplies. These are also residents who faithfully pay their rent every month.
This is clearly retaliation and has caused more residents to fear speaking up about their problems at the park. It is clear management is trying to find ways to evict tenants for demanding that conditions at this park improve.
Call to action
The most vulnerable tenants, which include children, people with special needs, and elderly community members have been enduring injustice for years at the Desert Palms Mobile Home Park Community. To this day, nothing has been done to resolve their issues.
Indeed, conditions are rapidly deteriorating.
Residents are organizing and documenting these abuses for themselves, but we need community leaders and our neighbors to stand beside us. Otherwise, these problems will persist in our park for many more years.
We say enough of these living conditions! Enough with the retaliation!
Please join us, write letters of support and stand with us in the fight for our basic, living rights!
We will gather this Tuesday, Oct. 14 at the Lancaster City Council Meeting at 4:30 p.m. so that our voice can be heard loud and clear: We demand better living conditions! We demand justice!
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of The AV Times.
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