Trailer Park…pt 4 – the incarnational journey

Our journey with the trailer park community led us to hosting a valentines party in the restaurant on the corner of the trailer park that first February.

We rented the restaurant and invited everyone in the trailer park to join us for a free valentines lunch. The place only held about 40 people so we had to do this creatively and in shifts. The children from our community got involved by making valentine packages and handed them to each one as they left the restaurant…. we couldn’t fit the children in the restaurant.

I remember hearing the feedback later that week. “They didn’t preach at us or force us to do spiritual stuff, they just showed kindness”.

It was surprising to see how making relationship the first priority was the first priority.

Our investment there led us into many lives over the next 2 years. We held a number of community party’s in the Trailer park. We set up an Easter egg hunt, we helped fix and clean homes, planted flowers, we held potlucks and music festivals and so on.

Over the next 18 months our community would meet every couple of months at the trailer park on a Sunday morning as our expression of church. We weren’t inclined on getting those living at the trailer park to our meeting or making the meeting there look like church…

We were more inclined on being with them and seeing what God would do out of relationship and community.

By the last party we held there I remember saying to the first team involved, ‘You can’t tell who is from which community anymore… it all blends together’.

It was about a year or so into our journey with this community that they got the worst news possible.

The owner of the trailer park was selling the land to the city and they would all have to be relocated. The city would send a negotiator their way and each one would have to sell within 3 years as the trailer park was being mowed down and a parking lot was going in its place.

We couldn’t help but think of a line from a Joni Mitchell song, “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot” when we heard the news.

There were a lot of tears the next months. A lot of anxious, scared people. They felt physically vulnerable, emotionally displaced and soon to be overwhelmed at the prospect of finding a place to live that they could afford.

Besides their close-knit community was being dispersed and the city never got that part.

They did.

Louise spent some time creating a survey and sitting with the people from the trailer park and helping them fill out the survey’s. We then requested a meeting with the city officials. A number of us, a Realtor, computer programmer, business owner, University professor and myself met with the city officials.

We let the city officials know that we felt this was a difficult situation they had put these people in and that we would be watching closely and monitoring how they treat and handle this transition. We mentioned we would go to the media if they didn’t keep their word and if they took advantage of their vulnerability.

We told the city that we were operating as ombudsman on behalf of these people. That got their attention and the attention of the city’s designated negotiator.

Although the process was painful for the trailer park residents and caused increased levels of stress in most of their lives we were able to help many of them find new housing and slowly relocate over the next 2 years. Some wanted out immediately and others hung on as long as they could.

I remember how Harold (not his real name) took the news when he moved from the trailer park early in the process. A gentle, rather kind man most of the time. He took his prized peach tree and carefully plucked every blossom off it the day he moved. He wanted the city to know that if couldn’t have the peaches they weren’t getting them.

This had been his home for over 20 years.

We did not do a scientific study of what I am about to say but we were not surprised to note that over the next 2 – 3 years from the date of notice from the city many of the residents died. In the end we did 6 funerals and watched 7 people die, in many situations prematurely.

The last funeral was Martha’s and that was the hardest one.

For the next leg of the journey read Trailer Park pt 5 – the incarnational journey.

Todd Rutkowski

~ by blueporch on October 10, 2012.

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