Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Mobile `Homeless' Residents Wary of Official Plans

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Mobile `Homeless' Residents Wary of Official Plans

Article excerpt

Candy Edwards heads a campaign to allow residents to return to the Missouri Mobile Home Park in northern St. Charles County even though she wants nothing more than to move out of the flood plain.

"I'm not stupid; I know I have to get out," she says.

To Edwards there is no paradox here, only economic reality and two children who worry whether they will have a Christmas tree. The family has been staying with a friend in a small apartment since July.

"We're trying to work and lead a normal life," she said. "But we're kind of limited in a two-bedroom apartment."

Edwards was one of 40 former residents of the mobile-home park who met last week in the basement of the Fellowship Christian Church in St. Charles. The meeting was billed as an opportunity to question John Essner, a lawyer with Volunteer Legal Aid.

It turned into a chance to vent frustrations and air theories that the county is conspiring to keep them from rebuilding the park. Several people attending the meeting said that each time they comply with rules laid down by county inspectors, they are given a new list of tasks before they can return to their mobile homes.

St. Charles County Building Commissioner Tom Szilasi said he thought that only one person might have completed the permit process and moved back to the mobile-park park. Szilasi said that most of the mobile homes had been condemned and never could be made habitable.

Edwards blames the county and says, "I would gladly raise my trailer eight feet if they would give me the permits to do it."

Some mobile-home owners at the meeting say they want the government to make them a buyout offer that will allow them to start again on higher ground. Carl Bearden, chairman of the St. Charles County Council, says he is hopeful that the county will be able to get money for a buyout by March or April.

"We're not going to be able to do it fiscally by ourselves," Bearden said. "It's going to take a combination of moneys. The county is at least a month away from submitting a funding request. We can't go to the state right now and say, `Hey, we'd like $16 million.' We need to say, `Here is what we need, and here is how we'll use it.' "

The council will have the first reading of a bill tonight to allow it to hire a housing consultant. The consultant would survey sources of money for building projects and find land for development. The findings will be included in the application for buyout money.

"It's frustrating," Bearden said of the process. "We'd like to say, `Here is the buyout money.' We are not insensitive to the plight of the residents of Missouri Mobile Home Park. We just don't have the resources. It is not something that happens overnight. It will take time to pull it all together."

Don Williams, a mobile-home owner, has a theory that county planners want the mobile-home park to be included in a proposed development by Summit Riverboat Casinos Inc. …

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