The future for residents at the troubled Riverview Trailer Park remains cloudy, but the property owner is now vowing to do his best to bring the area up to code to stop the city from closing the entire North Lawrence mobile home park.
“Mr. Warren has made a special trip from California, and is here working on the park now,” said Darryl Graves, a Lawrence attorney who is representing the park’s owner, George L. Warren, a California landlord. “He is taking the issue very seriously.”
Earlier this month, the city declared 12 of the 23 mobile homes in the park at 827 Walnut St. unfit for habitation. City officials also said at the time that the entire park may be closed because its mobile home park license had lapsed. City inspectors indicated numerous improvements to the property would have to be made before the park could be issued a new license.
On Monday, Chad Sublet, an assistant city attorney, confirmed the city has not declared any more mobile homes at the park unfit for habitation. He said the city had entered discussions with Warren and his attorney, but still was intent on getting the property cleaned up before issuing a new license.
“What I can tell you is we’re in the process of enforcing our ordinances,” Sublet said. “He doesn’t have a license to operate a trailer park, and we’re in the process of determining our options for enforcement.”
Graves said he could not rule out that other families would have to move from the park.
“We’ll just work with the city,” Graves said. “Those trailers that they deem worthy of keeping, we’ll keep, and the ones that they say need to be removed, we’ll get rid of.”
In mid-April, city inspectors said six households had been ordered to move from the trailer park. Six of the 12 units declared unfit for habitation already were vacant. On Monday, social service workers said displaced families likely were having difficulty finding housing assistance.
“Unfortunately, there really isn’t an immediate solution available,” said Shannon Oury, executive director of the Lawrence-Douglas County Housing Authority.
Oury said her organization’s waiting lists for public housing range from six to 15 months. She said for the past two years the authority was operating an emergency housing assistance program. But it was funded through federal stimulus dollars, and the last of the $700,000 in funding was spent in February.
She said the program was effective in providing Douglas County residents help with back rent, security deposits or other unexpected moving expenses. Oury said she can envision that residents of the mobile home park are struggling to come up with the necessary down payments — such as security and utility deposits — needed to secure a new place.
“It has been difficult knowing that we’ve had a program that has been successful in helping with those type of situations, and then to have it end and have nothing to replace it,” Oury said.
A group of area non-profits does operate the Emergency Services Council, which provides rental and utility assistance for people facing eviction. But the program’s guidelines allow for no more than $200 worth of assistance to be provided to any one household, and even with that the council is only able to fund about 10 percent of the requests it receives each month, said Eric Myser, human services director for the Ballard Community Center.
Myser, who is part of the council in addition to representatives from Douglas County Senior Services, The Salvation Army and ECKAN, said he is encouraging people evicted from the trailer park to apply for help from the council. But he said they also may need to seek help from area churches, which sometimes have emergency relief funds.
“I don’t know if we will have anything to solve their immediate needs,” Myser said, “but I know we’ll try to help.”