A Nonprofit Favored by Tenants Buying Troubled Trails End – GV Wire

Residents of Trails End Mobile Home Park opposed to the sale of the park to a Stockton-based company with a history of steep rent increases have found an operator more to their liking.

And, at the Fresno City Council meeting last week, Park resident Patricia Shawn and others spoke favorably of Caritas, which is based in Irvine and has been in operation since 1996.

However, Harmony Communities, a Stockton-based company, remains in the front line to buy the park, which is in receivership due to unsafe conditions discovered after a fatal fire last year.

At the meeting, California Rural Legal Aid attorney Mariah Thompson, who represents many residents, addressed the city council in public comments.

“Over the past two weeks, residents and representatives have found two very viable plans. We were very surprised. We thought we had one, but now we have two,” Thompson said. “One is a resident-owned community, and the other is a non-profit organization called Caritas that currently operates two parks already in town.”

Thompson hopes the city will buy the park and keep it until residents decide how they want to move forward.

Trails End residents support the sale of the park to Caritas

Park resident Patricia Shawn pleaded with council members to give residents more time to get their house in order.

“It’s crazy to see that we have this great opportunity in front of us, with this non-profit organization, Caritas,” Shawn said. “I would really like them to be our landlords, please allow that to happen. Please give us the time we need, just a few months.”

Reverend Tim Kutzmark of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Fresno also spoke out in favor of Caritas buying the park, which is near Blackstone and Sierra avenues in Fresno.

“Harmony has an undeniable history of predatory landlord behavior driving up rent and housing prices and causing evictions,” Kutzmark said.

Trails End residents protest the sale of the park to Harmony Communities. (GV Wire/Liz Juarez)

Trails End Mobile Home Park neglected by previous owners

Trails End was in poor condition after a series of fires highlighted the park’s dangerous conditions. One of the fires led to the death of Ronald Richardson, 56, in April 2021.

The park was then placed in the hands of the California Receivership Group, which was tasked with overseeing the cleanup of the property and preparing it for sale to Harmony Communities.

Since then, residents of Trails End have had to make major changes to their homes.

In recent weeks, cleanup crews hired by court-appointed receiver Mark Adams have demolished structures, including chambers and harbors that were illegally built without a permit.

However, several residents have complained that the rules currently applied are too strict. Some examples include being told to remove wind chimes and not having dogs loose inside enclosed enclosures.

Crews hired by court-appointed receiver Mark Adams have been cleaning up the Trails End mobile home park for months. (GV Wire/Liz Juarez)

Who is Caritas?

Caritas says it’s a non-profit organization that aims to unite people with purpose by preserving affordable communities.

“Caritas’ sole mission is to provide affordable housing for low and very low income residents,” said John Woolley, the company’s chief investment officer. “That’s why we exist. We will not exist to do anything else.

“We hope you will help us, help the residents of this park to ensure that they will not face displacement due to rent increases and unreasonable rules, and help us to transform this community into a community affordable and thriving as we have for so long. many other parks,” Casey McKee, the nonprofit’s financial analyst, said at Thursday’s board meeting.

According to McKee, Caritas owns and operates 32 mobile home communities in California and Oregon. Two are in the Southeast Fresno Council District represented by Luis Chavez.

The Franciscan and the Town & Country are located next to each other and have been in business for more than 30 years, said Guillermo Magana, the property manager for both parks.

Magana lives in the park with her staff who take care of the daily operations. These include maintaining and repairing the property, managing three swimming pools, and overseeing their clubhouse, gym, and outdoor play area.

“It’s very comfortable here and we don’t have too many problems here,” Magana said. “All the locals who live here are pretty much farm workers, so they all have their work duties from Monday to Friday and it’s very quiet.”

Caritas offers several community programs

Magana says owners are involved with the parks, often hosting vacations and community events throughout the year.

Just a few weeks ago, the parks held an Easter egg hunt for kids. During the summer, children can sign up for a reading program and receive free books. During the fall and winter, the parks hold a Halloween event, Thanksgiving dinner, and Toys for Tots Christmas party.

Additionally, Magana says, the company offers a scholarship program of up to $1,500 for residents between the ages of 17 and 25 and a rental assistance program for anyone going through a difficult time and unable to pay money. rent.

“So we helped for two, three months up front, and we cover the costs for them,” Magana said. “Same for maintaining their home if they need to fix something and it’s not in their budget and they can’t afford it.”

Several years ago, Mattie Bowen, who has been a resident of the park for 14 years, said her rent was covered by the company for a few months while she recovered from hip replacement surgery.

“They’re so attentive to our issues, and you know if something’s wrong, they’ll come and fix it right away,” Bowen said. “Everyone would be grateful to have people like us running this place.”

Caritas has a positive track record

A mobile home community in Santa Monica experienced similar issues to Trails End. The city bought the park and then transferred it to Caritas, noting that the company had significant experience and a solid approach to management.

Santa Monica officials screened several companies before choosing Caritas.

“Caritas community programs encourage and enable residents to take an active role in working with management to develop social and educational programs that meet the needs of residents,” said a city council report. “Caritas offers a program designed to educate and encourage mobile home renters to become owners.

Caritas owns and operates two mobile home parks in the city of Fresno. (GV Wire/Liz Juarez)

The city council could have the last word

Ultimately, whether Caritas can take ownership of the park remains unclear.

“We can’t do anything until the court or the sellers agree to meet with us,” company executive Woolley said.

Woolley says they have yet to review the park’s finances, inspect the park or meet with residents.

Ultimately, the fate of the park rests with the city council, which could approve a sale to Harmony Communities, a tenants’ cooperative, or strike a deal with Caritas.

However, park residents are expected to quickly raise $1.7 million to purchase the park.