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Residents of GCU-owned mobile home park remain without a new home a day after move out deadline

GCU said it is working with individual families. Another mobile home park is set to close at the end of June.

PHOENIX — A day after Periwinkle Mobile Home Park was set to close, some families remained without a place to go.

On Monday 12News spoke to some residents who have lived near 27th Avenue and Camelback Road for years, but after May 28, which was the move-out date, have yet to stabilize a new home.

Grand Canyon University purchased the land in 2016 and decided on a land change to develop new student housing, which meant all 46 households on the property were forced to relocate.

As of last Tuesday, 11 families remained at the property. No updated tally on the number of families still at the mobile home park was available on Monday.

The university hired the nonprofit Trellis to help with relocation. While several families have successfully relocated with their help, some have refused to work with them.

Residents told 12News they don’t believe Trellis has their best interest at heart because they were hired by GCU.

GCU spokesperson Bob Romantic told 12News on Monday that “Trellis has helped every family that has been willing to work with them. Every one. If there is someone saying they have no place to go… we can’t help unless they are willing to be helped.”

On Tuesday Trellis will visit Periwinkle to “talk with families and help coordinate moves to temporary housing,” said President and CEO Mike Trailor.

GCU has offered a “grace period for any remaining family that has signed an agreement with us,” Romantic said. Those periods “will vary depending on each family’s circumstances.”

Only six Periwinkle residents have applied for the state’s $7.7 million available for those who must relocate or abandon their mobile homes. That fund provides people between $12,500 to $20,000 to relocate to a mobile home and $5,000 to $8,000 to abandon their homes.

GCU and Trellis also offer financial assistance to families forced to move out. But since people must turn over the title to their home to collect the money, residents tell 12News they have opted not to receive that help.

Activists said some people also either don’t qualify for all the help available or are in immigration proceedings and don’t want to take state funding that could jeopardize their cases.

Those who remain

A day after the official move-out date, 12News spoke to several residents who were still on the property with an uncertain future.

Some told 12News they didn’t have a place to go after being declined for Section 8 housing. One family said they were renting the mobile home and the owner of the property allegedly applied for help for their lot, instead of letting them do it.

A woman said she was still figuring things out on what to do and was visibly upset at GCU for “putting us in this situation. Trellis has not helped us either.”

Raul Urbalejo was still on the property, sad, in the middle of packing up his things.

He has called Periwinkle home for seven years. For him, it’s been a safe place where he could leave valuable items outside without fearing they would be stolen. He purchased a small mobile home and will soon live in a different part of Phoenix where he is unsure of how safe that area will be.

“I paid $15,000 for my home and they are only giving me $13,000,” said Urbalejo, who was initially holding out from applying for financial assistance in hopes of a better resolution, but after suffering health problems, opted to accept the help available.

“Coming from a university that’s apparently Christian, it surprises me that they only gave us the minimum,” Urbalejo said. “The only thing I’m going to be thankful for is that they allowed us to take some time to move out.”

GCU said it has provided over $500,000 in financial assistance to Periwinkle residents. It’s unclear how that money has been allocated and how many people have benefited from it.

Trellis told 12News that most families have vacated the park and are in the process of relocating two families’ mobile homes to new parks. While that process plays out, those residents will receive temporary housing.

A couple of families are finalizing settlement agreements, while others have received Section 8 housing vouchers, but have not identified a new home yet, according to Trellis.

More residents facing displacement 

Residents at Weldon Court mobile home park, near 16th Street and Osborn Road are also facing displacement.

Of the 60 households in that property, 43 homes remained occupied said Veronica Monge, cochair of Arizona Poor People’s Campaign, who has been advocating for residents being displaced there.

Weldon Court residents have until June 30th to move out.

“It’s depressing,” said Carmen Prieto. “It’s gotten to a point that we all get depressed and sad.”

Prieto has lived in this community for 15 years after purchasing her mobile home in cash. She qualified for Section 8 housing but has yet to find a place that will accept it.

“I feel bad because there are some people that don’t have a place to go and the money to pay,” Prieto said. “It’s so much rent that’s gone up too much.”

Manuel Vera is looking at moving his mobile home, but the process of relocating it has been difficult he said. Pointing to slow communication and payments between the company hired to move the houses and the city.

While touring Weldon Court with 12News, Vera pointed at vacant homes that have been invaded and destroyed by squatters.

“The majority of the people that go in there are homeless,” Vera said. “We fear leaving our homes to go to work because they are coming and stealing things.”

That’s an added worry he said residents here have on top of trying to find a new place to go.

“It’s painful, but we have to move on,” Vera said.

Attorneys from Arizona Poor People Campaign and Community Legal Services are aiding Weldon Court residents, Monge said.

For more than three months, attorneys have been negotiating with the landowners to extend the move-out date and increase financial assistance, Monge said. If that fails, they plan to sue.

A community yard sale is being organized for June 3rd starting at 7 a.m. at Weldon Court. The goal is to help residents decrease the number of items they have to transport to a new location and get to them some financial relief.

Residents from Beacon Palms, formerly known as las Casitas, near 19th Avenue and Buckeye Road also face displacement. They have to be moved out my October. 

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