As children in nearby neighborhoods prepared for an evening of superhero and dragon costumes, kids on Hiatt Street in Greensboro got dressed up in slightly more festive attire.
On Sunday, hundreds of community members gathered on Hiatt Street for a Day of the Dead event that aimed to raise funds for the residents of the mobile home park there. According to Nikki Marin Baena, a member of the statewide Latinx advocacy group Siembra NC, the residents of the Hiatt Street trailer park have been fighting with the property manager about a potential sale of the land that would force them to move.
As the sound of mariachi trumpets filled the air, Baena walked alongside the dozens of trailers that make up the Jamison Homes Mobile Park which has been located at 2510 Hiatt St. just behind Bites and Pints on Spring Garden Street, for decades.
According to Baena, the park was home to 21 families at the beginning of the summer. But after the property was rezoned in May, families living in the park began to receive letters from property manager Lynne Anderson of Family Properties stating that they had just a few weeks to vacate the premises.
Resident Alejandro Alcantara told TCB that he’s been living in his home for five years and that he owns his trailer. Alcantara, who lives in the home with his wife and son, said he found out about the rezoning about six months ago and that his daughter, who also lives in a trailer on the property, tried reaching out to the city to find out more information. That’s when the letters started coming in. As of right now, he said that the residents have been told that they have until the end of the year, Dec. 31, to move.
Already, Baena says that three families have vacated the property. A bright yellow Penske moving truck parallel-parked nearby signals another’s intentions to move as well. The reason many of them remain, Baena says, is because it can be cost prohibitive to move the trailers if they own them and it can be even harder to find a new place to live. Alcantara said that it would cost him about $13,000 to move his trailer.
“Our hope for the future is that we will hopefully be able to buy the property,” he says.
According to the residents and local activists, efforts to communicate with Anderson have fallen short in recent weeks. And that’s why now, the community is trying to appeal to the prospective buyer, Jerry Wass of Owl’s Roost Partners, to back out of a potential sale. The residents’ goal is to be able to pitch in and buy the property from Anderson so they can stay in their homes.
“Our goal is to raise funds that will hopefully go towards buying the land,” Baena said on Sunday. “No one has lived here for less than five years.”
In addition to a mariachi band and multiple colorful dancers, the fundraising event featured an array of foods for sale, including tacos, quesabirrias, elotes and chicharron, all prepared by residents.
Kathy Newsom, a 20-year Lindley Park resident and the manager of the Corner Farmer’s Market, dug into a plate as she sat on the curb during the event. Newsom has been involved in the Lindley community for years and says that she wants the mobile park, which is mainly comprised of Latinx families, to stay. What she doesn’t want is the multi-unit student housing complex that she says is going to be built if the sale with Owls’ Roost goes through.
“It would put 100 more cars on the road every day,” Newsom says. “It’s a traffic mess anyways.”
TCB could not confirm with Wass or Owls’ Roost their plans for future developments on the property.
And while she understands that student housing is important, Newsom says that displacing families who have nowhere else to go isn’t the answer. She says that the Hiatt Street property has been an affordable housing area for as long as she can remember, and that it is part of Lindley Park.
“What I always say about our neighborhood is a professor can live on the same street as their college student, the owner of a neighborhood business can live on the same street as the barista,” she says. “That diversity is so important…. We want people that work together to live together. We shouldn’t have to go to separate neighborhoods to live.”
And as dozens of people lined up at the food stalls and gathered around the performances on the bright Sunday afternoon, a feeling of camaraderie and cohesion settled over the area, blanketing the residents’ anxieties for a few short hours. The smell of the tender pork marinated with the sounds of the brass as children rode their bikes down the street and mothers sat in lawn chairs watching them go by. It’s the kind of feeling that’s only achieved when a community cares for one another and is prepared to look out for each other. And that’s been the case, Newsom says.
“Not only have people lived here for decades, it’s generations of people and it’s a primarily immigrant community that really, they can survive because they have the support of each other, taking care of each other’s children,” Newsom says. “It’s that ideal multigenerational family. It breaks my heart to think that they couldn’t stay together.”
Without it, Alcantara says it’s hard to imagine what life might look like for him and his family.
“It’s a good place for my kids to grow up,” Alcantara says. “It’s everything.”
To learn more about the efforts to help the Hiatt Street neighbors, visit tiny.cc/HiattFAQ.