Jessica Ramirez is a stay-at-home mom with three kids. Her husband, Daniel, works construction and brings home enough each paycheck to feed the family of five and keep their bills paid, but like many of the residents of Stardust Mobile Home Park, the family doesn’t have much in the reserves to deal with emergency situations.
Yesterday, the Ramirez’s and another 40-50 families living in the park in north San Angelo received a brief and blunt notice that has left many in a state of confusion and desperation. Sometime today the water will be shut off and within the week they’ll need to vacate the premises for at least six months. There is a problem with the sewer lines.
Countless residents have expressed confusion over the ordeal, stating they've been told conflicting stories about what the problem is and that they believe the sewer leak issue has actually existed for at least a year. Many do not appear to know who is responsible and have heard everything from the city to management to the owners. Some recall having experienced the same problem in the past, but none seem to really know how to move forward.
Without more than a suggestion to contact the American Red Cross or the Salvation Army and a request not to contact the property manager, who will be “very busy with all residents at the same time,” the notices were disseminated yesterday afternoon to tenants ranging from families with infants to the elderly.
One resident LIVE! talked to is a young mother who said she found out about the problem yesterday after work.
“I could tell something was wrong when I got home…My husband told me we had to move,” she said. “I asked him if we were being evicted and he said ‘No, there’s a problem with the water’. We have two toddlers and we haven’t really made a plan, but in order to get our deposit we have to move all the way out and it’s not like we’ve got a ton of money in the bank. We do have some family here, but their house is already full so we don’t feel like we can impose on them.”
With a tight housing market and few low-income and temporary housing options, families such as the Ramirez’s and the family of four say they don’t even know where to begin at this point. The problem, Ramirez explained, is not just the ticking clock or the lack of property, but for many, the money to move as well.
“Some of us don’t have the money to just go and do it (rent a new place) like that,” she said. “The other thing is, our deposit isn’t going to cover a first month’s rent and deposit. The majority of the people that live there, they’re low income and some of them are just barely making it.”
In order for the tenants of Stardust to receive their deposit, they have to have completely removed all of their belongings from the property by Thursday next week. Due to the sewage situation, the water must be shut off today, thus shortening the week to a day for the residents to find shelter.
With the start of a new school year rapidly approaching and no time to prepare for what’s to come, Jessica Ramirez is worried about her kids.
“I have a 16-year-old, an 8-year-old and a 6-year-old,” she said. “We’re trying to get ready for school and do things like that and now we’re not. If we have to relocate, I’ll have to relocate my kids to a different school. They’ve been in the north side of town since the day they were born. It’s going to be a hassle too because we don’t know where we’re going to go or where we can rent from yet. Just the stress of putting my kids in the Salvation Army, I don’t know how it would affect them.”
One park resident has lived at the Stardust for 17 years and remembers the last time this happened. “It was like 15 years ago and I had to clear out for six months. I’m not in great health. I’ve had three heart surgeries and I need this like I need a hole in the head.”
This time, he said, he has no intention of leaving. “I’ve been here so long I own my home and if they want me gone, they’ll just have to drag me out,” he said. The park owners, he added, live in California, and he has the feeling they just don’t care about the residents of Stardust Mobile Home Park.
Ramirez and her family have lived in San Angelo for 20 years, but the only other family they have here is her mother-in-law, she said, who already has a full house. They moved into the Stardust in February, she said, and all she’s hoping for are options to get her family through this transition.
“I’m sure we can stay with friends until we can accumulate enough money, which might take us more than seven days because we have to wait for he next paycheck, [but] it’s just hard when you go live with other people,” she said. “Then to find somebody that’s going to take in a whole family of five and be comfortable with that for a week or two or so and find the space for it…”
The management of the Stardust Mobile Home Park declined to comment on the situation, however a resident stated that she has been working with tenants and is in the same boat as they are.
“She was very upset when I went to talk to her (resident manager),” the mother of two said. “This has hit her very hard and I feel like the owners have put her in a terrible situation.”
Remaining positive, the woman said she’s a church-going person and ultimately believes God will take care of her. She still hasn’t found a place to stay.
Major Tim Grider of the Salvation Army said that as of Friday afternoon he hadn't heard anything of the situation, but that the emergency shelter is ready and willing to assist any of those in need.
"The capactiy is 55 beds, but we also can pull out more cots as needed," Grider said. "The length of stay depends on emergency case. There's not a time limit...is based on the situation. We've dealt with this many times across the country and we consider this just as disastrous a situation as any emergency."
Further information on the sewage break and how it's affecting the surrounding area was not available at the time of publication. An anoynous source revealed Friday morning that the pipes are privately owned, meaning that the owner of the property is liable for all repairs.
The city health department has been handling the leak from an environmental standpoint, however information as to exactly what and in which quantity excrement and other waste is being leaked into the ground has not yet been released. A press release contatining all of that information is supposed to be disseminated today by city public information officer Anthony Wilson. That information will be posted as it becomes available.
UPDATE: 1:20 P.M.
A credible source has informed SanAngeloLIVE! that the City of San Angelo has granted a reprieve to Residents of Stardust Mobile Home Park by leaving the water on through the weekend.