Low-income seniors displaced by blaze still in housing limbo

SANTA ROSA, Calif. (AP) — Dozens of low-income seniors displaced after a massive wildfire tore through their mobile-home park in Northern California are struggling to pay for temporary lodgings, a newspaper reported Friday.

The seniors remained in housing limbo four months after the blaze destroyed row after row of tightly packed homes at the Santa Rosa park called Journey's End, the San Francisco Chronicle reported .

"It is purgatory," said Theresa Udall, 83, who is living in a tiny apartment that costs two-thirds of her monthly income.

"When the fire first happened, videos of the park up in flames went all around the world. My son in Hong Kong saw it. Everyone was talking about us," Udall said. "Now, nothing. We feel really abandoned by those in authority."

Only 40 of the 121 homes at the park survived the flames but they were shuttered after officials found asbestos near the park's former laundry room.

The city is not tracking all of the residents, but the Chronicle interviewed more than a dozen and found many had moved to extended-stay motels or to trailers with federal assistance money, while others were staying with family or friends.

Even if the park is rebuilt, some said, paying market-rate rent for other units in the interim could drain the savings of people who are mostly retired and living on Social Security.

At Journey's End, residents were paying about $500 a month, well below Santa Rosa's median rent of about $1,600 for a one-bedroom unit.

Mayor Chris Coursey hopes the city can keep housing at Journey's End affordable, but he said he is still unsure how that could happen since the park is privately owned and there's no zoning mandate requiring low-income housing on the site.

"We haven't had a community meeting with the residents there since a few weeks after the fire," Coursey said. "I'll take ownership of that. I feel badly that the folks there feel forgotten."

Clarisse McCoy, 85, moved to Redding to live with her daughter after the mobile home she owns was red-tagged. She said she doesn't have money to fix the place.

"I feel like I'm living in a motel room," she said. "I don't belong here. I don't know where home is anymore."


Information from: San Francisco Chronicle, http://www.sfgate.com http://www.sfgate.com       

(Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Photo: Getty Images

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