When I first heard about Dee Jackson’s situation, I assumed she was being a defiant tenant, one who will stand her ground, who will only leave kicking and screaming – I learned quickly that wasn’t the case.
When I pulled into the trailer park off Conejo School Road, I saw a massive modern apartment complex to my right, bustling construction site to my left, and Dee Jackson’s trailer in the middle.
As I parked, I could hear dogs barking and then a tiny woman emerged from the trailer, decked out in an orange ball cap, orange top, and blue jeans. Dee put her dogs inside the trailer, and she invited to sit in her front yard, a place that reminded me of a botanical garden, overrun with foliage, flowers and trees.
Dee told me the previous owner of the trailer park informed her a couple months ago that he sold the property. She says he tried to make her an offer, but she refused. She also realized she had to make some tough choices about where to go. She told me her trailer is way too old to move and she doesn’t want to leave the state, even if it meant going to a more ‘senior-friendly’ location.
Dee says the new owner paid her a visit and she explained her situation. She said the new owner, Jonathan Friedman, was very kind and had offered to help her relocate. She says Friedman initially offered her $30,000 in compensation but then raised it to $40,000.
I contacted Friedman, who owns Jemstreet Properties in Thousand Oaks. Friedman said he believes Dee has the best of intentions and he was compelled to help because he hopes he is never in the same situation. Friedman told me in his 37 years of real estate development he’s never been faced with this type of challenge.
Dee says Friedman has been taking her to various senior-living complexes and low-income sites to help her apply for housing. Dee says the average rent is around $1,200 per month – she currently pays $600.00.
Dee says if she takes the offer from Friedman and moves out, she’s afraid the money will run out sooner than later. Dee retired from full-time dog grooming in 2001. She says she still does some grooming every so often to supplement her $1,300 a month social security check. And, she says she’s worried that any new housing will not accept her 2 dogs, Zoe and Prince.
Friedman says Dee is stuck in a gap, a place where there’s no obvious solution. He says low-income/senior housing is tough to come by and the housing market in Ventura County is not that affordable.
In my research it was clear, if Dee was homeless, on the streets, she would qualify for immediate temporary housing. And, if she showed initiative, city, county, even state services would try to place her in permanent housing with a pipeline to employment. But, since she’s able-bodied, gets a monthly check, will get compensation for her trailer, and has a part-time job, she doesn’t qualify for a lot of services.
Friedman says he’s convinced Dee isn’t trying to hold him up, and he says he is not trying to put her out on the street. But this is quite a conundrum. Afterall, he says, he still has investors and city permits to honor. Friedman says he must break ground within 4-5 months.
A GoFundMe page has been setup to help Dee offset moving expenses and living expenses. I’m told by organizers that if they raise enough money, they may take it and add it to the compensation offered by Friedman so Dee could buy a new trailer.