EL PORTAL, Fla. (AP) — At first glance, the 15-acre Little Farm trailer park in El Portal, Florida, looks like a rundown neighborhood in need of a face-lift. But to the residents, many of them Hispanic and Haitian immigrants, this close-knit community was home.
Nelly Shirley, 74, won a beautification award in 2003 for creating a lush, tropical garden surrounding her mobile home of 22 years. Clairmise Blanc, 72, was known as the "mayor of Little Farm" for keeping a log on the goings on at the trailer park. She reminisces about the nearly 10 years spent living in her home with her husband before he passed away. Carole Hatcher, 54, calls her mobile home "a paradise." She had envisioned spending her golden years here.
They and other residents of Little Farm have moved since being evicted when the park was purchased in 2015 by Wealthy Delight LLC. The site is in preliminary planning for a mixed-use development. Residents were given more than one year to move out before the park was shut down July 31.
A group of mobile home owners received an $8,000 settlement per household, after a lawsuit alleged that El Portal violated the Florida Mobile Home Act, which mandates that relocation studies must be conducted ahead of closure agreements.
In an area of South Florida known for its glitzy, luxurious condo towers, affordable rental housing is hard to come by. Many of the residents of Little Farm work low-wage jobs or are retirees on fixed incomes. Residents who couldn't find housing are living with friends or family as they wait for availability of Section 8 housing. The trailer park will be razed.