Over the past few weeks several of you have asked Mo. Sarah and I how the former residents of the Wellington Park Mobile Home Community are doing since their displacement six months ago. Your curiosity as a community about the outcomes for our vulnerable neighbors reminds me of why our church became so deeply involved in this work last year to advocate for, share meals and money with, and be present to the struggles of the residents. My response to one of our faithful St. John’s members when she asked for an update was: “How long do you have? There are many answers to this question.”
Most of you remember that the Wellington Park Mobile Home Community was sold to Middleburg Developers and rezoned by the Wake Forest Board of Commissioners to build 300 new rental units. This sale and rezoning displaced 40 families, many who are veterans, elderly on fixed incomes, daycare providers, healthcare workers and small business owners.
Facing the most competitive housing market in our history, only a few of these households were able to stay in Wake Forest. Research tells us that dislocation and eviction has generational repercussions: children have to change schools, people lose their jobs, their social networks are disrupted, and those people already on the margins face homelessness. This research has proven true for many of the families at Wellington.
Our core group who worked closely with the residents and continue to keep in touch with them have reported that there are two families who remain in temporary housing as they seek land and permits for relocating their nearly new doublewide mobile homes that were purchased shortly before they learned that Wellington would be sold. Together, these two families have four school-aged children and the adults all work in Wake Forest. Funds from local churches and the relocation money provided by the developer will run out in the coming weeks. Both of these families have reached out to ask for prayers and any leads on affordable temporary housing while they wait for the land and permits at the new sites for their mobile homes.
At least seven of the households with elderly residents found different mobile home parks or subsidized housing. However, for these residents, their new rent payment was more than double what they paid at Wellington. Several other households doubled up with other family members and/or moved to different parts of the state or country closer to support networks or job opportunities.
One family moved to a newer mobile home in a neighboring county. The Wake Forest Baptist Men’s Group stayed in touch with this family, and last week installed a much-needed wheelchair ramp with some financial support for supplies from St. John’s.
Several Wellington families still stop by Monday or Wednesday nights at our Community Table dinners in order to save some time and money on food. One of the veteran residents purchased a new home in Louisburg and is loving his new home and community. He calls his St. John’s friends on a weekly basis with updates, and expresses much gratitude for the love and support he felt through the process.
This holistic and relational model of outreach that St. John’s has followed as we’ve engaged with our Wellington neighbors has provided immediate and much needed resources, food and even Christmas gifts, AND it inspired advocacy from so many of our members who showed up at the Board of Commissioners meetings, demanding creative and effective policies to protect affordable housing and our vulnerable neighbors.
Not a week goes by that I or one of our members who worked with Wellington Park residents doesn’t hear from one or more of the former residents. They often say how they felt the love of our church and it restored them in a very dark time. Thank you for checking in on our Beloved Community and for being a light in the world!