The final three days have come for residents of Brookside Village Mobile Home Park in Conway after a three-month long battle with owner and landlord Bruce Keathley of Diamond Investment Co.
On April 15, more than 100 Brookside households were issued eviction notices to vacate by June 30 but City of Hope Outreach’s executive director Phil Fletcher sought an extension from the landlord through his attorney Thursday, June 27 and after several days, finally received a yes response, granting residents a two-week extension, required to be out by July 15.
The Log Cabin Democrat spoke with Fletcher on Friday afternoon.
“When we told the families two Saturdays ago [...] people were thankful for the opportunity to get two more weeks,” he said.
At that point, Fletcher said, 20 families still remained; a minimum of two trailers were scheduled to be moved on Friday and four on Saturday.
“That’s where we’re at right now,” he said.
CoHO’s was among the ones that moved this week. The nonprofit has served in the park for the past seven years from tutoring students after school, getting kids off buses, visiting with families, attending birthday parties and other dinners and helping aid in disputes between neighbors and more.
In that time, the park community has become more like family, CoHO representatives have said, including former staff member Mary Nabholz.
Nabholz took to Facebook on Thursday, sharing the aftermath of moving one of their trailers; Fletcher said they are selling the other.
“Today as I stood in the empty hole that once held my world, I wasn’t overwhelmed by the sadness I thought would be there,” she wrote. “Sadness has come, believe me, but today all I felt was the solidifying realization that Brookside has never been this place. This was a building that held the love, community, and hope of its people [,] but its people still remain, carrying that love and hope to every community they enter [and] this building lives on, as a home that will hold a family that has been prayed over and so so loved.”
In the months since the letter hit, CoHO has partnered with several local nonprofits, groups and individuals to work quickly through the mess, meeting with families to assess needs, helping residents make tough decisions, issuing checks and following up with each, constantly going back and forth, updating each other and keeping everyone in the know step-by-step.
More than $28,000 was donated — in addition to $10,000 St. Joseph Church donated to help its Brookside parishoners — which was used to move trailers, set up utilities once relocated, pay rental deposits and take care of other necessities for the families.
Fletcher said they issued their last check on Wednesday.
“We zeroed it out,” he told the LCD. “Our goal was to zero out all the money. It all came in and went out to families in need.”
He did add that he had seen some additional fundraisers taking place online and said that if and when that money comes in, the group will meet again and see what else needs to be taken care of.
The LCD has followed the story since in broke in April and has had the opportunity to talk with Fletcher on multiple occasions. From the beginning, he had said his focus has been on the residents, pushing his own emotions to the side, choosing to think from a more logical perspective and allow himself to be more of a shoulder to cry on for the community when needed.
“In my head, I have not had the opportunity yet to emotionally process this whole experience because I’ve just been in go-plan mode, execute mode,” Fletcher told the LCD on June 25.
Two weeks ago the executive director was fighting for more time. He got it, giving them opportunity to continue working out details. Now, time has run out again, with several tenants still left to help.
Fletcher said the biggest issues continues to be planning, a number of factors that they have to be flexible with and adjust to on the fly, including scheduling the movers.
“The logistics have just been … I’ll be honest, that’s been the difficult one,” he said. “You’ve got cost and time, combined with the layout of the park ... it’s one way in, one way out, that makes it difficult as well.”
On Friday, the LCD asked Fletcher again, where his head was at.
“Combination of obviously thankful when this is over [and] still [a] little uneasy about Monday coming and then finding some solutions for those families,” he said.
Fletcher said he’s had volunteer even reach out to hotel owners asking about the possibility of getting rooms for the remaining few, making sure every family has a place to go until they can get settled.
“That’s still my commitment, CoHO’s commitment and all [of] the other volunteer’s commitment,” he said.