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Article updated: 8/23/2013 5:36 AM

Wheeling mobile home park residents say village forcing them to move

Residents of a Wheeling mobile home park fear displacement

Residents of the Fox Point mobile home complex assemble outside of Wheeling’s village hall Thursday to protest possible loss of use of their mobile homes. Mark Janeck is the village’s community development director.

Residents of the Fox Point mobile home complex assemble outside of Wheeling's village hall Thursday to protest possible loss of use of their mobile homes. Mark Janeck is the village's community development director.

 

Dave Dvorak | Staff Photographer

From left, Raul Montes Jr. and Javier Barrera climb the stairs of Wheeling’s village hall Thursday to deliver a letter to Village President Dean Argiris pleading with the village to allow Fox Point mobile home park residents to stay in their homes.

From left, Raul Montes Jr. and Javier Barrera climb the stairs of Wheeling's village hall Thursday to deliver a letter to Village President Dean Argiris pleading with the village to allow Fox Point mobile home park residents to stay in their homes.

 

Dave Dvorak | Staff Photographer

Ellen Piotrowski, 13, of Wheeling, right, who lives in the Fox Point mobile home park along Milwaukee Avenue, protests last Friday with her neighbors.

Ellen Piotrowski, 13, of Wheeling, right, who lives in the Fox Point mobile home park along Milwaukee Avenue, protests last Friday with her neighbors.

 

Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

Alejandra Barrera, 19, of the Fox Point mobile home park in Wheeling hauls out protest signs last Friday saying the village is trying to push residents out.

Alejandra Barrera, 19, of the Fox Point mobile home park in Wheeling hauls out protest signs last Friday saying the village is trying to push residents out.

 

Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

Cesar and Dases Cesles and his daughter Sarae, 7, protest what they say is Wheeling’s attempt to drive out residents of Fox Point mobile home park along Milwaukee Avenue.

Cesar and Dases Cesles and his daughter Sarae, 7, protest what they say is Wheeling's attempt to drive out residents of Fox Point mobile home park along Milwaukee Avenue.

 

Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

Residents of Fox Point mobile home park along Milwaukee Avenue in Wheeling protest last Friday, alleging the village is trying to displace them.

Residents of Fox Point mobile home park along Milwaukee Avenue in Wheeling protest last Friday, alleging the village is trying to displace them.

 

Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

Yair Carreno, 5, Gabnela Guillen, 4, and Areli Carreno, 7, join the protest last Friday

Yair Carreno, 5, Gabnela Guillen, 4, and Areli Carreno, 7, join the protest last Friday

 

Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

Fox Point mobile home park residents in Wheeling, including Juan Lara, center, are protesting what they say are the village’s efforts to displace them from their homes.

Fox Point mobile home park residents in Wheeling, including Juan Lara, center, are protesting what they say are the village's efforts to displace them from their homes.

 

Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

Fox Point mobile home park resident Elena Corona, right, pickets Thursday outside village hall in Wheeling, claiming residents are being forced out by the village.

Fox Point mobile home park resident Elena Corona, right, pickets Thursday outside village hall in Wheeling, claiming residents are being forced out by the village.

 

Dave Dvorak | Staff Photographer

Fox Point mobile home park residents picket outside Wheeling’s village hall Thursday while representatives of the group deliver a letter to village President Dean Argiris asking to allow residents to remain in their homes.

Fox Point mobile home park residents picket outside Wheeling's village hall Thursday while representatives of the group deliver a letter to village President Dean Argiris asking to allow residents to remain in their homes.

 

Dave Dvorak | Staff Photographer

Fox Point mobile home park resident Javier Barrera, left, pickets Thursday outside village hall in Wheeling.

Fox Point mobile home park resident Javier Barrera, left, pickets Thursday outside village hall in Wheeling.

 

Dave Dvorak | Staff Photographer

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Roughly two dozen residents of Fox Point mobile home park in Wheeling assembled at village hall Thursday afternoon to protest their potential displacement.

They delivered a letter addressed to village President Dean Argiris demanding their homes not be destroyed for economic development.

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They carried picket signs reading, "Stop discriminating" and "We are poor, not stupid," and they chanted slogans asking village officials to hear their pleas.

Fox Point residents claim that for several months they have been harassed for damage to their homes from an April storm.

"We feel that the damage was minimal and that this is an excuse for the village of Wheeling to force our 41 families out of our homes to be displaced," said resident Javier Barrera in a letter to Argiris.

Barrera has lived in the Fox Point mobile home park off Milwaukee Avenue for 12 years. The park itself is roughly 50 years old. Residents say it used to be majority white, but now it is primarily immigrants who live there.

"We feel that we are simply being discriminated and this is a violation of our civil and human rights, and unconstitutional," Barrera said in his letter to the village.

Village officials said the Fox Point area sustained severe flood damage and has been designated as being part of a floodway.

The village's community development department, representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and county and state emergency management agencies conducted damage assessments of the mobile homes after the April flooding, according to a village news release.

They determined seven mobile homes were uninhabitable, and more than 25 sustained varying degrees of damage ranging from mold to structural instability and electrical problems.

As a result of the floodway designation, the mobile homes that were uninhabitable may not be repaired or replaced. The remaining damaged mobile homes are subject to federally defined repair limitations because of the floodway regulations and are being dealt with on a case-by-case basis, the village release said.

"There is nothing wrong with my mobile home," Barrera said Thursday, adding that he has the paperwork from FEMA to prove it. However, he said the village claims his mobile home is completely deteriorated, is sinking on one side, and has damaged electrical wiring.

Village Manager Jon Sfondilis said the village has no plans to redevelop the area.

"I can give you full assurance that the village is not interested in that land for development purposes," he said. "The village is not interested in that land at all."

Since the April flooding, the village and FEMA have been trying to enforce federal code regulations for necessary repairs to homes damaged by floodwater, he said.

"Nothing has changed with the village and the federal government's continued cooperation with the residents and the ownership to fix this problem," Sfondilis said.

Fox Point resident Juan Lara said several of the residents received letters from FEMA saying they are not eligible for assistance because there was insufficient damage. He said it's unfair that the village is applying building code regulations for single-family homes to mobile homes.

"They are saying we need to hire an engineer or architect with license," said Lara, who works at the Westin Chicago North Shore in Wheeling.

Meanwhile, some residents who have received FEMA funding for repairs have submitted permit applications to the village but are not being allowed to proceed and have been cited for violations, Lara said. Some residents have been served notice to appear at an administrative adjudication hearing at 2 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 3, in the village council chambers.

The Rev. Jose Landaverde of Our Lady of Guadalupe Anglican Mission of Chicago organized the protest. In other steps to publicize the dispute, residents picketed on Milwaukee Avenue last Friday, and children and adults camped out Wednesday night.

"It's very important to the community because this is a very poor immigrant community," Landaverde said. "It's about family. It's about housing. The village is trying to evict them."

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