SAN ANTONIO – Over two years ago, 106 households left Mission Trails Mobile Home Park to make way for a new development. However, the effects of displacement are still plaguing many residents.
Since residents were asked to leave in 2015, community nonprofit Vecinos de Mission Trails has been putting together a study on those effects called "Making Displacement Visible: A Case Study Analysis of the 'Mission Trail of Tears.'" The report's author hopes the results will keep history from repeating itself.
"We did not want there to be no record of what had happened, what people had gone through. We wanted there to be numbers. We wanted there to be stories," said researcher Dr. Marisol Cortez.
Vietnam veteran Manuel De la O planned to settle at Mission Trails Mobile Home Park for good.
"My three bedroom trailer. I liked it, it was next to the San Antonio River. I said this is the place I like. I'm going to stay here. I'm going die here. For three years, and then I got the bad news," De la O said.
In January 2015, after putting up a fight, families living at the mobile home park eventually took varied settlements from the developer.
"The average that people got was something like $4,451. But when we asked what would a just amount have been, it was somewhere around $10,000," said Dr. Cortez.
After interviewing 62 people, Cortez found the biggest impact was on housing security. Half the people interviewed, including De la O, financially couldn't move their homes.
"The relocation assistance package was premised on the assumption that people were going to be able to keep their homes and move to another mobile home park, but that was not a viable thing for many people. For example, many of the places they wanted to move to, required repairs and updates to the homes that they couldn't afford," Cortez said.
She said many 17 households reported costly damage to the mobile homes during the move. Plus, the average total moving expenses were reported around $9,000.
"I had just gotten out of the hospital and couldn't move. I left my trailer there and they paid me $2,500. That money went to putting my things in storage for a year. I started staying in my van and then they moved me to some apartments where they wanted $800 a month. I couldn't afford it. So I moved to an apartment in bad condition. Real bad, bugs and everything," De la O said, explaining it took years before he was finally able to move into the home he now lives in.
The study showed 1 out of 5 households experienced homelessness after the displacement. Another 40 percent moved more than once.
There was also a big impact on health, according to the report. Before the displacement at Mission Trails, over three quarters of residents interviewed (76.1 percent) rated their health as good or pretty good. While at the time of the interview, this number fell to under half (47.5 percent).
CONTINUING COVERAGE: Residents need more money to move
"Three in five residents we talked to had some kind of impact to their mental health. Mostly depression, also a lot of anxiety," Cortez said, including children from one in five households needed to seek medical attention for mental health issues.
Cortez hopes the study will make it easier for the city and developers to work with communities in the future.
"The challenge is using the information to come up with preventative policies rather than reactive policies. What I see missing and what I'm hoping this can be a push for is really to bring the people that are most directly impacted on those issues to the table in drafting. Not just reviewing what comes out of the city but drafting the policy solutions," Cortez said. "The people that went through displacement are the experts on displacement."
People like De la O, are OK with serving as examples if it brings change in the future of San Antonio's development.
"Important so it doesn't happen to other people," De la O said.
When asked for a comment on the study, city of San Antonio Department of Human Services Director Melody Woosley sent the following statement:
We have not yet had an opportunity to review the report that was released late this afternoon. Throughout the relocation process, DHS staff worked closely with families at Mission Trails to provide emergency assistance, access to fair housing, counseling, supportive services and other assistance as needed to relocate all of the families.
To access the full study and findings, click here.
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