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Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

Spruces Homes for Hurricane Victims Remain Available

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Friday, September 16, 2005

Williamstown - Two more Spruces mobile home park mobile homes are being readied for people left homeless by Hurricane Katrina, but whether any storm victims will occupy the homes is uncertain at this point, said Spruces tenant’s association President Susan Fabregas during a Sept. 15 interview.

One Home Finds New Owners

A displaced couple found a home at the park last week, when Edith and Anthony Gulotta moved into a tenant-renovated 1958 mobile home at 64 Langlois Avenue. The Gulottas lost their New Orleans home when a levee broke and water from Lake Pontchartrain swept over the house. According to newspaper reports published last week, park owners planned to sell the mobile home to the couple for $1.

The Gulottas had evacuated their Louisiana home before the water washed away their belongings. They made their way to Cheshire, where they initially shared the home of their son’s fiancée’s parents.

Fabregas said that the two homes presently being renovated are expected to be equipped with basic amenities such as furniture, housewares, and even a television set, and notice of the property availability to hurricane victims has been posted on the Internet.

Direct Contact Dilemmas

Fabregas said that she is trying to make direct contact with anyone who is organizing relocation efforts so that she can be assured the hurricane’s victims are getting the information about the homes.

So far, she has been unable to make that contact, she said. Fabregas said that she would appreciate speaking to anyone with reliable information about how to speak directly with a person in charge of relocation efforts.

Meanwhile, several tenants’ association residents are continuing to repair the two homes, she said.

Catch-22

During last week’s Northern Berkshire Community Coalition Meeting, announcement was made that the park’s recreation center was open to accept donations of furniture, housewares, and other items meant to furnish mobile homes for evacuees. People are making donations, Fabregas said.

Fabregas said that as of the evening of Sept. 15, no hurricane victims have expressed interest in either of the renovations-in-progress homes.

And if no hurricane evacuees acquire the homes, eventually “they’d have to go up for sale,” Fabregas said. “It’s really a Catch-22.”

The idea was to have the homes ready for immediate evacuee occupancy, so repair work was initiated, she said. But with no takers so far, it is possible that the homes won’t end up with hurricane victims as owners.

Larry Miller, who is the controller for Morgan Management, reportedly told the North Adams Transcript during an interview last week that the firm had listed 80 unoccupied mobile homes located in four states with both the American Red Cross and the Federal Emergency Management Association as being available to flood victims.

Miller reportedly pledged to keep costs affordable for displaced flood victims and also reportedly said that the company was willing to talk to any storm victims interested in the homes and work with them on an individual basis. Work accomplished by Spruces tenants at the home now occupied by the Gulotta couple was a catalyst for the $1 home sale, Miller reportedly said.

The park is designated as a retirement community and is required by federal HUD statute to maintain an 80 percent age 55-and-over residency rate, Fabregas said.

Fabregas said that a portion of the money used for the mobile home renovations has come out of the pockets of several park residents. The management firm will reimburse some of that money, she said.

Auction Scheduled

Park residents are conducting a public auction on Saturday, Sept. 17, Fabregas said. Any money raised is earmarked to offset renovation costs that are not being reimbursed, she said.

Fabregas said that the auction had been planned before Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast as a way to raise money for the tenant’s association, and an auction item collection was underway when Katrina hit. Any money raised will still benefit the tenant’s association membership as part of the association’s efforts toward mobile home repairs, she said.

An hour-long auction item preview is scheduled for 10 a.m. the day of the event, she said. The auction begins at 11 a.m..

Size Matters

Donations of goods to be used in the renovated homes are still being accepted, Fabregas said. She noted that some people have “donated” items that do not work. Those items are not helpful and will have to be disposed of, she said.

“I can’t tell you how many TV’s we’ve gotten that don’t work,” she said. “Now we’ll have to find the means to dispose of them.”

Fabregas also asked people to be mindful that mobile home space is smaller in dimension than the space usually found in traditional homes. Some donated furniture items won’t fit easily –or won’t fit at all- through smaller-sized doors, and may be too big to fit in mobile home rooms, she said. Food items with expired “use by” dates have also turned up as donations, she said.

But numerous donated items are “wonderful, beautiful things” and are greatly appreciated, she said.

Hopes are high that some hurricane evacuees will learn about the available mobile homes and ultimately decide to move to the park, Fabregas said.

“It’s been hard to make contact with anyone in charge of finding housing and I know that if you are from the South, you might be uncertain about New England,” she said. “But we are getting these homes ready if anyone is interested and hey, we do have four seasons and it is beautiful country. Somebody might want to give it a try.”

Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at suebush123@adelphia.net or at 802-823-9367.

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