Over 24 years, Georgine and Ray Melatini have built a palace of memories inside their modest mobile home.
From the china cabinet, where crockery shined to perfection glistens in the sunlight trickling in from the couple’s bay window, to a black-and-white image of Georgine’s late uncle in military uniform, the sentimental value in the Melatini home matches that of any mansion.
The senior couple, both in their 70s, has traversed tribulations, rising rents and declining services, in the past at the Delta Manufactured Home Park, including a sewage crisis in the mid-1990s, but the couple came out unscathed.
That is, until last Thursday, when the entire mobile home park was handed eviction notices with Oct. 1 as the lease termination date and no reasoning attached nor mention of compensation.
First, it was shock, a feeling that reverberated in their living room during an interview on Friday.
“You hear rumours. It’s just what happens; everybody talks. It’s just this one proved to be true,” Georgine said.
Feelings of shock resonated among other residents in the mobile home park, where many poured years of work into their homes.
For Duncan and Kathy Cameron, it’s the garden beside their home, a sanctuary that feels miles away from the disarray of a few of the pads in the park. The garden — an array of colours in bloom, with a healthy, green lawn and a quaint ornamental water mill — is a stark contrast with some of the pads, which appear more akin to a junkyard than a home.
Duncan worked in the air force, then as a firefighter in Moose Jaw before turning to trucking when asthma made firefighting untenable. Now, he and his wife have retired, aged 70 and 66, living off pensions that make potentially finding a new home all the more daunting.
“It’d just be really nice if we were told why we were kicked out of here,” Duncan said. “The rents out there, there’s nothing. Absolutely nothing.”
Residents estimate up to 40 people live in the park, and one neighbour, Stephen Tozer, said most were on disability or seniors pensions.
“It’s going to be a huge hardship, because they’ve invested part of their nest egg in there to have some housing security,” said Linda Sankey with the South Okanagan Similkameen Brain Injury Society.
For many, relocating that investment simply won’t be an option. Georgine and Ray doubt they would be able to move their home, which has been in place for nearly a quarter century.
“As far as companies that could come in and relocate them, I would think that the majority of those trailers are not in a condition that is roadworthy,” Sankey said. On top of that, most mobile home parks don’t take older homes and few have any vacancies, Sankey said. Which then begs the question: Where does one go in a red-hot rental market with few vacancies and rising rents?
The provincial government announced plans last month to enhance protections for tenants in mobile home parks.
But on Friday, many in the park were wondering if they had any protections from an eviction on locatee land — the park is owned by Fred Kruger of the Penticton Indian Band.
The Melatinis maintained some gumption. They had called SOSBIS, the B.C. Seniors Advocate and the Access Centre to seek opinions. They sought help from the offices of MLA Dan Ashton and MP Richard Cannings. Over the weekend, a tenancy association was formed to fight the evictions.
|Despite receiving the eviction notice on Thursday, Stephen Tozer maintained a sort of chipper optimism Friday about the situation, continuing to work on his garden.
Dustin Godfrey/Western News
At that same point, Tozer had some optimism about the issue.
The former realtor and developer hoped he would be able to renegotiate with Kruger for a hike in pad rentals to fund what he believed to be the real issue: infrastructure costs needed to keep the mobile home park running.
“The name of it is called: Bottom line for his entity,” Tozer said.
Rumours circulated in the community that Kruger was not making money on the mobile home park. Tozer hoped he would be able to renegotiate the lease terms with Kruger and property managers Stanmar Services.
Attempts to contact Kruger and Stanmar did not yield a response Monday. Duncan said most in the park would likely be willing to pay higher rents if it meant keeping their homes, but he wasn’t so optimistic about it.
By Monday, any hint of optimism Duncan and the Melatinis once had effectively dissipated, and the initial shock had abated into sobriety. Even the sprightly Tozer, who works on his property during sunny afternoons with a chipper productivity, had lost some of the cheer in his tone.
Cannings’ office had gotten back to the Melatinis. Provincial tenancy legislation was not effective on locatee land, which is under federal jurisdiction, and there are no federal laws governing tenancy on Indigenous land.
Now, the Melatinis are looking at their options. The elderly couple is looking at 55-plus homes, but if nothing works out, the couple worries they will have to move into an assisted living home.
Getting on in their years, they said they had looked at that as something to consider for the future, but it was always supposed to be in the case of failing health, not failing housing.
Once they’ve figured out their living situation, they move on to the task of prioritizing their memories. Sifting through their sentimental palace and deciding which memories to hold onto and which ones will go in a box left at a thrift store.
“Moving is pretty tough when you get to be our age. Packing isn’t so easy. And deciding what goes, what doesn’t. If you look around, there’s memories,” Georgine said.
“You have to walk away from your home after being here for 24 years,” Ray added. “It doesn’t feel very good at all.”