Editors note: This article is one of three that contributed to the December cover story.
By Allison Robertson. On a chilly Sunday in November at Hilltop Mobile Home Park, Don “Tubby” and Charlotte Chamberlin work on fixing the porch of their mobile home to ready it for sale.
“State College is getting want they want,” Tubby
said. “Next they’ll be telling you what color to paint your house.”
Tubby and Charlotte bought their first mobile home in Woodsdale after they were married in 1972. Twenty years later, when the land was sold, the Chamberlins came to Hilltop Mobile Home Park, Tubby said.
Unfortunately, this will be the second time they have to move.
In State College, Tubby has worked renting out heavy equipment for Hanson’s for 43 years. This year he will be forced into retirement.
Charlotte used to work at the Pattee Library in mail receiving, but she retired 12 years ago after working there for 31 years.
Over the years, since the two had no children, they’ve let students live with them in their home for no cost and commute to campus, said Tubby. They understand that living in State College isn’t cheap, Tubby continued.
Luckily, though, unlike some residents, Tubby and Charlotte have a place to go. The
couple bought two acres of land in Seven Mountains Campground and will be moving there in February.
Even if they have a place to go, however, the two don’t want to leave their home.
“We’re moving a little sooner than we want to,” Tubby said.
Other than fixing the porch, the couple has to get a new septic tank before they can move.
Juliet Clouser, another resident of Hilltop, however, was not so lucky to find another home.
Clouser worked in real-estate until she developed a herniated disc, and then after a surgery, had to have part of her leg amputated. Once she was able to work again, Clouser could only find a job that paid lower than her old job.
At the end of June, Clouser and her family couldn’t afford to live in her home anymore, so she put her house in Port Matilda on the market to move to Hilltop, said Clouser. She planned to stay here so she and her husband could pay off her medical bills and save up a little money.
When she first moved in, she told the park owner of her troubles, Clouser said. But, Clouser discovered later, while she was in the process of buying a trailer in the park, the park owner was negotiating a sale price for the park.
Though Juliet said she asked the park owner for help, she “got nothing from them.”
Clouser plans to live with her oldest daughter and son-in-law, but that’s only if they close on their home. Clouser won’t know that until mid-November, and until then, things are up in the air.
“I don’t know what to do,” said Clouser.
Joyce Shuey has lived in Hilltop Mobile Home Park for ten years with her husband. She moved into the park because when she got a job at Penn State, commuting from Hilltop was easier for her.
Shuey said she didn’t plan to retire just yet, but the closure of the park has pushed her into retirement.
“It’s not easy working and trying to move, and being forced to find a place real fast,” Shuey said. “It was just like, ‘Find it now, you don’t have a choice.’ It’s stressful.”
Shuey will be leaving at the end of the month, moving to Ridge Crest Community, on the other side of Howard.
“I was thinking I’d get lucky and this one will stay,” said Shuey.
Shuey is one of the few members of the community that are left in the park.“You get to know the neighbors, and they all left. It’s like starting over again,” she said.
When Shuey described the atmosphere of the park, she said, “They’re not angry, they’re afraid.”
Many residents don’t know where to go, or they have little options with paychecks too low to afford the expensive apartments in the area, Shuey said.
Penn State Mobile Home Park
Stacy Shuey has been living in Penn State Mobile Home Park for three years in December. Before she moved here, she had an apartment, but moved to the park in order to save the pets her landlord didn’t like and to build up credit for a first-time buyer’s loan to get a house.
Once the park announced its closure, Shuey tried to get a new place, but the lease fell through and she lost the security deposit. She is not only worried about herself, but her pets as well, and all the shelters are full with waiting lists.
“This has been a nightmare, an absolute nightmare,” she said.
Shuey and her husband have had huge financial difficulties, she said. They had to refinance a year ago, and are now locked into a five year loan.
In order to earn some extra money, Shuey tried to find a renter for her home, but instead she took in her stepfather after he
was forced to leave his apartment because of a forged signature on the lease.
Shuey is on social security, her husband works at Wal-mart and her stepfather that lives with them works at the McDonald’s downtown. Their hours fluctuate, as does the cash flow, Shuey said.
Shuey and her family are aiming for January move out, but really worry about the competition from students. They are not prepared for winter, because planned to move in the fall. If Shuey finds somewhere else to live, having to pay rent and electric for a new place after winterizing her trailer is going to be really hard. She said she doesn’t think she can do it.
“We don’t know where to turn,” she said, adding that the owners of the park have not offered any compensation or very much help.
“I don’t know why they’d never offer compensation here,” Shuey said, especially with how many families and seniors live in the park. “That’s the one thing I don’t understand.
The park did offer assistance, Shuey said, but to help with housing transitions and the elderly finding senior living, but nothing for financial assistance.
The only help Shuey has received was from the head of her daughter’s preschool, whose prayer group offered financial help for security deposit on the apartment that fell through.
Shuey said she find it odd that everyone is talking about this problem, but no one is doing anything to help raise funds for those in need, even though the parks’ closure has been mentioned in papers. She said she would even appreciate suggestions on where to go and affordable housing options in the area.
“I’m pulling my hair out,” she said, after doing online search after online search and receiving no responses from calls and emails to realtors.
The only feasible options Shuey has found are in Erie,Pa., which is far away from the jobs her husband and stepdad have and the rest of her family in State College.
“Trying to stay in the State College area is really hard,” said Shuey.
Shuey grew up in Hilltop Mobile Home Park. Her grandmother, who recently passed away, used to live there until she was put in a nursing home.
“I’m glad that she never had to see what happened,” Shuey said. Luckily, Shuey was able to sell the other trailer last year. But she’s tied to both places.
With everyone leaving, Shuey said, “It’s really eerie around here now. It’s getting really sad.”
Doug Flynn has lived at Penn State Mobile Home Park for 8 years since his grandmother passed away, and he moved into her old trailer. He wants to save his home because of the sentimental value, but he knows it’s not possible.
Flynn, who works at the YBC lumberyard, said that the park offered help by bringing in housing transition people, but all they were offering was section 8 housing, which many people don’t qualify for. The park residents were also offered options of places that are really far away, and that’s not realistic, Flynn said, because everyone’s life is here
“The apartments that they were finding were the ones that we could find on the internet just the same as well as they did,” Chuck Cravener, who has lived here for ten years and works at Lowe’s.“
They just don’t want trailers in the area anymore,” added Flynn.
Flynn said he hasn’t done any yard work in months because he’s lost interest in making the yard look good anymore.
“There’s gonna be a bulldozer running through here this summer,” said Flynn.
Flynn will soon be moving to another park on the other side of town, he said, because he doesn’t want to live in an apartment or any other type of home.
“To me, it’s a house,” Flynn said. “It’s not an apartment no one on either side of the walls, or above me and below me. And it’s mine.”