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Mobile savages

Puyallup mobile home community threatened by developer.

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Pattie Donery has no idea how she is going to survive the next year. Last week she underwent major heart surgery to repair damage from two heart attacks. As she recovers at home in Puyallup’s Country Aire Manor mobile home park, she and her doctors are trying to figure out how she can stop taking blood thinners long enough to survive surgery to treat a cancerous tumor in her brain. Donery’s husband, Doug, 60, isn’t in much better shape, she says. His list of ailments includes peripheral neuropathy, kidney failure, chronic bronchitis, asthma, and emphysema. The Donery’s live with their sons, who asked not to be named. Both of the Donery’s sons are undergoing treatment for cancer — one has a brain tumor, the other testicular cancer.

Last month, the Donery family was told they have a year to move from their home of seven years so local developer Verus Puyallup LLC can build a Kohl’s department store and a Home Depot on the land currently occupied by their home. Donery is among more than 150 residents at Country Aire who received legal notice that they have a year to move their home or find another one to live in. Considering her family’s health and circumstances, neither of those options is possible, says Donery.

“I may not survive this,” says Donery. “Doug and I have been married for 44 years, and we have been through an awful lot. I’ve gone without food so we can pay for Doug’s medication. We are in such bad shape now. I’ve always taken care of how we live and where. I don’t have what it takes, physically, to do it anymore. And they want us to move? I’m not a negative person, but I don’t think we will get out of this.”

Before you stop to consider the Donery’s tragedy, Country Aire Manor resident Stephanie Thornton would remind you that theirs is one of dozens of similar stories. Most of Country Aire’s residents are challenged by age, disability or meager incomes, she says. A spectrum of assistance offered by the developers, Pierce County and various state agencies will do little to ease transitions for most of the people being forced to move. The $12,000 in mobile-home relocation assistance offered by the state Department of Community Trade and Economic Development (CTED) is about $4,000 short of what Thornton says she’ll need to move her home and her family. Not that the difference matters, she says. Because of a flood of similar mass displacements throughout Washington, state assistance funds have dried up. More than 50 mobile home parks have closed or been converted since 2006, affecting nearly 2,000 households in Washington. Those trends are expected to continue.

If there is good news, it’s that Verus has offered to back the state’s promise with equivalent loans that would be recouped from the state when it refills its coffers. But that won’t help dozens of residents who don’t qualify for the assistance, or whose homes can’t be moved, or those who, like the Donerys, simply can’t move.

Country Aire resident Tanya Deutsche says that she simply can’t fathom moving from her home, regardless of how much assistance is offered. Deutsche is developmentally disabled, and lives on state assistance with her 13-year-old daughter who is also developmentally disabled. She moved to Country Aire in late 2006 to get a new start after losing her husband of just two and a half years to cancer.

“I love my home here,” she says. “It’s safe here, and the bus service is great. My daughter can walk to Fred Meyer. My home is paid for. If they make us leave, I have no place to go. There’s nowhere to go.”

LINK: KIRO TV picks up the story.

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