‘It really hurts’: Residents of closing Franklin Manor Mobile Home Park wonder where to go

Denny Harvey, a resident of Franklin Manor Mobile Home Park, at his home on Friday, April 4, 2014.
Denny Harvey, a resident of Franklin Manor Mobile Home Park, at his home on Friday, April 4, 2014. CDT photo

If you spend much time traveling on North Atherton Street, you probably know Denny Harvey’s home.

A longtime resident of the Franklin Manor Mobile Home Park, Harvey sells bicycles from his yard, and they are hard to miss from the busy four-lane highway just a stone’s throw away. Across the street sits Wal-Mart and a number of other businesses, the product of years of development around the mobile home park that’s been there since the 1950s.

Soon the bikes will be gone. Harvey will gather them along with the rest of his belongings and move, though he doesn’t know where.

The mobile home park, a holdover from a time before the major developments on North Atherton Street, has deteriorated over the years to the point where its owner says he has no choice but to close.

Even if there are no immediate plans for the land, Harvey said he and his neighbors are left to wonder where they can go, citing a number of other recent mobile home park closures to make way for redevelopment.

“It’s knocking all of us people out,” he said. “Where are we going to go? What are you going to do, you know what I mean?

“It hurts,” Harvey said. “It really hurts.”

A group of local charitable and human services organizations are already working with residents to try to ease the sting.

Natalie Corman, Centre County Office of Adult Services director, helped organize a meeting last week attended by 15 of the park’s 22 families. Other meetings are set up for Tuesday and Wednesday.

The service organizations will work to help residents find temporary and long-term housing and with other needs that arise from the move. But first, they set out to learn a little more about the families that live in the Franklin Manor neighborhood.

“We got an overview, a snapshot of their lives,” Corman said.

Many work within walking distance of the mobile home park and have children in the State College Area School District. Finding housing close to their jobs and within the district is expected to be a challenge because of housing prices.

Owner Ed Temple said as much last month when he announced he was closing the park, something he called a regrettable but necessary decision due to the poor conditions of infra-structure and the trailers.

“These are low-income people,” he said at the time. “The sad thing is, (a number) of these people work at local restaurants, at low-income jobs. Now they are going to be forced to move. They can’t exist in the State College area because of the cost of living.”

Affordable housing stock has been further depleted by closures of other mobile home parks and fires. About 250 affordable units were lost in 2013 and late 2012 between the closures of the Hilltop Mobile Home Park and the Penn State park and serious fires in State College and Bellefonte, according to numbers from Housing Transitions Inc.

Harvey, for one, is concerned about where he and his neighbors can go.

“There are a lot of kids in here,” he said Friday, standing in what for now remains his front yard. “They are going to miss their schools and everything. I don’t know what they are going to do. They are just like us. We’re just figuring out what we can do. We gotta do what we can do.”

Harvey, 60, works at a nearby hotel. His wife works at Wal-Mart. They both walk to work now.

On Friday, his wife was out looking at a possible new home for the family in Bellefonte. But Harvey doesn’t know how they would get to work if they were forced to move there.

He takes pride in his home — he has made numerous upgrades over the years, decorates for holidays and for a time would put up a 9/11 memorial each year. But now, like many other homes in the park, his trailer is deteriorating and Harvey knows it wouldn’t survive a move.

“I kept it up and kept it up, but it’s falling apart and falling apart,” he said. “We’re working to do what we can do.”

There will be two additional meetings this week for residents of the park to learn about assistance. They are scheduled from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday at the Park Forest United Methodist Church.