Longform

Trailer Trashed

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The only option for the residents was to ask a judge to intervene. Fifteen of them sued Cox. For those living in the rundown park, the lawsuit has become their way out, if only it works.


Sherry Henderson has the kind of setup those Canadians used to dream about. She has a trailer two doors from the shuffleboard courts. It's right behind the house where the Lowmans used to live, on the exit side of the U-shaped drive that cuts through the park. She has a small concrete porch where she has a swing chair and a chaise. She has piled cushions on the chaise, and you can find her reading out there most afternoons. She moved to the park two years ago after open-heart surgery. It's the only place she can afford with her $700-a-month disability checks from the government. "Most everybody, including me, came here to get their lives together," she says. "They'll stay two or three years and then move on because this is cheap living."

Henderson has had it perhaps worse than anybody in the park over the past few months. She has partial power, but no functioning refrigerator or hot water heater. Her plumbing was out for months until Cox finally fixed it in late January. Until then, she snuck into the bathroom of an abandoned trailer. When the roof collapsed there, she started washing her hair in the sink of the laundry room. When Cox padlocked the laundry room, Henderson had to rely on the generosity of neighbors for a quick, cold shower.

On a recent Tuesday afternoon, Henderson shared her porch with Conniston "Connie" Lambert, a former park resident evicted by Cox. Lambert, who stands just over five feet, was born in Ireland but grew up in Brooklyn, giving him a mix of Irish and New York brogue. He talks often of his former days as a boxer. When he speaks, he regularly throws open-fisted punches in front of him. "What you have to ask yourself about this predicament," Lambert says, throwing a one-two combination, "is what's the wind-up? Who's jerking off who?"

"Nobody's jerking off anybody," Henderson says, lounging in an oversized green

T-shirt pulled down to her knees. At 56, she still has a flirty smile and blonde hair past her shoulders. With two college degrees, she's the park's resident expert on most matters. She spent most of her life as an exotic dancer, but she says she has also worked as a court reporter and a private investigator. "This is just Wes Cox being an asshole."

Lambert spent a few months sleeping on Henderson's couch since getting evicted. A few months back, Henderson gave Lambert mouth to mouth, perhaps saving his life, after he passed out in a drunken daze. He picks up his third can of Natural Light in an hour's span. "But who's getting jerked off from this deal?" he asks.

"Nobody's getting jerked off," Henderson says. "Who's getting jerked around here are the residents. There are people walking around like zombies because they have no place to go."

The residents are betting everything on winning the lawsuit, Henderson says. They'll need the money to put down a security deposit on a new place or to pay to have their trailers moved. They'll buy a little something extra for themselves too. "I have to remain positive," she says. "If that comes through, I'm gonna buy myself a used Toyota pickup, I'm gonna pack up my stuff and head to north Florida where things are cheap. I'm gonna get the hell out of here."

With mostly disabled and elderly residents left in the park, the thieves have had easy pickings. Most of them blame McFayden's lackeys. Burglars emptied Henderson's cooler of food one night. A couple of days later, they took the generator that used to power Annie Johnston's mobile home. Then they broke into Bob Phillips' place.

A few days after the break-in, Henderson and Lambert try to do a crime scene reenactment. A former government worker, 67-year-old Phillips has been on disability for 25 years because of a back injury. He has a simple trailer, its walls full of clippings from tabloid newspapers, paintings of Jesus, and pictures of kittens. "They tried to get in here," Phillips says, pointing to a window with a damaged frame. "They couldn't do it, so they tried this window in the bedroom." He walks to the rear of the trailer, where there's a side door. "I think they got in here because I forgot to lock it." The thieves had stolen all his food. "I had a bunch of chicken in my cooler. They had a buy-one-get-one-free deal at Winn-Dixie, so I had a bunch of it."



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Eric Alan Barton
Contact: Eric Alan Barton