Trailer Trashed

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Outside the courtroom, Lively said the ruling is a sign that the lawsuit will go their way. She predicted it would set a powerful precedent forcing trailer park owners everywhere to maintain their parks or face the wrath of the courts. "All we want," Lively said, "is to see that these residents have a chance to move forward and to move out of there. That's not too much to ask."

But when you're down and out, establishing a legal precedent can seem like nothing but an academic exercise.

Henderson, sitting on a bench outside the courtroom, wiped away tears before they could mess up her mascara. She and some of the others had hoped the judge would reduce their rent. By sending half to the court, they'd still be paying the entire $270. Few of the residents had paid rent in at least a month, and the judge ordered all back rent to be paid within two months. McCarthy had unwittingly penalized those he was seeking to protect.

"I was saving up that money," Henderson explained. "I had given it to my sister for safekeeping. That was the only way I could find a new place, with that money. Now what am I gonna do? If I had a place to go, I'd just go and leave the trailer. But where am I gonna go?"

Back at the trailer park, most of the residents rejoiced. But Henderson sulked. "We still have to pay that son of a bitch," she said. "Why would I give anyone a dime who treated us this way?"

Two days after the hearing, McFayden spent a Friday afternoon cleaning out his rundown trailer. He worked first on the storage sheds outside. He plucked out tools and bits of metal to keep, then threw everything else into waist-high piles in the yard. He tossed heaps of clothes out of his bedroom. "I'm not keeping most of this shit," McFayden barked. "I've got a couple of suits. Good suits. I'm gonna keep them, and that's about it."

McFayden was finally moving out of his trailer. Not because Cox evicted him for the drug dealing going on there or because he owed $3,103 in back rent. No, McFayden said, he just finally got sick of living in a community where everybody hated him.

McFayden planned to live in his van for the moment. But he had plans to get an apartment soon in south Lake Worth. "Wes is even going to loan me $800 for the first, last, and security," he said. The money is payback for all those years he worked for Cox. It was apparently a relationship anchored in mutual convenience, with Cox turning a blind eye to the drug deals and late rent while McFayden carried out the odd jobs that kept the place barely functional.

For the residents, McFayden's unlamented departure, scurrying off to a different lair, only meant that things would get worse. Somebody scribbled "drug house closed" on the side of his trailer, McFayden said indignantly before he left.

"I guess they thought that was funny or something."

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Eric Alan Barton
Contact: Eric Alan Barton