Trailer park resident struggle to find new home as relocation continues

Zoila Guzman knows it’s just a matter of time that she will be forced to move.

“I’ll stay here until they push me out”


As the area prepares for the arrival of the new Jackson County Jail, residents of the Heart Village Mobile Home Park, near I-70 and 40 highway in KCMO located on the land on which the jail will sit, have been preparing for months to be displaced. But for some, the process of finding a new home under the county’s $1.7 million relocation plan hasn’t been so easy.

Zoila Guzman, a longtime resident of the trailer park, says her trailer, which is fully paid for, is able to accommodate her special needs. Guzman, 43, had a stroke several years ago that left her wheelchair-bound. She says she has scrambled to find a new home with the help of social workers, a search that has been made more difficult by the fact that she has no source of income, and she has yet to find any apartments that are wheelchair-accessible.

County officials have been no help, either, Guzman says. “What they found for me isn’t an apartment. It’s more like a studio,” she says. “My wheelchair doesn’t fit.”

The county has offered to pay Guzman to relocate – Guzman says they’ve offered $20,000 initially but will go as high as $40,000 – but community activist Manny Abarca says the money will only be a temporary fix to a larger problem.

“That’s part of the challenge of displacing someone like this. They have the safety and security of the homes they own and the county is offering them money that is going to run out,” says Abarca, who learned of Guzman’s troubles through his previous work in Congressman Emmanuel Cleaver’s office. “What happens to that $20,000 when it’s gone? The county has a responsibility to offer a fix that’s long term, not the short-term removal of (residents) off site.”

Right now, only a handful of families – and a lot of trash and debris – remain on the site of the trailer park. Friends and neighbors say they’re concerned for Guzman and what the future holds for her.

“I’m concerned they’re not going to give her what she needs – a place that is equal in size and accommodations for what she needs as a disabled person,” says one neighbor, who wishes to remain anonymous. “I hope they give her a trailer or a home that is the same size and is handicapped accessible. They’ve taken her to look at some horrible apartments. … She couldn’t even get her wheelchair in. … It’s just a shame and it makes me sick.”

As the days go by and the new jail moves closer to becoming a reality, the neighbor looks out across the trailer park and shakes her head at the state of the property now.

“When they moved the trailers, everything was just left to rack and ruin,” she notes.

Guzman, meanwhile, says her experiences with county officials continue to create frustration and stress for her. Even simple communication, she says, doesn’t work.

“The county has even been telling me I need a translator,” Guzman says in clear, grammatically-correct English.

Her other neighbors continue to prepare to leave – there’s Gregory, for instance, a military veteran who is packing his belongings for Excelsior Springs.

“The county wouldn’t give us a trailer comparable to ours,” says Gregory, whose trailer is too old to be moved. “I thought we could stay in this area.”

Abarca, who points out that the county hasn’t offered Guzman a greater amount of money on paper, says the entire situation is unfair to someone so vulnerable.

“This is not a living environment that anyone should live in, much less someone you think is in a vulnerable situation,” Abarca says.

Guzman says she has faith that her own situation will work out in the end, and with the help of others on whom she relies.

“I hope the county thinks about my situation and that they can give me a better offer than what they’ve done,” she says. “Until then, I’ll stay here until they push me out. I have to do what I need to survive.”

With her disability, Zoila Guzman has lived in her mobile home that is handicap accessible for years. When she looks outside from her window she sees all the trash left behind at Heart Village Mobile Home park, making her feel that she’s living in a junkyard.