Just over a month ago the Sleepy Hollow Mobile Home Park was busting at the seams with squatters.
Today only three trailers remain.
The groups of people that used to congregate among the cracking asphalt walkway at all hours of the day and night? Gone.
The people that brought their recreational vehicles and portable trailers and just dropped them on the lawn spaces in between actual tenants and then tapped into the electrical boxes like they were staking their claim? Gone.
And while the park – which is within eyeshot of the City of Manteca’s $7 million transit station on the corner of Moffat Boulevard and Main Street – had had a rocky past with owner Mahesh Gogri and his attempts at creating order over the course of the last 18 months, all of the residents had a chance to stay.
“He said in August that it didn’t matter if you hadn’t paid rent for the last 30 years – if you started paying rent right then, you’d be able to stay,” said former park resident Chauntel Love. “Only three people started paying. That’s what a lot of people don’t know.
“They see the trailers gone and they think that he (Gogri) kicked everybody out. But they had a chance to stay – all they had to do is start paying the rent.”
The space that Love used to call home is now empty. Weeds encroach on the pad that until last month served as her primary residence for the previous three years. She’s struggling to find a permanent place to call home – bouncing between the Rose Motel and various places along a corridor that most Mantecans have long written off or tend to avoid altogether.
She paid rent to her landlord. A lot of people did, she said. But that money never made it into Gogri’s hands – a complaint that many residents had last year when the State of California came in and pulled the park’s operating permit after numerous health and safety concerns were discovered by investigators.
Despite panic among those in the 21-space community that abided by the rules, the order to vacate was never enforced. Gogri, despite threatening to show up with trucks and haul the trailers out, never followed through and the squatters continued to live in the community unabated.
To say that there were problems would be an understatement. Residents complained about open bonfires, drug sales and use and even prostitution. The space between the trailers – which ran clear through the park from one side to another – became a hub of illegal activity along Moffat Boulevard. People would filter through the park at all hours of the night.
But Danielle Theroit said that not everybody that lived in the park was bad. In her three years there, she said she met a lot of great people and developed friendships that still continue to this day.
She has moved on to Stockton now, where she takes care of her grandchildren, but still has a soft-spot in her heart for the park residents that helped her out when she needed it. On Wednesday she spent her afternoon assisting the remaining park residents who were getting ready to move out – one of the three trailers has had a salvage title on it for more than a decade and will have to be dismantled instead of moved.
Others have pulled up stake and gone elsewhere. Gogri will relocate those remaining two that were in good standing.
“There were a lot of Kings and Queens in here that people didn’t know about,” Theriot said. “Some of these people were the best people in the world – they would do anything for you. You wouldn’t imagine it here, but they were.
“They were respectful and responsible and I just want to help them the same way that they helped me.”
According to Ken Burns, who was performing handyman work around the park on Wednesday, plans are in the works to bring in modular homes and provide those instead of the decrepit mobile homes for rent.
Gogri, who was out of the country and unavailable for comment, operates his business out of Fremont. He owns properties up and down the State of California – from Redding to the Bay Area. Burns said that he used the eviction process to remove those who didn’t want to leave, and included law enforcement when necessary.
“He just wanted to get his property back,” Burns said. “He’s not a bad guy. He just wanted to take possession of his property again.”