Signal Cleveland asked some residents of the Euclid Beach Mobile Home park to tell us what life has been like for them. One of the city’s only remaining mobile home communities is slated to close in August 2024.
Residents are awaiting relocation assistance packages from the Western Reserve Land Conservancy, which owns the mobile home park. The nonprofit intends to convert the 28.5-acre manufactured home community, off Lakeshore Boulevard in North Collinwood, into green space and then give it to the Cleveland Metroparks.
Resident Heather Malone tells Signal Cleveland about what life at the park, officially known as the Euclid Beach Mobile Home Community, has meant to her.
Heather Malone had only intended to stay at Euclid Beach Mobile Home park for a short time.
It was 2010. She had just stopped using alcohol and drugs. The owner of an unoccupied mobile home allowed Malone to stay there for several months. It would become the base from which she would launch her new life of sobriety.
Malone realized early on that living in this tight-knit community on Lake Erie was helping her to remain sober. She had a spiritual attachment to the water, which she found calming and centering. The two-bedroom unit was already feeling like home to her. She had even planted flowers in the front yard. A few months into her stay, the owner put the mobile home up for sale. She wanted to buy it but doubted she could afford it.
“A friend said, ‘Plant flowers, my dear, you’re going to live there forever,’” Malone said. ”Six months later, I took ownership of the mobile home.”
At a community meeting in February, she learned it probably wouldn’t be her forever home. Forever is scheduled to end next year.
“If you’re able to maintain your regular life and you’re taking care of your sobriety, it can be overwhelming,” she said. “Then you add what residents have been dealing with for a while relating to the mobile park’s closing. What this tells me is that I’ve got to pray more.”
Malone often stops to pray during the daily walks she takes with her dog through Euclid Beach Park and along the lake. She finds the water a place of renewal in other ways. Playing on the beach with her grandchildren is one way she remains grounded and connected to family. Malone owns a kayak and loves placing it in the water and feeling her stress float away.
“The water is a big thing for me,” she said. “It’s very healing.”
When Malone first learned the mobile home park was slated to close, she contemplated how it would affect her sobriety. Finding affordable housing is foremost on the mind of the former cook and caretaker, who is now on disability. Most residents at the mobile home park own their units and pay about $400 monthly to rent the land on which they sit. The average renter in Cleveland paid $1,250 for a one-bedroom apartment in June, according to Zumper, the online rental platform. This is an 8.7% increase from the year before.
Malone wanted to fight the park’s closing, but she didn’t want to risk having it consume her and jeopardize her well-being.
“I really had to pray for balance,” she said. “I didn’t want to get too crazy with resentments, anger and fear taking over. That meant I had to do some analysis on how much effort and energy I was going to put into fighting.”
Malone said she had to gauge just how much residents were willing to fight the park’s closing. She knew most residents – many of them well. Living by the water had helped Malone remain sober, but so had the connections she had with many of her neighbors.They had offered Malone moral and other support in her journey to remain off drugs and alcohol. In 2015, Malone was in a car wreck that left her in a wheelchair for five months. Mobile park residents and members of her Alcoholics Anonymous group contributed to fundraisers to help pay her housing costs while she recuperated as well as to build a ramp on her home.
Malone likewise has supported others. She likes doing things such as “making a big batch of chili” and divvying it up among friends. She has temporarily taken in women early in their recovery journey. She wants them to get a firm start on sobriety like she had. Residents struggling with addiction have viewed Malone as a role model.
“People have actually come to my door and asked for help,” she said. “I would take the time to talk to them and steer them in the right direction.”
Malone didn’t have to ponder long whether she would get involved in the residents’ attempt to save the park from closing. She knew that while most residents would join the effort, only a few were willing to speak publicly. She was one of them.
“Because I’ve been involved with AA and I have had to tell my story so much with a microphone in front of my face, I felt like it was my duty to be there for my fellow neighbors,” she said.
Malone spoke at demonstrations held by the United Residents of Euclid Beach and the Northeast Coalition for the Homeless. She gathered signatures for petitions aimed at keeping the mobile home park from closing. She gave media interviews.
Nonprofit WRLC’s decision to close the park came after a process to develop a plan for Euclid Beach Park, the mobile home park and the surrounding area. At a community meeting, a sketchy proposal was mentioned based on converting the mobile home mobile park to green space and then building a smaller mobile home park on adjacent land owned by Cleveland Public Library. Malone was initially optimistic about being able to move to the proposed mobile park. However, the plans never materialized and she pivoted to focusing on WRLC giving residents just compensation to relocate.
Earlier this month, the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Foundation gave WRLC a $10 million grant, $6.2 million of which is earmarked for shutting down the mobile home park. The land will then be converted to green space and given to the Metroparks for a major redevelopment of Euclid Beach Park. The promise is to enhance public access to the lake and to bring a major redevelopment project to the area, something East Side residents have long wanted. Some of the money will be used to provide the 124 families relocation assistance packages. This includes offering residents fair-market value for their mobile homes, covering their relocation costs and giving them hardship compensation.
Malone, like other residents Signal Cleveland interviewed, said the announcement of the grant has done little to lessen their anxieties about being able to relocate to affordable housing. WRLC says that 75% of the mobile homes at the park were built before the mid-1970s. Mobile homes tend to depreciate with age, leaving many residents doubtful that the compensation they receive will offset the cost of their new housing. They’re also doubtful because WRLC won’t yet reveal the hardship compensation range. Residents are also concerned that the extensive process involved in converting the land to green space, which includes abating asbestos and demolishing the units residents sell to WRLC, will consume much of the grant.
Malone has accepted that she will most likely have to move.
“I feel like all the T’s have been crossed, all the I’s have been dotted, and all the signatures have been signed,” she said.
But there is a part of her that still holds out hope for remaining in her home.
“Sometimes we have to remember that God makes miracles,” she said. “I feel that a miracle could happen.”