Elderly residents of Palmetto, Florida, mobile home park Carlyn Estates have been threatened with eviction if they continue to accept food from food banks, like Meals On Wheels and the local Hope Center.
As many as 28 residents have been served eviction threats for accepting food from a food bank. Hope Center provides boxes of food to at least a dozen homes at the park, reports the Bradenton Herald.
Pearl Jones, 81, said she received a handwritten letter from the mobile park’s manager, Tonia Sonju, on Friday telling her to stop taking the food donations or face eviction.
The threatening letter worked.
"I won't be taking any more food," Jones said. "I can't do it."
When approached for comment on the letter, a woman who answered the door at the manager’s home said, “We have no comment, thank you.”
Another resident told 8 On Your Side that she has received multiple notices.
“We’ve gotten second, third and fourth notices, telling us she’s going to kick us out,” the woman said.
The Carlyn Estates mobile home park was purchased on Feb. 12, 2014, for $5.2 million for 14.14 acres and 111 home lots by Glucklich LLC of Palmetto; Sonju is listed as the authorized person.
Jones believes the new owners do not think the residents need to accept free food. Most of the residents are seniors and own their mobile homes but pay a monthly rent for the lot of around $400.
"This lady is from California and she said no one in here needs it," Jones said of Sonju. "She thinks everyone in here has a lot of money. Well, I need it."
“It really does break my heart, makes me disgusted,” resident and disabled veteran Rodney Piatt, who has been banned from receiving food, said. “I’m quite frustrated; I’m quite tired of it.”
Resident Sharon Brittain, 79, agrees with the tightening of park rules, including not allowing food banks to make home deliveries.
"Our prospectus states no food banks are allowed to deliver in this park without prior permission and then we need to know who needs help because if they are destitute we would want to get all the social services for them," Brittain said.
Brittain wants residents to give the new owners a chance and try to see the positive changes they have made.
"They have redone all our roads," Brittain said. "She bought us a pool table and ping-pong. She got the drugs out of here. There is no one starving in here. If they are, why isn't their family taking care of them?"
“That manager ought to be ashamed of herself,” Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore said. “We need to help each other more. There is no shame asking for help. We are glad there are people out there who want to help … Allowing the food bank in shows we are a caring community willing to help our neighbors.”
The office of Republican Representative Jim Boyd of Florida has been contacted and his staff is investigating what is occurring at the mobile home park.
Whitmore thinks a solution may be to have the residents collect their food from across the street, and therefore off private property that belongs to the mobile home park.