Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel
couple of columns ago, I wrote about a Lake Worth trailer park where the
electrical power has remained crippled since the hurricanes.
For three months now, daily life at Tropical Trailer Gardens has meant keeping
food in a camp cooler.
Under Florida's sun, residents had to spend their days outside because their
mobile homes were too stifling.
Now that temperatures have dropped, "living in a trailer is like living in
an icebox. There's no insulation whatsoever," said Christine Bonfante, a
West Palm Beach paralegal who visited the park the other day.
I wish I could say life for the 40 or so people in the ragged little park is
getting more comfortable. But it's not.
"You could see it in their faces that they're beyond patience, just waiting
for the thing we all take for granted: electricity. And there's no end in
sight," Bonfante said.
But there's been a trace of good news.
The city's code-enforcement department has agreed that their troubles, though
triggered by Hurricane Jeanne on Sept. 26, have been prolonged by management's
failure to maintain the power system.
At a hearing Thursday, special master Glen Torcivia ordered park manager Wesley
Cox fined $200 a day until he meets city codes.
I couldn't reach Cox or his attorney, despite a couple of messages.
The residents say the camp's wiring was frayed even before the storms. But
Jeanne blew down a line and did other damage, too. While some trailers were
unaffected, others were left with power in just parts of their trailers and a
few have no power at all.
On Oct. 28, the city ordered Cox to bring the camp up to code. It gave him until
Dec. 14 to name a licensed contractor.
Thursday's hearing was to check on his progress, said Armand Harnois of Lake
Worth's code compliance department.
But instead of plans to improve the park, Cox walked in with something else: a
notice of plans to convert the park to vacant land.
The letter contends that the city insisted Cox install too-expensive underground
Not true, Harnois told me: "He could put them underneath or on the
Cox sent the letter to each tenant. It said everyone had to find new
accommodations by June 30. "We will work with each of you to help you in
the situation," the letter stated.
I asked Henderson about that. She said Cox offered to buy her $5,000 trailer for
Some help. And just in time for Christmas.
But Cox's strategy fizzled. By not coming up with a contractor, he obviously
violated the order, Harnois said.
The fines aren't bringing the residents heat or hot water. "But it makes
them feel somebody is listening," said Cathy Lively, their attorney.
Bringing some material solace is where Bonfante comes in. Touched by publicity
about the residents, the mother of two visited the trailer park Saturday.
"These are people with nowhere else to go -- disabled, elderly, with no
family to help them in any way," she said. She mentioned two children who
are going without, a 7-year-old girl and "a 13-year-old boy who's got no
jacket, no school uniform."
People have "spent all their money for batteries, gas for generators.
There's no money for Christmas or presents," Bonfante said.
And so Bonfante and another woman, Susan Trosclair, are working to bring some
cheer to Tropical Trailer Gardens on Friday, Christmas Eve.
They're rounding up blankets and batteries, and planning to drop off hot lasagna
In short order, they've collected $600 to give to the residents to spend on
food, toys, prescriptions.
It breaks down to only $15 a family. They'd like to be able to give each one at
"This is the best way to celebrate Jesus' birthday," Bonfante said.
"To help people in need."
Goodman's column is published Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. He can be reached
at email@example.com or 561-243-6638.