By David Martinez
On September 28, residents of Jasper Mobile Home Park in Northeast San Antonio and their supporters rallied outside of the office of Bexar County Eviction Services (BCES) to protest Helen Klonek, the owner of BCES, who has collaborated with the management of the mobile home park to intimidate residents into leaving through the use of bogus eviction notices and other threatening tactics.
Residents and their supporters chanted, “Pain for the many, profits for the few! Landlords, landlords we’re coming for you!” and “Que nos dan? Nada! Que queremos? Todo! (What do they give us? Nothing! What do we want? Everything!)” A resident of Amber Oaks Mobile Home Park, who attended in solidarity, told Tribune that she had similar struggles in her own community such as not having water for days and mistreatment from landlords.
San Antonio Police, called by Klonek, arrived to escort her and another worker who had been inside the office to their vehicles. Protesters remained, leaving signs against BCES and the landlords all over the front of the office, and one shoved a pile of “notice to vacate” papers into the mail slot. Protesters connected the housing struggle to the struggle against the police, who exist to protect exploiters like Klonek and their property, not working people and the poor.
As the protesters began to walk away, some activists noticed Klonek’s car pull back up to the office. She stepped out to begin taking down the signs, but protesters returned to confront her, calling her a vulture, telling her that what she was receiving wasn’t even close to the terror that she brings to residents. After crying, she told the activists, “This is just business” and, “People gotta make money,” referring to the mobile home residents as “peons” before driving away.
Jasper Mobile Home Park is run by Robert Ripley and his management company, Texas PMR. Ripley has been attempting to run residents out the community in order to flip the property into something more profitable, and has utilized BCES to carry out this task. BCES provides a way for landlords to sidestep the state’s eviction process, which has been mostly on hold during the coronavirus pandemic.
BCES creates and prints their own eviction notices, fabricated to fool people that they are official documents, and brings in uniformed guards or off-duty police officers as muscle to intimidate residents. Many residents panic and leave rather than question BCES’s fake eviction process.
Texas PMR has used BCES to run off the majority of Jasper’s 100 families, and less than ten remain at this time. According to residents, once a family leaves, Texas PMR will come to demolish the vacant mobile home, and residents have reported some of these were crushed with live pets still remaining in them.
The remaining families are facing even more harassment from Texas PMR and Ripley to try to force them out. Ripley has cut off their water without warning, left large piles of dirt in the only entrance to impede residents from driving in and out, and stopped accepting rent so they can deem the remaining families, many of whom have disabilities, as “squatters.” They have gone as far as to recently crush the home of a resident while they were in the hospital with all of their belongings inside of it.
Residents have also asserted that the city and county’s attempts to intervene have been worthless, especially a supposed $100,000 assistance fund, which is being funneled through St. Vincent de Paul, a Catholic non-profit. While all residents have applied, none of them have seen any aid from the tedious bureaucratic process, which forces them to go through humiliating ordeals like “financial literacy courses” to be eligible. Even if approved, the money would be sent directly to other landlords who are ‘relocating’ them. As part of their demands, tenants want more direct input on the management of the $100,000 fund.
The residents have chosen to assert their dignity rather than continue to endure the terror of their landlords and BCES, or accept the empty gestures of the state which only seeks to pacify them while enabling their oppressors. They are making it clear that rather than succumb to their misery, they are ready to fight back and win demands.
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