Luz Maria Solis and daughters Yesenia and Nayeli lost their home after a fire swept through their mobile home park in Phoenix Sept. 8. Their unit was built before regulations, so no company would sell them insurance. “It was nothing to them but for us it was everything,” Yesenia said. The family has been living in a house owned by Sacred Heart Parish in Medford. (Ed Langlois/Catholic Sentinel)
Luz Maria Solis and daughters Yesenia and Nayeli lost their home after a fire swept through their mobile home park in Phoenix Sept. 8. Their unit was built before regulations, so no company would sell them insurance. “It was nothing to them but for us it was everything,” Yesenia said. The family has been living in a house owned by Sacred Heart Parish in Medford. (Ed Langlois/Catholic Sentinel)
Santos Solis brought his family to Phoenix, Oregon, 21 years ago. For decades their aging mobile home was the hub of their family life.

Luz Maria Solis, his wife, cleaned houses to help pay rent in the mobile home park. Children and grandchildren found room to be a family.

On Sept. 8, the Almeda Fire turned the Solis home into ash.

The couple had tried to purchase insurance years before, but no company would sell it. The unit was built before current construction codes and was judged by insurers to have negative value.

“We lost everything,” said Yesenia Solis, the couple’s 31-year-old daughter. “It was nothing to them but for us it was everything.”

Sacred Heart Parish in Medford has been housing the Solis family.

Nayeli, the 18-year-old daughter, appreciates the help but pines for home.

“I miss my room,” she said. “I want to go home. I don’t wish this on anyone.”

Terry McDonald, executive director of St. Vincent de Paul of Lane County, has advocated mobile homes as an affordable housing option in the state. He wishes everyone could have a unit built after 1976, when federal regulations went into effect, but knows that is not reality. According to statistics from the Oregon Department of Housing and Community Service, there are about 140,000 mobile homes in the state, 40,000 of them manufactured before 1976.

McDonald suggests that state and private groups team up to expand a fund that replaces the old units with newer ones. Last year, a $5 million allocation replaced 100 homes in the state. At the same time, the Bonneville Power Administration has been authorized to use weatherization funds to help families replace their old mobiles homes with newer ones. As the Almeda Fire made clear, even more is needed, McDonald said.

State officials now are focusing on helping destroyed mobile home parks get back into shape so they can welcome residents.

“There will definitely be a need for public help,” said Chelsea Catto, an analyst specializing in manufactured homes for Oregon Housing and Community Services. “I have some state resources for preserving manufactured housing parks through nonprofit or resident ownership, and I am looking at how I might be able to repurpose some of them in a situation where park owners who are impacted might be willing to sell their damaged park to a nonprofit so it can be preserved and rebuilt. The challenge is getting the parks back online so that people can then purchase homes to go back into them.”

That alone could take a year, said Catto.

Meanwhile, federal assistance is kicking in. FEMA may help uninsured owners pay for a newer mobile home that meets code. The deadline to apply for FEMA relief is Nov. 14.

Learn more and apply for help

fema.gov/disaster/4562