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Can't stay here: Dickinson mobile home court residents struggle to relocate

Mark Bren, an employee of Winn Construction, works on a project next to the Oasis Motel on Friday that will house Dickinson State University students.1 / 3
Tenants of this mobile home park, pictured here Jan. 19, must vacate in February.2 / 3
They recently received notice to vacate their homes near Villard Street in Dickinson.3 / 3

Residents of a small mobile home court just south of Villard Street in Dickinson aren't sure where they'll be living next month, since the trailers will be moved out to make room for a parking lot.

"It's very possible that if we can't find a place that, we're going to have to move out of town," said Robert Holm, who has resided in the court for more than a year. "If you're not working for the oil field, you can't afford the rent here."

The court has about a dozen mobile homes and tenants recently received notice to vacate by Feb. 6.

Dickinson State University Alumni and Foundation members, along with other investors are attaching student housing to the Oasis Hotel and need space for tenants to park.

Holm said his family will likely move into an acquaintance's basement temporarily.

Shel Thompson of Modesto, Calif., manager and project coordinator, said the tenants can take the mobile homes with them, but they must be out soon.

Holm hasn't found a suitable place to relocate his home.

"You can't find any property here," he said.

Celena Cahoon, who has also lived in the court for about a year, won't be taking her mobile home with her either.

"I don't think it would make it to Villard," she said. "It doesn't seem solid enough."

The cracks in the walls and unstable floor make Cahoon worry it would fall apart.

She recently found an RV to move herself and three daughters into because she wants to stay in the area.

"It's going to be pretty rough, but something better will happen," Cahoon said. "It couldn't get any worse."

If she wouldn't have found an RV, she likely would have ended up in a homeless shelter in Fargo, Cahoon said.

Holm said those involved with the housing project have offered storage space and said he could live there an extra week.

However, he is stressed over uprooting his fiancee and her daughter.

"We're actually planning to get married," he said. "We had a week off to go get married and we put it off trying to find a house."

His fiancee's daughter is a special needs high school student who works part time

"She says 'don't worry, I'll pay the rent.' She doesn't understand," Holm said. "She's pretty upset and she worries about it a lot."

Her disability makes it hard for her to make friends, he added.

"If you take them away, it might be years before she's got friends like that again," Holm said. "That's the reason we're working so hard to stay here."

Linda Steve, a Foundation spokesperson, said most of the tenants have found places to relocate.

"Some of them have locations, but they can't get there that early," Steve said. "So we're working as hard as we can to find space that they can still keep with the lot."

Some investors of the project are also trying to help find places for the tenants to go, Holm said.

"We've done, in my mind, every possible thing that we can to accommodate everybody; there just aren't a lot of good solutions to it," Thompson said. "We'd really like to do something for all the people who will be displaced."

The building will house up to 130 students by fall.

"Through all of that, this is such a great project for the town and such a great project for the university and it's a great project for us," Thompson said.