Rain, Rain, Go Away
Miami’s weather has been quite volatile this past week, making both work and play more difficult to plan. Over the weekend, our cohort had planned an activity, but the unpredictable weather slashed many of our options. Even when we did field work, the on and off rain made it inconvenient for the residents who were answering our questions. But, despite the unpredictable weather, our week was productive and filled with important learning experiences.
This week, we had three off-site experiences—Monday was delivering letters to the homeowners of Coral Gables Mobile Home Park (MHP), Tuesday was canvassing at Palm Lake MHP, and Thursday was delivering letters to Dixie MHP and then canvassing at J Bar J MHP. Needless to say, we’ve spent countless hours on public transportation. Our long commutes were compounded by the fact that Miami’s public transportation schedules are often late or inaccurate. On our way into the office, we’ve had to resort to using Uber several times because our scheduled bus simply doesn’t show up sometimes. We’re fortunate to be able to have that back-up option, but for the working class housekeepers and nurses and everyone else working to support their families, these schedule issues could pose major problems—it’s sad that the system can be so disorganized.
When we were in the office on Wednesday, it was also a busy workday. The three of us drafted an opening letter for Dixie Mobile residents, informing them of good news—that our supervisor was going to represent them in their settlement agreement with the Dixie Mobile park owners! We spent most of the day making copies and living the typical intern experience. Although it wasn’t the most fun, it was extremely helpful for Nejla, and an essential part of trying to get things done. Because Dixie Mobile has been bought by a developer, the residents all have to find other places to live, and this settlement grants each family $7,000 to either move their mobile home or to find another residence. According to Florida statutes, mobile homeowners usually have claim to $1,375 if they choose to abandon their MH or $3,000 if they choose relocate their MH. While this extra money isn’t going to solve all of their home-search problems, it will go a long way to helping the residents avoid homelessness and find a fresh start elsewhere.
Fiona’s Most Memorable Experiences:
My favorite experiences this week were the eviction presentation (presented by the director of litigation, Jeff Hearne, at LSGM on Wednesday) and a recorded online eviction webinar hosted by our supervisor, Nejla. Though much of the material overlapped in content, I really enjoyed learning in-depth about a specific topic in tenants’ rights and housing law. Interestingly, during the eviction presentation, Jeff mentioned a new project aimed at bringing awareness to the stringent laws that create undue burden for tenants (such as the 15-days notice of termination for month-to-month tenants, through humanization and storytelling. Fortunately, the city of Miami recently extended the 15 days notice to 30 days, with the help of testimonies from LSGM attorneys.
Jason’s Most Memorable Experience
I don’t know if there was really any single particularly memorable event in the past week. Work keeps on moving and I feel like the work we’re doing is really benefitting the communities in which we are working. We’re meeting so many different people and getting their perspectives on life in mobile home parks. Our little DukeEngage team is integrating more into the office culture, and I am looking forward to greater involvement in the operations of LSGM. We already are receiving the same trainings and seminars as the Law Clerks (law school students) at LSGM, which is truly invaluable knowledge and exposure to receive as an undergrad. Around the office we’re known as “the ones from Duke” which is good because it means we’re making a name for ourselves. In other news, I just finished watching The Office on Netflix, so this week has been an emotional rollercoaster.
Jose’s Most Memorable Experience
It’s truly interesting how out of the blue, waves of emotion come crashing down onto you like an unstoppable tsunami. It happens often, but being in Miami, coupled with the work I am doing, excites these emotional episodes. Before attending college, I promised myself I would devote my life to helping people that experience the same struggles me and my family do. However, due to many circumstances, I know that this dream of mine – to be an immigration lawyer fighting for the rights of those left in the shadows – is not feasible. My first year of college left me at a loss, and I made a decision some may call selfish.
This past week, while at a mobile home park, I spoke with a lady who, in her words “just wanted to get out of this miserable park.” I could feel her raw desperation and helplessness. I saw her kids in her house, and I felt compelled to talk to her kids and tell them that they are their mom’s hope and inspiration. I wanted to coach them and show them how to succeed in this gloomy world. I wanted to tell them that it is possible; if I did it, then anyone else can. The amount of passion and emotion I felt was immense. I then felt unhappy with my current career goals, which are to major in a STEM field and pursue a PhD. I felt a need to do more to help my people, but I know that at the end of the day, there’s only so much I, a person devoid of citizenship, can do. This limitation includes pursuing a law or medical degree, as I can’t be a practicing lawyer without citizenship, nor afford medical school without federal loans. I’ll spare you the pity party, because that is not what this is.
I know this is only the first of many similar encounters, and I know that each time I see a mother without hope in her eyes, or an overworked man without his dignity, the fire inside me will shine a little brighter. I also know that I’ll miss my own mother more each time, and I’ll long to see her and thank her for the millionth time for her sacrifices, because there are not enough thank you’s in the world to express my gratitude.