Connie Brown, her husband and two kids, moved to Midfield Park 19 years ago, but left their mobile home in October 2016 as the closure of the park drew closer.
Brown and her husband have now bought a house, but are struggling to make ends meet.
Their family moved to Midfield in 1997 because a mobile home was within their budget and was something they could own while saving up to buy a house.
“We were only supposed to be there three to five years,” she says. “But it was such a nice place to live, we ended up staying there way too long.”
Though Midfield has always housed mostly seniors, with a two and a five-year-old at the time, Brown says her young family still fit right into the community. A stay-at-home mom while her kids were growing up, Brown spent a lot of time at Midfield park and got to know the neighbours well.
“I started bringing the flyers and I would take the kids with me and some days it would take me an hour to do them and some days it would take me three or four because you would stop and talk to everyone that was out,” she says. “It was just a great place to live when the kids were little.”
After learning that the City of Calgary had decided to close the park, Brown and her husband faced the difficult decision of leaving Midfield. At first, they tried to sell their mobile home, but couldn’t find a buyer. Eventually, they felt they had no other option but to leave.
“Both my husband and I work, but that doesn’t mean we can just go out and buy a house because we are getting kicked out,” says Brown.
“We are kind of in that middle group that we don’t qualify for low income, but we did buy a house and now it’s a stretch to make ends meet because we have a mortgage now and we didn’t for years.”
Brown and her husband had paid off their mobile home years ago and were just paying the lot rent and utilities at Midfield, so buying a home was a huge step backwards. She adds that the compensation from the city was not nearly enough.
“I’m sure people at city hall would say, ‘Well, we were more than generous,’” she says. “Yes it sounds like a lot of money, but it doesn’t go very far when you have to pick up your life and move it.”
“I liked our trailer. It would have been the perfect size for my husband and I to retire eventually.”
Brown says she and her husband underwent a lot of stress throughout the whole process, and though they are glad it's over, they are not happy with the outcome.
If you stop by lot number 45 for a visit, 83-year-old Prediger will likely invite you in for a chat, and maybe even try to sell you one of the boats parked outside.
“You got the photographers come around here and all they do is take a picture of the beautiful scenery,” says Prediger. “They should turn that camera around. Beautiful scenery here too, nice homes.”
Prediger’s mobile home is not new, but it isn’t shabby either. He built the carport and sunroom himself years ago when his wife was still alive. It used to be the two of them, but now, Prediger and his cat, Miss Kitty, have the double-wide to themselves.
Forty-seven years ago, Prediger and his wife made the move to Midfield after years of renting in the nearby neighbourhood of Renfrew. At the time, it made more sense financially to work on paying off a mortgage on a mobile home than to continue paying rent on a house.
The couple originally moved into a single-wide mobile home on lot 53, until the double-wide, where Prediger still resides, was put up for sale.
“People think we’re camping here because we got a trailer,” he says. “This is not a trailer. The city likes to talk down here about trailers – I got three bedrooms, two full baths, I got a dining room, a big kitchen, lots of cupboard space and if I have company, I’ve got two extra bedrooms.”
“Why do I want to move?”
Prediger spent 40 years trucking and wasn’t home often when they first moved in, but he says the park was still a great place to live. He remembers being on the road for almost fifteen days straight at times before coming back home for a couple days.
“I seen the world through bug crap on the windshield,” he laughs, adding that he has driven through every state in the union.
“My wife had a sister living about four blocks down so they’d get together or her sister would come and stay here or she’d go over there so she wasn’t alone,” says Prediger. “Made it easier for me to go on the road.”
Though his wife died seven years ago from rheumatoid arthritis, Prediger says he still tries to keep in contact with his neighbours. He also likes to help out where he can – mainly by cutting people’s lawns.
“I don’t like seeing people move out because they can’t look after their place, you know,” he says. “If it’s just the grass, I’ll go cut your grass because otherwise you lose people that been here 20, 30 years.”
At 83, Prediger likes to keep in shape because “if you don’t use it, you lose it.” Every morning, he gets on his stationary bike and rides it until his legs burn.
“I want to be walking till the day I drop dead,” he says. “I told my daughter I’m going to live to be one hundred. She said, ‘What if you don’t?’ And I said, ‘I won’t know it.’”
However, Prediger’s fight to keep his home has taken its toll on him. Prediger’s nephew, Solomon “Solly” Prediger, has never lived in Midfield, but has spent the past five months helping his uncle fight to keep his home.
“I know he’s got broad shoulders, but the man just turned 83 and I don’t think his shoulders are really broad enough to handle everything,” says Solly.
Prediger has always been a father figure to him as Solly’s father died before he was born. Solly says he has been fighting with his uncle to keep the park open because Prediger played such a large role in his life growing up.
“However the outcome, I want to see Rudy happy with it, and if he’s happy, I’m happy,” he says. “All I want is a fair, just and equitable resolution - not just for my uncle, but for everybody.”
However, while Prediger is still living on the same property, a lot has changed since he moved there 47 years ago.
The majority of Midfield Park’s 183 lots now sit empty and unkempt. The mobile homes that once sat there have since been moved or demolished. There are only a handful of people still living in the park – some have already made plans to leave, while some, like Prediger, are ready to sit it out until the end.
Photo by Jolene Rudisuela
Photo by Lexi Wright
At one time, every one of Midfield Mobile Home Park’s 183 lots were full. The mobile home park, owned by the City of Calgary and situated off 16th Street and Deerfoot Trail, used to house a tight knit community, but now, the park is nearly empty.
Now, only a few mobile homes remain with only dead grass and bits of debris indicating the recently vacated lots.
As more residents began to move out, the city put a security guard on duty and more recently, put up a chain link fence around the property, obstructing the remaining residents’ view of the surrounding scenery.
“You know, if you got a zoo, you gotta fence it in,” says long time resident, Rudy Prediger.
For 47 years, Prediger has lived in Midfield Park, but has been fighting for over a decade to save his home.
After years of talk about the fate of the mobile home park, on May 27, 2014, the Midfield residents received a letter from the City of Calgary informing them that the park would be shut down on Sept. 30, 2017.
“I assure you that this decision was not taken lightly, and we know this transition may not be easy for you,” wrote Carol-Ann Beswick, senior project manager with the City of Calgary.
Midfield residents were informed that they would not be relocated to a new mobile home park, however, residents would receive up to $10,000 to cover the costs of demolishing or moving their mobile home, as well as an extra $10,000 payment.
Prediger keeps every letter from the city piled in a box in his living room. Sitting in his arm chair, he flips through page upon page.
“You know, they say the infrastructure’s going and they got to move us out and [I say] that’s all a lie,” he says. “Well I’m not a gopher – I can’t dig down there and see what it looks like.”
Ever since the first notice arrived in their mailboxes, Prediger, along with some other residents, fought the City of Calgary every step of the way, saying he’s not going anywhere.
“You can build around me, but I’m not moving.”
In late September 2017, residents successfully postponed their eviction date and prepared to go to court on Nov. 22, 2017 to argue their case.
It was in this time frame the following profiles were written:
The stories of Midfield Residents
Photo by Lexi Wright
Tony Shwaluk and his wife, Josie, have lived in Midfield Park for over 30 years and, like Prediger, the couple have no plans to leave.
“We moved to Midfield because we wanted our own place, but we didn’t feel like we needed an entire house,” says Shwaluk. “Plus Midfield is close to everything and we liked it here. We still like it here.”
At 81-years-old, Shwaluk is still working, delivering auto parts for NAPA. He walks the 10 minutes to work every day and says he doesn’t want to quit his job anytime soon.
“You gotta work you know,” he says. “Keeps you young, and if we weren’t still working, we’d be living on the streets no doubt.”
The couple bought their current mobile home brand new and have spent years renovating it. Shwaluk estimates that his home is now worth over $100,000 and was offended at the city’s $10,000 compensation.
Photo by Lexi Wright
“I worked all my life to get this. Christ, I’m 81 years old,” he says, adding that simply moving their mobile home to a different park is not an option.
“When I had my days off we used to go all over town, in-town, Airdrie, Crossfield, trying to find a place to move our trailer. We don’t want to just sell it for nothing. But there’s nothing. They’re all filled up.”
He says he and his wife also have other costs to worry about. Josie, who is 70-years-old, has been battling rheumatoid arthritis and the cost of treatments has taken its toll on them, even with them both still working.
Shwaluk says he has also seen first hand how other residents have been affected by the situation - both mentally and physically. He says the stress has weighed heavily on many, and after the city officially announced the closure of the park, more than one resident committed suicide.
Shwaluk says it’s sad to see Midfield the way it is now. He says it was a close community where everyone knew all their neighbours, and he doesn’t know of anyone who was happy to move out.
However, as the majority of the lots are empty, a fence surrounds the park and extra security has been added, this is no longer the place the couple moved into 30 years ago.
“Our dog used to run around all over and play with other dogs, but he can’t do nothing now. And the security cameras? I don’t even understand what those are for.”
Though Shwaluk and his wife had no plans to leave Midfield, they have run out of options except to stay put until the court date.
“What can we do except wait?”
Photo by Lexi Wright
Carla Chalanchuk was a single mom raising two kids when she moved to Midfield Park 15 years ago. At the time, it was an affordable option, but now, having moved out of the park, Chalanchuk is facing homelessness.
“I should probably be in a mental institution,” she says. “I’ve been sick, I’ve been missing work, I can’t find anywhere to live that’s appropriate… I’ve been sleeping on my mom’s floor.”
Chalanchuk says she first heard rumours about the closure of the park when she first moved in, but brushed them off to begin with. In 2014, when the city released the official eviction notice, she considered staying, but started feeling pressured to leave.
“They start putting up fencing, you hear demolition going on, you see people moving out,” she says. “It was just the pressure and just the environment. They were pushing us out absolutely.”
Chalanchuk tried to turn to Calgary Housing for help after leaving, but says she didn’t get much support. She says the options they showed her were not suitable for her and her pets.
Money has also been a challenge for Chalanchuk. Though she took the compensation from the city, it proved to not be enough.
“I’ve had to borrow money,” she says. “We needed to find a place before we got paid out so there wasn’t enough money to do everything and find a place to live.”
Though Chalanchuk has found a place to stay for now, she says it is not her home.
It has been a difficult road since leaving Midfield, but knowing the remaining residents are going to court, Chalanchuk wishes she stayed to fight it out.
“If I would have known that, I would have stayed because staying would have been easier than what I have gone through.”
Photo by Lexi Wright
Nancy Killian moved into Midfield Park two years ago after the City of Calgary had already officially announced they would be closing the park.
Killian decided to make the move to care for her 75-year-old mother, with no plans to stay there permanently. Her mother suffers from health and mobility problems, but having lived in the park for 30 years, was reluctant to leave her home.
Killian and her mother moved out in October 2017, and she says the park’s closure was a blessing in disguise considering her mother’s health.
“There comes a period when we all have to move onto another phase in life and I think that this helped facilitate that,” she says. “Had that not happened, it would have been very difficult to get her to move into a facility that would care for her the way she needs.”
Though Killian didn’t live in Midfield for long, she wasn’t surprised that the city had decided to close the park. She says she noticed signs of the failing infrastructure in her own mobile home on a regular basis.
“We always had problems with the plumbing,” she says. “Frequently, there was a methane gas [smell], probably from the drains or something, so that indicates some pretty serious problems.”
However, though she says the reason for the closure is valid, she believes the situation could have been handled better. She says the people on the front lines did what they could to assist, but on a higher level, the city was not true to what they had initially promised. She adds the compensation was too low and the city did not consider the impact this closure would have on residents’ lives.
“I think the big kicker here with this whole deal is the way that some of these old folks are losing their way of life and I think that’s what the city is not recognizing,” says Killian. “That has value, especially at that point in a person’s life.”
However, despite the looming court date and the remaining residents’ determination to stay, Killian has no doubt the park will eventually close.
“Nothing lasts forever, sadly, I guess,” she says. “There comes a point when everything runs its lifespan and you have to move on.”