Mobile homeonwers beware: Wal-Mart is eyeing your property! The giant retailer has more than once forced the eviction of mobile homeowners to pave the way for one of its redundant superstores. The latest case comes from Indiana. The tiny city of North Vernon, Indiana has an innovative plan for urban renewal. The city has approved the construction of a Wal-Mart supercenter that will cause 15 families to lose their mobile homes. According to Channel 6 News, residents in the mobile home park in North Vernon are being forced to relocate. The TV station says that the mobile home owners are upset that they have to be off the property by March 1st. “I’m pretty stressed,” one resident told 6 News. “What else would you call it but being forced out? That’s the hardest part.” The 28 acres is being sold to Wal-Mart so that the owner, Morris Wildey, can retire. Wildey says he is paying his residents to move: $500 if they rent, and $2,000 if they take their mobile homes with them. If they cannot leave with their homes, Wildey will pay them $1,000. He told 6 News that it’s not often that people get paid to move — but the payment offered will only pay for a fraction of the homeowners’ costs of moving. Wildey will make millions off the real estate deal. “We are getting a little bit of help, and we have had some time, but the biggest issue out here is nobody has any money,” said another resident. “I think it’s a farce and a travesty, myself.” North Vernon Mayor Harold Campbell said residents had known for years that the property was up for sale and there was a chance they would have to leave. “I don’t like change, but I don’t have any other choice, so I’m doing it,” one homeowner told the station, as she boxed up the possessions in her kitchen.
North Vernon is a community with roughly 6,300 people. It’s not that different from the other neighborhoods where Wal-Mart has gone in and created homeless people. Mobile home parks in places like Berlin, Wisconsin, West Asheville, North Carolina, and St. Peterburg, Florida were in Wal-Mart’s way, and you know how that story ends. Mobile home parks in Hood River, Oregon, and Santa Rosa, California managed to fend off a big box challenge — but in most cases, the tenants are disenfranchised, have no money to fight their eviction, and have no political clout. In the case of North Vernon, there is already a Wal-Mart discount store on State Highway #3, and a Wal-Mart supercenter 13 miles away in Seymour. So the new superstore is not even needed. The superstore in North Vernon will pull most of its sales and jobs away from the existing Wal-Mart in North Vernon, and the nearby superstore in Seymour. The rest of the sales will come from the small grocery competitors in North Vernon — stores with names like Save-A-Lot, Just Rite, and Swifty Food Mart. These grocers will likely be history within the year. There just aren’t enough consumers to satisfy the glut of grocery store square footage that a Wal-Mart superstore will create. The North Vernon superstore is a ‘mop up’ facility — it cleans out what little market share Wal-Mart does not already control. Readers are urged to call North Vernon Mayor Harold Campbell at (812) 346-3789 with the following message: “Dear Mayor Campbell, By the end of this month, the ‘Wal-Mart 15’ have to be out of their mobile homes. The landowner, Mr. Wildey, has given these low income families only token financial support to move out of your city. Why don’t you, as Mayor, who have promoted this frivolous expansion of Wal-Mart’s presence in your small community, help these families out, by going to the Wal-Mart corporation, and asking them to help pay for the moving expenses of these families? The Walton family surely could offer some compensation to these people who are being rendered homeless just so Wal-Mart can make $150 millions in sales per year at this site. Is it too much to ask city government to interceded on behalf of these families? Wal-Mart wants Americans to ‘save money, live better.’ What better way for the corporation to express its concern over these people it is displacing than to help them out financially? Has anyone at City Hall thought to ask this wealthly corporate giant to give something back to the community, by helping to find these people a new place to live, and helping to pay for their move? The landowner will retire in comfort with Wal-Mart money in his pocket — but what about the mobile home owners who were just living their lives on this land before Wal-Mart hungered for it? Mr. Mayor, this is a time for your leadership. It’s win-win all the way around: you look good, Wal-Mart looks good, and the residents get some good from it.”