IMPACT
01/14/2015 01:22 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Family Ditches Suburbs To Live In Trailer Park So They Can Help Neighbors In Need

Not every family would choose to swap the picture-perfect suburban life to move into a mobile home, but the Dejewskis do things differently.

The family of four, including their two sons, gave up the luxuries of having a basement, garage, attic and plenty of space so that they could help those in need at Maple Hill Estates -- a trailer park community in Corcoran, Minnesota. They bought their own mobile home off of Craigslist in 2013 and committed to live alongside the people they're aiming to empower, according to KARE 11 News.

Starting from scratch, Jill and Brian Dejewski developed a series of programs to help residents of the neighborhood, including food aid, legal assistance, after-school tutoring for students, English language classes and children's summer camps.

Together, the family launched Mobile Hope -- a faith-based organization run by volunteers from churches, schools and area civic groups. As KARE reported, the couple hopes to grow the group's reach into other mobile home communities as well.

"This really is the forgotten people -- it's the invisible people of our country today," Brian said in a video produced by the nonprofit. "There's a cultural stigma that's laid over the mobile home communities that makes it that much more challenging for people who live in them."

More than half of Maple Hill Estates' families are living near or below the poverty line, surveys conducted by the Dejewskis have indicated, and some heads of households do not speak English.

The demographics of Maple Hill fall in line with national trends. BBC News reported in 2013 that the household median income of mobile homes in the U.S. is only a little over half the national average, according to the Manufactured Housing Institute.

Poverty found in manufactured housing communities is more prevalent in America's South, said Jacob Vigdor, a public policy and economics professor at Duke University.

"Mobile homes will make up a significant part of the housing market in any place you can find significant rural poverty," Vigdor told CNN Money. In northern states, poverty is more condensed in urban areas.

Juanita Gonzalez, a neighbor of the Dejewskis, is one Maple Hill resident who has benefited from the family's selflessness. After Gonzalez experienced personal tragedy, the Dejewskis set up a fund for her family's benefit.

"I used to live in Minneapolis and no one would talk to each other," Gonzalez told KARE through a translator. "Here we do so much together now. If I could, I would invite everybody to come live here."

The family's initiative has caught the attention of the entire community. Corcoran Mayor Ken Guenthner said the Dejewskis' determination is unique and impactful.

"They really believe in what they're doing here," he said. "They understand the significance of leading by example, of committing yourself to a cause, and they're doing it. Frankly I wish that more of us were capable of doing that."

H/T GodVine

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