“No one has a right to comment on anyone’s life or the choices I do or don’t make,” said Kate Winslet in a recent interview and she is absolutely right.

There’s NO such thing as Trailer Trash

People living in mobile and manufactured homes have been stereotyped, stigmatized and labeled entirely too often. It’s well accepted to classify an entire group of people with two simple words: trailer trash.

How did this become acceptable ? Our homes haven’t been called trailers since the late 1940′s and no human should ever be referred to as trash!

While many of us know the truth and understand the advantages of choosing manufactured homes there’s lots of good people that are being influenced by the stigma and it’s keeping them from considering a home option that could help improve their quality of life by getting them out of debt.

So why is this country so focused on labels? All of us are supposed to fit into a nice, square peg even though we are all round. We are told to embrace our individualism and uniqueness and as soon as we do we are labeled rebels, or worse, trash. It’s quite maddening!

Helen R. Lee wrote of these frustrations more than 15 years ago in an article titled “Watch Who You’re Calling Trailer Trash” that was published in the Chicago Tribune in April, 1997. I think you’ll enjoy her insight:

Watch Who You’re Calling `Trailer Trash’

By Helene R. Lee. She and her husband are retired and have lived for nine years in a manufactured-home community in Lockport, N.Y | April 2, 1997

Remember the character in the movie “Network” who yelled; “I’m mad as hell and I won’t take it anymore”? That’s exactly how I feel whenever I hear or read two words–”trailer trash.” The supposition seems to be that people who live in trailer parks are trash and/or that their homes are trash; that they are mentally challenged; unclean and have little conception of world events.

The words or inference keep popping up in novels, in articles, in movies, on TV, in a description of a Barbie doll. We’ve heard them repeatedly in references to Paula Jones, President Clinton’s nemesis in a sexual harassment case. A Newsweek writer, speaking on television, referred to Jones’s reputation as “just some sleazy woman with big hair coming out of the trailer parks.” And James Carville, Clinton’s former adviser, made the comment: “Drag a hundred dollars through a trailer park and there’s no telling what you’ll find.”

I have to stop at these quotes because I am getting angrier and angrier.

The park where my husband and I live has more than 1,000 homes. The park is well maintained, likewise the homes, with perhaps one or two exceptions. Not a bad ratio, since unkempt homes can be found in any neighborhood.

The diversity of the residents is apparent, especially on a warm summer evening. There are young couples just starting out, couples with children, retired couples, widows, widowers and singles. There is neighborliness, too. After our last bad snowstorm, we soon saw our young neighbor shoveling out not only his car, but an elderly neighbor’s as well.

There are yearly contests at Christmastime for the best decorated home–also for any homeowner who demonstrates special improvements. There are parties for the children at holiday time. In the summer there are organized softball games and other pastimes, all taken care of by parents and the park management.

I would like to point out that communities like ours are no longer called trailer parks. They are “manufactured-home communities.” There is no way one of these homes can be hitched up to a car or small truck and pulled away. Once the home is set up, there it stays. Only extraordinary and costly ways are utilized to pull one out.

The homes come in varying sizes and are very affordable compared to site-built homes. Not everyone can afford a $100,000-plus house, after all. In our area (western New York), a new manufactured home can cost $40,000 to $50,000 while a good used one can be bought in the $20,000 to $30,000 range, depending on size.

Because of the reasonable costs, these homes make good starters for young couples who hope to move up later to larger, conventional houses. They are suitable for retired people on fixed incomes, families with lower-wage jobs or those who just don’t want the hassle of maintaining a large home.

My own experience with so-called trailer parks extends to California where I visited a friend a few years ago. Her park was beautifully laid out and landscaped, as were other parks we toured. The pride of the residents was obvious in the immaculate homes and well-maintained lots.

At this point I admit I am not wearing blinders. No doubt there are trailer parks that are rundown.

Unfortunately the film industry and television insist on perpetuating the stereotyping of trailer parks–manufactured-home communities. In their version every park is rundown, inhabited by borderline illiterates and drunks prone to violence.

The film industry and TV executives along with James Carville, the Newsweek writer and a host of other writers owe an apology to all the residents of manufactured-home communities. We’re sick and tired of the stereotyping…….

The above article was originally published in the Chicago Tribune.

Paradise Bay Trailer Park

I wrote my own editorial regarding the frustrations I had with mass media and their ever apparent prejudices against mobile and manufactured homes in an article called “Why Mobile home Journalism is Biased” that you may want to check out.

I urge all journalists and anyone with a public following  to remove the term trailer trash from your vocabulary in 2014. It’s indicative of poor research and labeling an entire demographic wrongly and unfairly. We are people simply trying to make it in this world with little debt and lower housing costs and we are far from trash.

As always, thank you so much for reading Mobile and Manufactured Home Living!

I’d love to hear your opinion regarding these silly labels and stereotypes and how you think we could best combat them. Just add your comment below. Thanks!

Image Sources: Boston Public Library

10 Responses

  1. Angie

    Thank you for your letters today and for all your positive
    Articles. My husband and I are semi retired and downsized from a very expensive up keep home to a Double Wide Manufactured Home.
    We absolutely love it we are debt free and happy and we love our neighbors.
    Last week I was reading an article in the new February issue of Country Living Magazine. It was written about a Family of 5 who built a 665 sq foot one room home to
    Live in in Wyoming they call it their Cabin !
    In the article the Woman states they did this because
    “Mobile Homes Fall Apart”
    I to say the least felt offended by her comment.
    They spent 72,000.00 to build a Glorified Wooden Shed to house a family in cold climate.
    All I kept thinking was because of their narrow minded thinking and stigma to Manufactured Homes they truly missed the mark on a great home to live in.
    For that money they could have gotten a huge energy efficient home to live in.
    I tell everyone I can what a difference this home we live in has allowed us to enjoy a more affordable lifestyle.
    I wish Society would get it.
    I even wrote a letter to HGTV to start a show on
    Living in a Manufactured Mobile Home.
    They never answered me.
    Thank You
    For all you Do to inform us of a great way to live in these
    Places we call Home.

    Reply
    • Crystal Adkins

      Oh, thank you so much for your kind words! I do think the stigma and misunderstanding is keeping a lot of people from realizing the advantages of manufactured homes. They certainly aren’t the trailers they used to be! I’m tickled you are happy and living the lifestyle that you want. It’s a great feeling, huh?

      Thanks for taking the time to comment! I look forward to hearing from you again. I love to speak with others that have the a similar story. I can learn so much from you and so can others. Thanks again!

      Reply
  2. Dave

    I had a temporary blindness caused by the stigma you address in this and some of the other articles I’ve enjoyed on your site.
    A few years ago, my wife and I were looking for an affordable house to buy. It was time to get out of her parents’ basement, which they had offered us rent-free to build up a down payment. But in looking at the online housing listings, I just automatically skipped the mobile homes. Why? They’re drafty, inefficient, shoddily built, etc. etc. The absolute lowest-priced we could find was $125000.
    Then this mobile home came available in town. My wife showed me the ad. The place didn’t look half bad, so I agreed to go look at it. Now we live in it. It’s a comfortable home which the previous owner had upgraded with extra insulation and new kitchen cabinets.
    Since finding this site, I’ve thought about my falling into the stigma-trap. Why did I? Why didn’t I remember my grandparent’s house (a single wide that I remember him adding on to double the width)? Or any of a small number of others of friends or family that I had been to that don’t fit that stigma? What was I thinking?
    Just wanted to add my little story and say thanks for providing this site.

    Reply
    • Crystal Adkins

      Thank you so much Dave for your honesty! It’s a common story, once you get to know the homes, you realize they aren’t as bad as everyone thinks! I’m so glad you shared this. Thank you!

      Reply
  3. Jill

    I too almost missed out on the great opportunity to be a home owner because of the stigma of living in a mobile home. I had lived in a town where “trailer trash” and “trailer park kids” were words used to describe the people living in the local park. I moved from that town (one reason is because I didn’t like how “uppity” it was) and rented a house for a couple of years. When I was told I needed to move because the owners were going to sell the house I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. I’m a single mom of 3. My daughter is out on her own but I still have two teenage boys living at home. I could buy a house, but it would have had to have been pretty small and it certainly would have been a fixer-upper. I didn’t have money to spend fixing up a place nor did I have the time or knowledge to do it myself. I looked at places to rent and I couldn’t find a place that would fit our needs for the amount I could afford. My cousin owns a small mobile home park in the town where I wanted to move and the school district I wanted for my boys to attend. When they suggest I buy a mobile home and put it in his park I was completely against it. No way, I thought! I knew my kids would have an adverse reaction as well, since they knew “trailer park kids” to be “poor children, who come from bad homes.” (This is the stereotype that my old town had.) I continued to look for something to rent, even though I really wanted something that would be mine. My cousins continued to talk to me and after a while I began to see that financially it would be the smartest move for me to buy a new mobile home and make that my home. I finally came to the conclusion that if I really wanted to buy my own place I would be getting a mobile home. That’s when I started reading this great site you have Crystal! Slowly but surly, I began to realize that living in a mobile home could be a great thing. Since it was a new place I wouldn’t initially have to do any fixing of it. It was small enough that it wouldn’t be hard to keep up with. Since I’m single and with kids and work full time, I don’t have a lot of time to spend on maintenance. My cousin does the mowing and snow removal and all that “fun” stuff so I wouldn’t have to do that anymore. When I told my kids we were buying a mobile home, they did, in fact, disagree with me and thought that it was the worst idea ever. However, they finally came around to the idea when I told them they would have their own room and we were going to be getting all new furniture.

    We’ve lived there for over a year now, and I have to say, I really love it. The size (its a single wide) is perfect. It’s easy to take care of and it’s cozy. It’s a small park so it’s pretty quiet. I’m not paying an arm and a leg for a mortgage, or for utilities. I have money to do some fun things with the kids now and they’re happy about that. They love the school they are in and their friends don’t look down on them at all. Our town is a very small community and everyone knows everyone…good people who don’t judge and I like that! When we first moved there, the boys didn’t want people to know we lived in the park, but now, they have their friends over all the time. Some of their friends live in really big houses and come from money…but they don’t seem to care that we live in a mobile home. Maybe it’s because they see that we aren’t “trash.” ( I absolutely HATE that term!!) For me, it was a great decision that I don’t regret. I do have to admit that I still struggle with the stigma. I mean, the people I work with (I’m a web project manager at a University) know I live in one and they know the reasons I choose to live where I do, but people that I’m friends with on Facebook (mainly people I went to school with) don’t know and to be honest, I don’t want to tell them. Simply because I’m sure some of them would judge me. Should I care? No, I shouldn’t. I guess I still have some growing to do.

    But, all in all, I do love my little home! It’s a place I go home from a hard day at work and rest. It is homey and it’s mine. If you are considering buying a mobile home, let me tell you, it’s a great way to live. I’ll own my place in 7 years! My kids will be out of the house and it’s all I’ll need. I think it was a very smart choice!

    Crystal, thanks for what you do. This site helped change my attitude about mobile homes, or manufactured homes, and actually got me excited about my place before I ever even bought it.

    Reply
    • Crystal Adkins

      Jill, I can’t even put into words how much your comment means to me! I’m so glad you are happy and everything is working out for you. Your story and comment have just made my day! Thank you for taking the time to write it!

      Living in America these days is hard. Jobs are scarce, food and necessities are expensive, taxes don’t ever seem to stop raising and on top of all that, we are expected to be able pay for a 2 story home with 3500 square feet of living space or we are deemed a failure. Our society has gotten everything backwards when it comes to how we judge success! Instead of respecting someone that had the forethought to not buy a home they couldn’t afford we look down on them. I’ll never understand it and completely respect anyone that tries to live differently. I think those that do go against the grain end up a lot happier in the long run, too.

      You are very smart lady that has the whole world at her fingertips. You tackled something most people can’t and focused on the positive instead of the negative. Thanks again for commenting. I wish you all the success in the world!

      If you ever need anything, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

      Reply
      • Jill

        Oh…thank you Crystal!! Your reply just made my day too. I will stay in touch and comment more often. I would do love if people could grasp that more is not always better. Thanks again for what you do!

  4. Debbie

    Hi everyone
    I live in Canada and I too can not understand the stigma of living in a mobile home. I am widowed and have lived in a mobile home for the last 15 years. In 2000 after my husband passed away my 14 year old daughter and I moved into a beautiful new beautiful mobile home. Shortly after moving in my daughter invited some friends over and when they arrived she proceeded to show them our home explaining to them that our home was in fact a home and that if they wanted to continue to call her “trailer trash” well she would not consider them friends. I was so proud of her ! needless to say her tour of our home did indeed change her friends attitude towards her and what she lived in. Today she is all grown up and I now live in a very nice adult only park in a little town called High River, Alberta it is the town that went through a huge flood in June 2013 80% of the town was destroyed, thankfully my mobile home did not suffer any damage . I have had many conversations with my neighbors and they all agree that being called trailer trash or hearing all the negative comments on mobile home living is something we all wish would change! and we all correct anyone who calls our homes “trailers” I just wish that people would do a little research about the type of homes we live in they would soon discover that we are living within our means and are a regular neighborhood just like any other. I too wish HGTV would do a show on mobile home living maybe that would educate a lot more people and we all would not be stereo typed anymore. Thanks so much for reading

    Reply
    • Crystal Adkins

      Thank you Debbie!

      What a great story of your daughter and your life! I hope my daughter handles any future ‘trailer trash’ issues she may encounter with as much courage and straight forwardness as yours! I’m thrilled to hear that you are in a good park that has good people, too, and that you didn’t get any damage in the flood.

      I promise that if I ever have the opportunity to start a show that portrays mobile homes in a positive light that I will do everything in my power to make it happen. Heck, I may just try to start my own show one day..lol

      Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. I loved reading about your daughter and your life and I hope to hear from you more. Thanks!

      Reply

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