Sweet Home trailer parks will be focus of two year OSU study

Alex Paul

How does living in a trailer park impact children?

Good? Bad? Neutral?

That’s what a team from Oregon State University plans to study for the next two years in Sweet Home.

The team, composed of assistant professor Kate MacTavish and graduate students Devora Shamah and Michelle Cox, will work off a $100,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health.

“Trailer parks offer affordable housing options for families of modest incomes nationwide,” explained MacTavish, who also conducted similar research in Illinois and New Mexico.

Statistically, there are more than 8.9 million mobile or manufactured home sites nationwide, with three-quarters of them in rural areas.

“While the popular media presents largely negative images of mobile home or ‘trailer park’ life, few studies have examined how a mobile home park functions as a neighborhood for families and growing children,” Dr. MacTavish said in announcing the study.

We hope to document the day-to-day lives of children and families in several mobile home parks in Sweet Home, Dr. MacTavish said.

One question to be studied is whether trailer park residents feel connected to the rest of the community or to their neighbors in general. Do they live a trailer park only because they can’t afford to live elsewhere?

Sweet Home was selected because it is “reflective of small towns across the Pacific Northwest Region.”

The study will involve three phases: a background of the community; a door-to-door survey of mobile home park residents and a in-depth study of a group of children and youth who live in local mobile home parks.

“We also want to learn more about the way the community views mobile home parks,” said Michelle Cox, a graduate student who grew up in a rural area near Canby.

Dr. MacTavish said her other studies showed interesting facts such as in one Illinois town, mobile home parks were restricted to one side of the town.

In New Mexico, they are prevalent nearly everywhere.

“We’re going into this trying to not make assumptions,” Dr. MacTavish said. “We do hope that we can provide resources and an intervention effort to make a better place for children and young people.”