February 26, 2007
My name is Wendy Allen. I am writing to you on behalf of my father, Kenneth Allen of Old Orchard Beach, Maine. Our family is in desperate need of help. In the past year we have tried without success to get help locally, but now the deadline is less than a week away and we do not know what to do or who to turn too for help. Since this is a long and complicated ordeal, I well start at the beginning.First off, I should tell you that we are fighting the local government, the officials of the Town of Old Orchard Beach, Maine, for the following charges:Discrimination against a disabled senior. A seniors rights being taken away from him.Repeated harassment, and discriminatory attempts to force a low income family off their land, resulting in the year long hospitalization of already mentioned senior and resulting in his becoming disabled.Threat of the destruction of property, including the threat of tearing down the home of aforementioned senior and his minor children and their pets.Forcing the senior and his minor children out of their home and onto the streets where they lived for much of 2006 in a “tent” constructed out of shipping pallets and a tarp, where they lived in the elements of Maine’s harsh winter, some days suffering at below zero temperatures.The threat of having all our belongings destroyed.The reason the town official Ken Shoup gave for this harassment was quote:“This is Old Orchard, you have to change you lifestyle.”End quote. No other reason has been given.Now, for our story and how this train of events came to be:First off, our family has a long history with the Town of Old Orchard, due to the fact that our family settled this town more than 300 years ago. Our family has lived on the properties here in since 1657. Originally there were several hundred acres on our land, both forest and farmland, but as the centuries went by the land was divided among relatives and passed on in increasingly smaller sections from one generation to the next. As the town grew and the land became more valuable, relatives sold out and moved away. By the 1940’s ours was the last to remain in the original family, a small lot less than an acre in size. Not only was it the last to remain in the original family, but it was also the last farm in Old Orchard Beach.It should be noted that property in Old Orchard is valued in the millions due to it being one of the world’s top rated award-winning beaches, and there in lies the root of our problem. Our farm has been accused of decreasing the property values. By the 1980’s Old Orchard became known as the hang out for biker gangs, honky-tonks, and strip shops. Property values dropped as the family image of the town plummeted. In the 1990’s, things changed once again, the gangs were driven out, the honky-tonks and bars shut down, and the strip shops became restaurants and art galleries. Property taxes sky-rocketed to the second highest in the state as millionaire mansions and high rise condos reconstructed the sky-line, forever blocking out the view of the beach from the roads.Old Orchard beach town officials, spent millions putting in brick sidewalks, Victorian street lamps, and building a replica of the town hall that had stood here in the 1800’s…. their campaign was to create a “historical town” to draw in high income tourists. The campaign was wildly advertised, and well promoted… until the new town manager and his new staff showed their true colors, that is and their campaign turned to harassing long time locals off of their land. Several families have been driven out already. Most unable and unwilling to fight the local government as the threats of propety destruction, and the removal of personal belongings (including pets) has scared most of the “offending families” into selling thier land and moving. There are only a handful of families that have stood thier ground, but those too are leaving. Ours is one of the last to remain, still standing our round, and refusing to give in to the threats made by local police officers, local code enforcement officers, and the town manager himself. In the past year they have changed (without proper votes from the people) nearly every code on the book in an attempt to force these families off thier land. Changes in code include such things as “banning the growing of vegetation”, “painting your house”, “owning more than one car per family”, and other ridiculous town laws, that now prohibit such things as growing a garrden. It is like living in a strict gated community, only it is the entire town.On the outskirts of the town, one finds the beautiful rolling acres of Ross Forest, once a candidate to become a national park, most of it now clear cut, and what little remains is soon to be sold for housing complexes, many already under construction. Dividing the Ross Forest from the down town district, lay the remains of a few scattered farms, no longer in use. Except for one: ours. At one time a large full production poultry farm, today the home of pet farm animals, but still very much an active farm, small as it is.
The harassment of our family began in the fall of 2005 after an unknown person, wrote an editorial to the local newspapers, saying, “Four homes on Portland Avenue were distracting from the value of other properties in the town”. The writer continued saying that something should be done about it, that these four homes “should be torn down”, and the families should be forced to move out of town to make way for the new generation. Two of those four homes mentioned, as it turns out, were 144 Portland Ave and 146 Portland Ave.
At 144 Portland Avenue there lives my elderly dad Kenneth Allen, myself, and my three brothers (all under 16 years of age). As you may guess, our dad was much, much older than our mother, explaining how a senior came to have young children. In 1983, my dad’s mother died and he inherited her house at 146 Portland Ave. The tiny 16 foot by 9-foot house, which never had plumbing, etc. Was turned into a shed, but even so, the town has continued to tax it as a house. Since October of 2001 (six years ago) we have been applying for a permit to repair this building, and turn it into a greenhouse so we can extend our growing season, but the town STILL has that on a waiting list.
We continued to live in the old 700 square foot house, more of a cabin than a house by the town’s standards anyways. My dad was a newspaper carrier for 21 years, our family income was under $20,000 a year, so we were never able to afford much, but we never noticed, because we were happy. Our family was living together, we had our pets with us, and we lived on our farm. That we lacked a “normal income” or a “normal lifestyle” (as the town officials now put it) never occurred to us.
Than in spring of 2006, there came the letters from the town. One after another. Demands to “remove the junk and debris” or else. As it turns out, what they were calling junk and debris, was as follows:
Our car, which though they consider it “junk” still runs in spit of what it looks like, and we use it daily.
Our fire wood (we have a woodstove for heat, cause we can‘t afford anything else.)
My dad’s tools (he was a car mechanic in the 1970’s, and still works on his own car and cars of relatives)
Our brooder (used for raising baby chickens each spring)
My dad’s antique cast iron wood stove collection
Our garden (bean poles, pea fences, etc… they say we can’t have a garden any more either)
Our washing machine (a 1947 wringer, which we use weekly)
Our farming equipment (tiller, ATV, etc…. all used on a regular basis)
In other words, what they are calling “trash”, “junk”, and “debris” are actually things we use every day, things we need in order to survive… without them we can not garden, if we can not garden we can not eat, because we can not afford to buy enough food to eat more than one meal a day per person, without the garden we well starve to death, without the farm equipment we can not garden, they are trying to kill us… this is not a figure of speech… as you shall soon understand.
My dad explained to the town that this stuff is not junk but our livelihood. The town responded by attaching a lean/fine on our property, for “refusal to comply with orders“. I’m not sure how much the amount is unto today, but it was much more than we could afford than, and more so now.
My dad made an attempt to move the items so that they could not be seen from the road, in an attempt to comply with the town’s orders, hoping that if the items could not be seen from the road, that it would stop the harassment by the town… this was the biggest mistake he could have made, because as a result, a few days later on May 9, 2006, he went into a coma.
May 9, 2006 started like any other day. I woke up and went out to feed the chickens, work in the garden, and than help my dad move items out of view of the street. My dad had not yet gotten up. I had been in the yard barely 20 minutes when my 15 year old brother came running across the yard in a panic… something was wrong, I could see it on his face, and I ran to meet him… he told me that something was wrong with daddy… daddy had woken up and torn the wood stove out of the wall tearing with it all of the water pipes… and now the house was under water, while daddy was throwing everything from the toilet to the tables to shelves to files all over the house. By the time I arrived in the house there was 8 inches of water on the floor, and nothing left of anything… everything in the house was totally destroyed, there was not only nothing left on shelves, there were no longer any shelves. It looked like a tornado had gone through the house. The house was barely recognizable.
My smaller brothers had run into the bedroom to hide, terrified at the event that was unfolding, while daddy was now in an attempt at tearing out the windows. When I asked him what he was doing, he did not recognize me, he could not hear me, he could not see me… it was like he had turned into a blind man and was tearing at the walls in an attempt to see… I rushed to the neighbor who called an ambulance.
The ambulance arrived, and talk of nervous breakdown and meningitis, were scatted around the conversations… the emergency team was in attempt of asking me what happened, when I was pulled away by a police officer named Jack Nichols, who proceeded to interrogate me about the condition of our house.
The wood stove was laying in pieces in the center of the dinning room, and this was his main focus…
repeating the same question again and again: “How long has this been laying here?” he demanded. I told him, it had just happened, he accused me of lying, and repeated the question…. over and over again, and I kept explaining to him, that daddy had just done this, which was why we had called 911. Than he turned his questions to the piles of paper and mail that scattered the house… “What’s all this clutter?” he yelled. Again I explained that this had just happened, that it was stuff that had been on the shelves and table, but as before, he accused me of lying and repeated the question again and again, his voice growing more heated and temperamental each time. Than in a menacing voice he turned on my three little brothers “Why aren’t these children in school?”. I explained that we home schooled, and we had approval from the town’s superintendent. Next he railed me out about how children can’t live in “clutter and filth” like this… again I explained that this “clutter and filth” as he called it, had just happened moments ago, and it was because this had happened that we had called for his help. He responded by calling the Department of Human Services to take my brothers away, and than calling the town code enforcement officer to condemn the house on grounds of “clutter and filth”.
While all this was happening the ambulance had taken my dad away, to where they had taken him I did not know, because Jack Nichols had not given me a chance to even know what had happened to my dad. More police, this time with cameras, stormed into the house, none of them would tell me what they were doing, why they were there, or what had happened to my dad. In the mean time my mom and her husband arrived, and my brothers and me packed a few things so we could move in with her while we figured out what to do next. We tried to pack what little we could find that hadn’t been destroyed by the flood, and do it around police officers who seemed to be going through everything in the house for no reason at all, and who refused to talk to me or even acknowledge that I was there. Luckily the hospital called us during this time and told us where my dad was, but they would not discuss his condition over the phone. It was four hours before the police would let us leave to find out what happened to my dad. A friend, who had witnessed the police searching the house with their cameras, said that he thought it looked like a drug raid, and he suggested that we get copies of the police report to find out why they were going through the house like that. I told my dad this after he came out of the hospital and he went to the station to get copies of the report, but they refused to give them to him without a court order, so we have been unable to obtain any info as to why the police were going through everything like that.
It was a lesson well learned. We called the police for help and they turned on us like rabid wolves. I well never call 911 again.
Once at the hospital I was told that what we had just witnessed was a diabetic seizure, brought on by extreme amounts of stress. The doctor asked if my dad had any recent stress… yes, he had, with the town harassing him the past couple of weeks, and than the police harassing him even during a medical emergency, nearly hindering the emergency teams ability to get him to the hospital. Dr. Greene than explained that it was luckily he had gotten to the hospital when he did “another 20 minutes and he’d have been dead” is what he said. I shudder to think that the town police and their obsession with throwing us off our land nearly resulted in my dad’s death. Dr. Greene went on to explain that my dad was now in a diabetic coma on full life support. Wither or not he would live was not yet known
As days, turned to weeks, my dad remained in a coma, his system getting weaker by the minute, at one point his kidneys failed him and he had to be rushed in for dialysis.
My dad remained in Southern Maine Medical Center in a diabetic coma on full life support for 21 days. In mid-June they moved him, wheelchair bound, from SMMC to New England Rehab Center in Portland. On June 29, 2006, my dad came home, unable to walk on his own, and saw for the first time what had become of our house. Just three days after my dad went into the hospital our electricity was shut off. The town claims they had nothing to do with it when I asked them. Without electricity, there was no light, and thus no way to see to clean the mess from the flood, and so, it remained just as it had been left on that day in May.
My dad, was now severely disabled, only able to walk a few feet at a time and unable to lift anything. The stress caused by the town’s harassment had left him with a weak heart and failing kidney’s, but the harassment had only just begun, for almost as soon as he was out of the hospital, the town once again began its relentless pursuit to remove us from our land. Land that for us means our heritage, our history, our legacy, but land that for the town, means nothing but dollar signs and profit margins.
Due to the months of the house sitting filled with water, we could not go back in to live in it. Having no family or relatives willing to help us, we were forced to camp out in the yard. We signed up for various shelter foundations and were put on their waiting lists. At HUD we were informed that we were #600 on the list.
Problems had gotten worse than I had known… for my dad was now disabled and could not go to work, thus I started my long and fruitless search for a job, which is today still ongoing. During his hospitalization, no bills had been paid, and about 10 or so years ago my dad had taken out a mortgage on the house… there has been no money since May of 2006 (nearly a year now), and thus no mortgage payments since that time either, they are now threatening to foreclose, but know the situation and are trying to work out a payment plan with my dad, in hopes that his disability check well eventually be approved by the state (he is still waiting to hear from the state on that… they sure do take a long time. They said it well is approved, they just have to wait for the paperwork to go through, so there should be some type of an income soon, we hope.)
With no income, and a house that we can not live in, my dad lived in his car, my brothers now liveing with our mom and her husband, and I built a house-tent-lean-to type of thing out of 12 shipping pallets, 3 cinderblocks, and a tarp. We had asked the town if we could put up a yurt (not hard to build as our land boarders a forest) until we could get a house back up, but they told us no, only tents were allowed, but we couldn’t afford to buy a real tent, so I built one instead.
Letters from the town continued to arrive. We continued to visit the town hall where we got the run around… “Come back in the morning, he’s only here in the mornings.”…Next day: “I’m sorry, did I say mornings? No, you’ll have to come in the afternoon.”… Day after day after day… week after week after week… “He’s out sick today”… “He’s on vacation this week.”… “He’s out on an inspection today.”… Weeks became months and STILL we had yet to meet the man behind the letters: Ken Shoupe. Though we went to his office almost daily, we would not meet him until November of 2006.
In July my dad had to have surgery, and was bed-ridden or rather car-ridden, as he had no bed, for several weeks afterwards. For food we get a bag a month from the Salvation Army (the only place that made an attempt to help us, little as it was) and each month we stretch that single bag of food as much as we possible can to make it last the entire month, but that often means we are limited to one very small meal a day (sometimes less). The State only allows us $13 a month for food stamps, and we aren’t eligible for TANF or welfare because we own our land.
We went to our church for help, but than there isn’t much they can do, you see, our town manager, the man giving the orders to Ken Shoop, is a “leading member” of the church, and others involved in the letters, such as the secretary who mails them out, also go to our church. The bishop tries to help when he can, but, in the end all he was able to do was get our electricity turned back on, but for that there was a catch: The town was going to let us remove our belongings from the house, before they tore it down. So, with the electricity back on, and this new threat hanging over our heads, me and my 3 brothers, built a second tent next to the first one, and began to move what we could salvage out of the house and into the second tent. Everything we own now sits outside, damp and wet, under a tarp, buried in snow.
Such threats and happenings have been going on now ever since my dad came home from the hospital, and the stress has made his recovery almost impossible, and thus he remains weekly, sometimes daily, in and out of doctor’s offices and hospitals with increasingly failing health, and every day his doctors tell him: “You have got to get the stress out of your life before it kills you.”
And now I shall skip ahead to where we are at today and why I am writing to you:
In December, with below zero temperatures and snow burying the “tent”, a woman from the Department of Human Services showed up at our land, explaining that someone had filed a complaint, because there was a family living outdoors during Maine’s harsh sub-zero winter. We have been on waiting lists for shelter since this had happened, but we are such a large family: 5 people, plus cats, dogs, and farm animals, there is no one who would take us, we had no choice but to sit out Maine’s winter and try to keep the tarp from collapsing on our heads under the weight of the snow. She was furious, at the Town Officials, for she had attempted to contact them first and was given the same “run around” that we had been given. She told them that if they were going to force us out of our home than they should at least pay for a hotel room (Old Orchard Beach has over 300 hotels, motels, cabins, camp grounds and condos.) She said that they had told her off. She is the one who said that what was happening here was not legal, that it was harassment, and that it was bordering on criminal. It seems that if one of us had died from the cold, the town could be charged with murder, we did not realize this. Before the DHS came in, we didn’t know that what was happening was illegal, we didn’t know that we had the right to fight the town. She gave us the phone number of Pine Tree Legal, Maine’s free lawyer group. We called. And called again. And keep calling, but can’t get past the operator, who says our name is on a waiting list.
This woman from DHS was the very first person to make any attempt to really and truly help us, with her help we went from #600 on HUD’s waiting list to #1 and on January 10, 2007, after nine months of homelessness, me and my dad were allowed to move into a temporary apartment in Biddeford, while HUD, AVESTA, and CALEB Foundation, try to find a place that well take both us and my 3 brothers, and our pets… a wait that we are told could take as many as 8 years! Unfortunately the apartment is tiny beyond belief and so everything we own is still back at home in the 2 “tents”.
We thought things were looking up at this point. We should have known that the town officials would not allow us to be happy for a single moment. Following the news that we are in an apartment the town has moved on to a new level of harassment: This week, we received a letter from the town, saying that we have until February 12 (just 3 days from now) to remove EVERYTHING from our land (including not only the things they had listed before but also the 2 tents, our house, the sheds, and the barns), after which time they well come in and level the land. They came to the land and told us that they wanted a totally empty lot… nothing, apparently not even the trees. They are complaining that the tents are an eyesore… the tents that THEY told us we had to put up to store our belongings in, because back than they were threatening to tear down the house. Among the items in the tent is my book collection, some 7,000 books that I have been collecting over the years; antiques that had belonged to my great-grandmother, and
grandmothers; and other such items. Everything we own, now stands to be stolen from us, by the town officials, and why? We asked Shoop why he was doing this to us, he said: “This is Old Orchard, you have to change you lifestyle.”
We know this is Old Orchard! Unlike outsiders like him, our family has been here on this land since 1657. My dad’s family built this town. Of course we know its Old Orchard. What kind of a reason is that to force a family off their land? We have 3 days to stop them, and no one well helps us. It seems like the whole town has turned on us. People who we once called friends now seem to be strangers.
Today this caper of harasment has taken on a new level… they are now threaten to take our animals away, based on false accusations made by one named Morin. They say they well take them in 5 days from today, but they have no grounds to take them, and as with everything else they have done, they have no court order to back themselves up with.
We have gone to everyone we can pleading, begging for help, but no one is willing to help us. Every church, every charity… even the volunteer lawyers, but Old Orchard Beach is Maine’s biggest tourist attraction, a town that draws in millions of tourist each summer, tourists who bring with them, money that makes Old Orchard one of Maine’s wealthiest towns, and because of that no one well help us fight them. We are told to give up, to just move… we are told that we can’t fight the Town of Old Orchard because it’s one of Maine’s most powerful government seats. But that doesn’t give them the right to steal our belongings! That doesn’t give them the right to steal our land! That doesn’t give them the right to force us to live in a tent during the winter! How can they just come in and level our land? They don’t even have any court orders to back themselves up with! What they are doing is not legal, but no one well do anything to stop them! They well not break us into losing, but if this doesn’t stop, they well kill my dad. This has to stop. They have too far. Please, there must be someway someone can help us! If you know of anyone who may be able to help us, please let us know!
Our Mailing address is still the same as it was before the apartment:
Kenneth R. Allen
Wendy C. Allen
144 Portland Ave
Old Orchard Beach, ME 04064
my email address (my dad don’t have one) firstname.lastname@example.org
Updates to this post have been made in the following posts:
An upate on THIS POST.
The latest round of harasment is now a requirerment that we keep a log of each and every time we feed our pets and give them water. The town has required that we keep a logbook hanging at our frontdoor so that the police can come in a check it whenever they deem it “necassary”.
They have also said that we must cut a hole in the wall so that the cats and dogs can go in and out 24 hours a day. These are house pets! They don’t even LIKE going outside! Worse, there is a pack of cyotees and at least one black bear, that rutinely wander about on our land. We can’t have a hole cut in the side of our house! The cyottees well eat my babies! The town laws have reached the point that they have become Communistic. This is insane! How can they pass laws like this?
They are also requiring that all cars be in a garage. They say that we can not have more than one car, and that if we own more than one car they can fine us $2,500 for each day that we have more than one car in our yard and not in a garage! How can they get away with this? Old Orchard Beach is a town not a dynasty! What is wrong with them? How do these laws get passed?
Well, a result of these latest harasements is that my dad has had yet another stress overload, and has to go in for surgery yet again, tomorrow morning as a result.
What they are doing to us is not right.
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