Dozens of senior residents in Brooklyn Center are scrambling to find new housing after being told this month that the facility where they live is being sold and will close.
Residents of Earle Brown Terrace learned in a May 1 letter that their leases and home-care services are being terminated due to the June 15 closure, a decision that management officials say partly stems from years of low occupancy.
That gives them six weeks to leave — a timetable that their families are decrying as too tight to find new housing, especially for residents who are low-income, have disabilities or may lack relatives to help them.
Recent days have brought emotional goodbyes and gatherings as neighbors anticipate the quiet exodus from Earle Brown Terrace, which offers independent and assisted living to seniors.
Some families are quick to praise staff efforts to help residents navigate their options, but many describe the quick time frame as a hardship and say they wonder whether building managers could have let them know sooner.
The news has left 73-year-old resident Johnetta Dysart grieving the loss of friendships, as her neighbors disperse to different facilities.
"I'm angry," Dysart said. "This is my home and they are taking it away from me."
The retired social worker said she isn't upset the building is being sold, as "people have a right to do other things with their properties."
What angers her, she said, is the time frame seniors have been given to leave.
According to the May 1 letter sent to residents, month-to-month leases can be terminated "with 30 days prior written notice."
State records show that Earle Brown Terrace is owned by a limited liability company based in St. Paul and managed by Affinity Living Group, a North Carolina-based assisted living provider.
Becky Brown, executive director of Earle Brown Terrace, said in a statement that the facility has grappled with low occupancy. She said Earle Brown Terrace has more than 90 vacant units and an occupancy rate of 34 percent.
"We are optimistic, based on what we're hearing, that our residents will find equivalent or better settings," Brown said.
Brown added that moving costs for the building's 55 residents are being paid in full. But she said she was "not aware" of when the building sale will be final or what the future use of it will be.
City officials say they know even less about the site's future.
"We really didn't have a heads-up as to what was going to happen there at all, nor do we have to," Mayor Tim Willson said. "It's a private deal."
Families say a tight senior housing market has put a crunch on finding other accommodations.
Retired machinist and bus driver Samuel Knox considers himself lucky, with family to help him move and plans already in place to live with his daughter in north Minneapolis.
"It's not easy for people with disabilities to just up and move," he said.
But Knox, 66, has been fretting over the fate of his garden in the courtyard of Earle Brown Terrace, with some of his produce and plants in pots and others fresh in the ground.
On a recent afternoon, Knox headed out to tend his garden in his motorized wheelchair, just as he does for hours each day in the growing season. If he had known sooner about the building closing, he said, he would have planned his plantings accordingly. For now, he's scooping as many of his vegetables and flowers into pots as he can before the move.
And by the time it all blooms, Knox and his garden will be gone.