Shelli Cecere heard about Manassas's new efforts to crack down on crowding in homes.
But the program has started too late, as far as the 23-year-old Manassas resident is concerned.
Cecere is moving where she doesn't have to worry about her neighbors, she said. She's ditching her trailer for a single-family home in Garrisonville.
She said she has had enough of trailers loaded with adults in her neighborhood, Prince William Mobile Home Park.
"There are 10, 15 cars in a single driveway," Cecere said. "I can't get by. I'm sick of not being able to drive down the street."
In early June, Manassas started a program designed to cut down on what some say is an out-of-control trend in the city: housing occupied by more people than it is designed for.
City officials said that the program is still evolving, but that it seems to be working.
In its first month, 48 complaints were registered. Officials had expected 40 to 80 calls in the first year. Citations have been issued for at least seven crowding violations, officials said, and dozens of cases are under investigation. Manassas Public Works Director Michael C. Moon said he expects to see the first court actions as early as next month.
A new translator and property maintenance inspector take the calls through a hotline, 703-257-8322. The staff members then check a home's space per person, the possibility of a fire hazard and the relationship among occupants. The inspector, along with the fire marshal, writes citations and can order evictions and make arrests.
Last fall, Virginia adopted a building maintenance code that tightened regulations on the number of residents allowed in a home.
Manassas's program goes a step further by using the city's fire prevention codes to combat the problem. Until now, crowding had come under the jurisdiction of the city's zoning administrator.
Cecere's mother, Susan Lacey, wondered where residents will go if they're found to be violating the new codes.
"It costs $930 or more for a two-bedroom apartment here," said Lacey, also a resident of Prince William Mobile Home Park. "How can they expect anybody on minimum wage to afford that?"
Residents will turn to the street, she said. They'll steal.
"They might go from Georgetown South to Coverstone or Irongate," Lacey said.
But the mission of the program is not to leave people homeless, said Manassas City Manager Lawrence D. Hughes. It's to address crowding and safety issues.
As a precaution, the City Council has granted $7,500 for temporary housing for people displaced because of the program. If it comes to that, the city will probably contract with SERVE Inc., Hughes said.
"They have shelter facilities and transitional housing," he said. "If all else fails, they have motels that we can use.'' But that's the last resort, he said.
Although Cecere and Lacey said they knew of the crowding program, few of their neighbors did.
The key is education, officials have said.
The City Council has agreed to spend $15,600 to help staff members communicate with non-English-speaking residents. Descriptions of the program are appearing in Spanish and English in homeowners association newsletters as well as the Spanish-language newspaper El Comercio, Hughes said. Officials are also making house calls between 7 and 9 p.m., when residents are more likely to be home, he said.
"In addition to publicity . . . word of mouth will probably be more effective than anything else," Moon said.
But for now, Moon said, city officials have gotten a lot of "thank yous."