An Arizona homeowner’s association is drawing criticism for forcing a teenage orphan out of his grandparent’s retirement community home, where he moved after his parents died just two weeks apart, ABC affiliate KNXV reported.
Collin Clabaugh, 15, reportedly moved in with his grandparents at the 55+ community Gardens at Willow Creek in Prescott after losing his mother Bonnie to a “long illness” in February, according to her obituary, and his father James to suicide two weeks later, James’ mother wrote on Facebook.
But Collin’s grandparents were soon informed that because he is younger than 19, he would be unable to call Willow Creek home, and the family would have to arrange a new living situation by June 2020, KNXV reported.
“We didn’t plan this. We didn’t go out all of a sudden one day and say, ‘Hey, let’s have Clay kill himself and let’s have Bonnie die, and we’ll take Collin in and to heck with the HOA,’” grandmother Melodie Passmore told KNXV. “It’s not the way it was planned.”
Passmore and her husband have lived in the community for the past four years, but said they are now being forced to consider moving in order to keep Collin in their care.
“It just seems so heartless that even though we’ve explained our whole situation and everything, it has to be the rule that dictates everything, it can’t be someone’s life,” the teen told the outlet.
A lawyer representing the community said in a letter obtained by KNXV that while the board was “sympathetic” to the family’s situation, it was not acting outside the scope of the law in restricting children from living there.
The board also noted in a separate statement that while some members supported having Collin as a resident, others did not, and allowing him to stay would “leave [the association] open to legal claims from other residents.”
“In coming to this decision, please understand that the Association has no ill will towards the Passmores or Collin, nor is it trying to make a difficult family situation more difficult,” the letter reads.
A Willow Creek representative did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
Passmore told KNXV she planned to talk to a real estate agent, but that she and her husband were considering leaving the community on their own terms, despite the fact that both are in their 70s and had hoped to continue living there.
“It’s amazing how one rule is more important than one person’s life,” she said.
Collin, meanwhile, who moved to Arizona from California, where he was living with his parents, told KTVK that he, too, wanted to keep living in Prescott.
“I want to be here. ‘Cause I know I have two people who love me,” he said.
Passmore addressed the situation on her Facebook page on Tuesday, and elaborated on the difficulties that would accompany moving and the positivity Collin has brought to the neighborhood.
“How many of you can just sell your house and buy a new one and not feel horrible because you have sunk every dime you had into fixing it up. This isn’t a little whiny kid running up and down the street screaming and causing trouble. This is a young man who helps his neighbors and is rarely seen outside of going to and from school,” she wrote. “So next time you want to rag on me remember to ask yourself if you have compassion and want to see him happy and living with people who love him or would you rather he be in foster care because some lawyers are trying to push his grandparents around and intimidate us. They allow 19 year olds so allowing him under special circumstances for a couple more years isn’t the end of the world.”