Monday, December 15, 2008

Homeless & Foreclosures

A creative—though troubling and obviously illegal—approach to housing the homeless is spreading, according to this report from USA Today, and along with the tent towns being thought of for Sacramento, does create an opportunity to begin to address the moral obligation society has towards the homeless and the moral obligation the homeless has to the society.

An excerpt.

“For Max Rameau, a vacant, boarded-up home is more than just a symbol of the national housing crisis. It's an opportunity to house the homeless.

“Rameau, a homeless advocate, runs a controversial program in Miami that helps families squat in homes vacated because of bank foreclosures. Using Internet listings and a team of volunteers, Rameau and his Take Back the Land foundation matches homeless families with empty homes.

“Rameau, 39, says his efforts are creative solutions for two of America's biggest problems: rising numbers of vacant homes and a growing homeless population. He has moved in six families since January. The authorities so far haven't stopped him.

"It's morally indefensible to have vacant homes sitting there, potentially for years, while you have human beings on the street," Rameau says.

“Kelly Penton, a city of Miami spokeswoman, says police don't have the manpower to scour neighborhoods looking for squatters. Police only act on a complaint by a property owner, which so far hasn't happened, she says.

"People need to obey the law, obviously," Penton says. "But it has to be something that's reported to the city."

“Take Back the Land is just one of several grass-roots efforts — some legal, some on the borderline — that are emerging to confront the sprawling housing crisis. As the federal government tries to stem the growing problem, non-profit groups and advocates are taking matters into their own hands.

“Advocates in Cleveland are trying to use city money to buy abandoned homes and rent them to the homeless. Homeowners in Atlanta pay homeless residents to sleep in their foreclosed homes to safeguard the houses. And in Boston, protesters have joined arm-in-arm in "eviction blockades" against sheriff's deputies.

“With 44% of the nation's 744,000 homeless unsheltered, it's not surprising that people want to take over homes, says Michael Stoops, executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless.”