People-less Houses Movement

According to a recent Associated Press story, the Take Back the Land folks in Florida are making the sub-prime debacle work for those living on the streets. “We’re matching homeless people with peopleless homes,” said TBL activist Max Rameau. Yep! They are moving homeless folks into beautiful, spacious, foreclosed upon houses.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Max Rameau delivers his sales pitch like a pro. “All tile floor!” he says during a recent showing. “And the living room, wow! It has great blinds.”

But in nearly every other respect, he is unlike any real estate agent you’ve ever met. He is unshaven, drives a beat-up car and wears grungy cut-off sweat pants. He also breaks into the homes he shows. And his clients don’t have a dime for a down payment.

Rameau is an activist who has been executing a bailout plan of his own around Miami’s empty streets: He is helping homeless people illegally move into foreclosed homes.

Rameau and a group of like-minded advocates formed Take Back the Land, which also helps the new “tenants” with secondhand furniture, cleaning supplies and yard upkeep. So far, he has moved six families into foreclosed homes and has nine on a waiting list.

“I think everyone deserves a home,” said Rameau, who said he takes no money from his work with the homeless. “Homeless people across the country are squatting in empty homes. The question is: Is this going to be done out of desperation or with direction?”

“There’s a real need here, and there’s a disconnect between the need and the law,” he said. “Being arrested is just one of the potential factors in doing this.”

I think the TBL movement is a great riff on the Landless People’s Movement in South Africa and the Landless Workers Movement in Brazil and elsewhere. TBL is just doing it “American-style.”

With the suicide of capitalism comes the blurring of what has been narrowly understood as “private property.” At the top, the Bush administration has been forced to “nationalize” the banking industry and, apparently, at the bottom, in Miami, TBL is reclaiming as public property those abandoned houses now owned by the banks due to foreclosures. Interesting.

1 thought on “People-less Houses Movement”

  1. The Orlando Sentinel this morning, in their goals for the community for the new year editorial is also calling for homeless people to use the glut of empty condos and apartments here. Here is the excerpt:

    “Help homeless families
    Homeless people aren’t all panhandlers on the streets. They are your relatives, friends, schoolmates of your children.

    And they’re in trouble. The nation’s economic tsunami is sweeping up more people by the day. In Central Florida, calls to United Way’s 2-1-1 emergency help line went up more than 50 percent in October and November 2008, compared with the same period in 2007.

    People are mostly asking for utility-bill payment and rent-payment assistance, along with food. We know it’s going to be a tough year for business, government and citizens, but we believe it’s more important in the lean years to help those who don’t have a home.

    It takes community outreach, like the partnership between the United Way and Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida to use portable computers so people can apply for food stamps on the spot. There’s more than $60 million in untapped federal food-stamp funds available regionally.

    Or consider the partnership between developers and the Homeless Services Network of Central Florida to offer empty apartments for those in danger of becoming homeless in Orange County. The plan calls for families to become self-reliant in seven months.

    We consider temporary housing one of the biggest challenges for the Central Florida Regional Homeless Commission. While strapped for reliable sources of money, the commission will have to rely not only on businesses but on the three counties whose top officials have made reducing homelessness a priority by agreeing to join the group.

    Joining was the easy part. Results are what count.”

    The full article is at: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/opinion/orl-edintrogoal09jan01,0,384282.story

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