from the nyt:
MIAMI – When the woman who calls herself Queen Omega moved into a three-bedroom house here last December, she introduced herself to the neighbors, signed contracts for electricity and water and ordered an Internet connection.
What she did not tell anyone was that she had no legal right to be in the home.
Ms. Omega, 48, is one of the beneficiaries of the foreclosure crisis. Through a small advocacy group of local volunteers called Take Back the Land, she moved from a friend’s couch into a newly empty house that sold just a few years ago for more than $400,000.
Michael Stoops, executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless, said about a dozen advocacy groups around the country were actively moving homeless people into vacant homes — some working in secret, others, like Take Back the Land, operating openly.
In addition to squatting, some advocacy groups have organized civil disobedience actions in which borrowers or renters refuse to leave homes after foreclosure.
The groups say that they have sometimes received support from neighbors and that beleaguered police departments have not aggressively gone after squatters.
“We’re seeing sheriffs’ departments who are reluctant to move fast on foreclosures or evictions,” said Bill Faith, director of the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio, which is not engaged in squatting. “They’re up to their eyeballs in this stuff. Everyone’s overwhelmed.”
On a recent afternoon, Ms. Omega sat on the tiled floor of her unfurnished living room and described plans to use the space to tie-dye clothing and sell it on the Internet, hoping to save some money before she is inevitably forced to leave.
“It’s a beautiful castle, and it’s temporary for me,” she said, “and if I can be here 24 hours, I’m thankful.” In the meantime, she said, she has instructed her adult son not to make noise, to be a good neighbor.
‘A modern-day underground railroad’
In Minnesota, a group called the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign recently moved families into 13 empty homes; in Philadelphia, the Kensington Welfare Rights Union maintains seven “human rights houses” shared by 13 families. Cheri Honkala, who is the national organizer for the Minnesota group and was homeless herself once, likened the group’s work to “a modern-day underground railroad,” and said squatters could last up to a year in a house before eviction.
Other groups, including Women in Transition in Louisville, Ky., are looking for properties to occupy, especially as they become frustrated with the lack of affordable housing and the oversupply of empty homes.
Anita Beaty, executive director of the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless, said her group had been looking into asking banks to give it abandoned buildings to renovate and occupy legally. Ms. Honkala, who was a squatter in the 1980s, said the biggest difference now was that the neighbors were often more supportive. “People who used to say, ‘That’s breaking the law,’ now that they’re living on a block with three or four empty houses, they’re very interested in helping out, bringing over mattresses or food for the families,” she said.
When is taking someone else’s property a human right?
Ironically, the biggest fear squatters have is other squatters. Come “home” from the groceries to find out you’ve been out-squatted. What are you going to do, call the police? You’re lucky to find your stuff out in front.
I’m kinda okay with this, as long as:
1. They don’t get in the way of selling the place
2. They move out when asked
3. They don’t damage or degrade the property
4. They don’t cause problems for the neighborhood
That’s probably asking a lot though.
DEADBEATS lose house new DEADBEATS move into house. BANKS receive tax dollars from GOV to not liquidate properties at the market price. Lather Rinse Repeat and the cycle starts over again.
In CUBA the government owns all property and doesn’t allow individuals to privately own a house. Unless of course you’re hooked up in gov.
How is what we have right now in America any different? If Government/Banks owns all the property and refuse to sell them at prices people can afford? Effectively government owns all the property.
I hate deadbeats.
They may technically fit the description of deadbeats, but if they’re being quiet, not disturbing the neighbors and signing up for utilities and actually paying the bills, they’re probably a step up the evolutionary ladder from the previous owners and the banks that currently own the houses.
They need to send Jim in with plastic ties and round them up!
Gene, what if they’re preventing the new owners from moving in? That’s what some of them do, and the law is on their side once they start paying the bills.
It’s certainly a different story if they take care of the house, but far too many houses have been trashed and the bottom line is it’s not their right to do this.
How can the law be on the squater’s side?
IF they have no lease, then it seems to me that they shouldn’t have any rights to the property. I’m pretty sure that paying your phone bill doesn’t entitle you to someone else’s property.
Shh! No one tell the squatters about the 16,000sq.ft. house in Encinitas! 😉
The banks should be forced to liquidate these properties to meet capital requirements instead of taking tax payer money to keep it off the market.