This has been in the works since the start of the Occupy Wall Street movement. We had always planned to bring the plight of economic justice home by putting a face to the dangerous practices of banks, in particular predatory lending, which leads to home foreclosures. It was a natural progression for us.
I’ve been occupying a home in East New York, which we have been fixing up to house a homeless family that is currently squatting in another foreclosed home. This single mother, her five-year-old boy and a nine-year-old girl are living in a very unstable situation: the house they are currently staying in has no running water, and only recently got electricity.
The mother, who has been in and out of homeless shelters for the past decade, was recently given a voucher to move into a permanent home, but it was cancelled just as she was about to move in because the city-subsidised program ran out of money.
The house been empty for three years, so making it liveable and bringing it up to code is a considerable amount of work, but we’re moving quickly. Because it requires some expertise, we’ve enlisted the help of local community organisations. We’re also trying to track down the house’s original owners, and figure out who currently holds the lease. All we know right now is that it was foreclosed on by Bank of America.
There are about a dozen occupiers at the house around-the-clock, but many more show up whenever we put a call out about the police visiting the house. Police officers show up regularly, but they haven’t asked us to leave yet. Because we’re on private property, it’s not as easy for police to move in on us as if we were protesting outside. They need an actual complaint from the home’s current owner before they can do anything.
“In one form or another, Occupy is going to be around for a while”
The reaction from the neighbourhood, on the other hand, has been very warm. This area has been ravaged by the foreclosure crisis. Neighbours say, ‘we thought our community had been abandoned by the banks, by the authorities.’ And now we’re here to show them we care, that we are all together part of the 99 percent. The neighbours really appreciate that we’re getting rid of the blight. This neighbourhood is full of boarded up homes, and these are littered with trash, which attract rodents, and who knows what else. With no upkeep they quickly fall apart.
Politicians try to put the blame on people for not paying their mortgages, but there’s no way you can expect the same person that was originally told they would pay 1,500 dollars a month to pay 4,000 dollars today. This should be illegal.
I think Occupy Our Homes gives our movement new momentum, but I don’t know that it’s our final destination. The situation is fluid – we’re planning many other types of actions for the future, including port occupations
. In one form or another, we’re going to be around for a while.”