Group moves homeless people into foreclosed homes

Following up on our post yesterday about skaters transforming swimming pools at foreclosed homes into impromptu skate bowls, Boing Boing reader Dan Rosen points us to a related story. The short version: "underground housing activists" in one neighborhood are moving homeless folks into the homes of folks who've lost their homes. Man, that's complicated and sad all around. Snip:
“We're matching homeless people with peopleless homes,” he said with a grin. [Max] 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?”

Rameau, who makes his living as a computer consultant, said he is doing the owners a favor, saving the properties from drug dealers, vandals and thieves. He said he is not scared of getting arrested.

“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.”

Group moves people into foreclosed houses (Charlotte Observer). Image: AP. "Marie Nadine Pierre holds her baby, Nennon, and looks out the window of the 'peopleless' house where she lives in Miami." J PAT CARTER.


  1. …I dunno. There’s something about this that doesn’t feel right. What about the people who were living in the homes when they were foreclosed? Is this do-gooder group doing anything to help them, or are they just helping the bums on the street?

  2. and how long will it be before he moves a homeless family into the house they lost?

    What happens when the house is sold and the new owner wants to actually live in their house?

    Who pays when a family destroys the property (fire, flood, etc.)?

    The intent is magnificent, but the reality is nawt so grate, akshully.

  3. I wonder that also, OM.

    I see both sides of this and if the “new” tenets are doing well to upkeep the property then I see it as a good thing.

    If the original owner has tried their best to keep the house then it’s not so good.

    In reality the property is still there whether or not someone is “paying” for it. Frankly someone should get some use out of it (and the property should get some upkeep).

  4. Give me a f**king break. This doesn’t sit well with my sense of hard work = ownership. While many but not all homeowners who bought homes they now can’t afford are out, why are these folks in?

  5. Okay, kudos to the dude for thinking of this…but….

    This is a really, really, exceptionally shitty way to house homeless families. The “activist” will not be the one who gets in trouble. If the owner discovers the squatters (which is essentially what these folks are when they move into a property to which they have no legal right), it will be the homeless people who are evicted. The homeless people in these homes now run the risk of having their credit and rental histories, which are probably already pretty shaky, further ruined by eviction action. Additionally, there is the possibility that the “tenants” may be charged with criminal trespass and other crimes. People with evictions and criminal convictions on their records have a very difficult time finding landlords who will rent to them.

    Don’t get me wrong – I believe that housing is a human right, and that everyone should have a home to live in, but this guy is putting these families into situations where THEY will be the victims if legal action is taken, not him.

    If he REALLY wants to help homeless people, he should be using his time to advocate and lobby for a LEGAL way for these families to get into homes rather than setting them up to have an even harder time legitimately securing housing in the future.

  6. There was a story on Democracy Now maybe a week ago about a group doing this in Florida too. More power to em though I certainly had the same reaction as others about the people that had just been kicked out.

  7. if homelessness is a core component of socialism does that mean that america is still capitalist by reducing the number of homeless?

  8. Banks are saying off the record that they prefer families of squatters over leaving the home open for copper bandits. This is a transient situation that can’t last, so it makes sense that transients are the ones who can take advantage.

  9. Why isn’t he moving the foreclosed owners back into their own homes?

    It would make sense for banks to allow foreclosed owners to remain in place. Houses decay rapidly when empty. Instead the banks are foreclosing without taking title, leaving nobody responsible for the legally required maintenance or any liability. Thus, green pools breeding West Nile virus, houses full of rats and other vermin, squatter crack houses. It’s far better to have them occupied.

  10. I am a jetless person and I seek an unoccupied private jet to take possession. Preferrably a Constellation but a Learjet will be also acceptable. Thank you.

  11. If the banks were smart they’d cooperate by renting these houses to the squatters for $10/month in exchange for the squatters keeping the houses safe from those that would destroy it, and in exchange for moving out on 2 day notice or the like. That way, the squatters and the banks both benefit.

  12. Anachis of Tyre, I think, told Solon the Lawgiver that laws are like a spider’s web; tiny ones slip between the threads, the mighty crash through them with impunity, only the middle sized are caught.

    People make things to be used. Let them be used! I will celebrate that the work of hands shall not be wasted, and that people have a warm place out of the rain to rest their heads, and I shall not worry about the spiders today.

  13. While I can appreciate the sentiment behind this move, I still find it morally reprehensible.

    Firstly, as MELLOWKNEES pointer out, the organizer is setting these people up for trouble when the owners find out there are squatters in their house. That’s irresponsible and unfair.

    Next, you have to consider that, whether you like it or not, these are someone else’s homes. They belong to a person or a company. Any damage the squatters to do the home is cost incurred to the owner. Again, this is a situation which could result in legal action against the squatters.

    If the organizers really wanted to help these people, they would help them work towards being able to afford legal housing, not setting them up for prosecution.

  14. US law is much tougher on squatters than UK law. In the UK, if a squatter can demonstrate that s/he is not engaging in any criminal activity, is living there by necessity, and that the squatter did not gain access by force, then the legal system treats the squatter relatively gently. US trespassing laws and attitudes toward property rights pretty much guarantee an instant ass-kicking at the hands of the police, or worse.

    I do not know how liability is handled in the UK, but there seems to be a liability problem here, too. If a squatter in a US property is injured on the property, the squatter could potentially seek damages from the owner of record.

    /my experience living in squats in both the UK and US in the late 80s.

    Also, @Mellowknees: Housing will be recognized as a basic human right just as soon as healthcare is recognized as such. Oh, wait…

  15. #3 is right. Everyone, and I mean everyone, is ready to turn their back to the misfortune of those that put their sweat and dreams into the foreclosed property.

    Still, there might be speculative properties that were foreclosed that aren’t primary residencies. I don’t see the direct hypocrisy of supporting squatting in those dwellings.

  16. “I am a jetless person and I seek an unoccupied private jet to take possession. Preferrably a Constellation but a Learjet will be also acceptable. Thank you.” – Lucifer

    Are you the Morning Star or just a lawyer?

  17. I hate to nitpick, but the article says this is going on in Miami, not in North Carolina (The Observer is a NC paper, but this is an AP article they picked up off the wire).


    Ever seen what renters do to property? If people have no financial skin in the game (or in many cases even when they do), they treat property like shit. Sure, not all renters, but many. In fact, as the cost of the property goes down, the level of respect seems to drop as well.

    I own a house that was foreclosed on, and was abandoned for three years before I bought it from the bank. The windows were all broken, there was trash and dead animals inside, all the pipes were broken, and the oil tank was rusted out leaving a pool of hazardous sludge to be cleaned up in the basement… Yet I still have a hard time believing that it would have been in better condition had there been somebody living in the house on the cheap over those three years. It’s not just the act of being lived in that keeps a house from decaying. It’s all the work that the resident invests into maintaining their property. Renters (especially low budget renters) don’t do maintenance, and at the same time they actively wear the rest of the property.

    1. If people have no financial skin in the game (or in many cases even when they do), they treat property like shit..

      Bullshit. I’ve been a renter most of my life and I have always, ALWAYS, ALWAYS taken better care of the property than the owner.

  19. Hey, good news everybody, the economy is fixed and everybody gets to go back to their houses! Yay!

    I can tell because Congress just gave themselves a 2.5 million dollar pay raise! And after all, the boys and girls on the hill made it clear (when they were re-allocating all the money earmarked for environmental causes to “bailing out” fantastically rich auto executives) that it would not be OK to spend taxpayer money on rich folks’ salary increases while the people were suffering.

    So everythings OK now! No more foreclosures! Go America!!!


  20. This reminds me of school systems that provide students with passing grade even though they hadn’t made any effort in any of the classes. The big difference here makes it even worse: someone else is losing what these people are gaining.
    This isn’t a great idea. Homelessness is a very unfortunate, growing trend, but “giving something that is not yours to someone who hasn’t earned it” is a project that I find hard to swallow.
    If you want to pair up the less fortunate, take the “Big Brothers” pairs to the animal shelter to volunteer for walking the dogs, at least both parties benefit from the interaction.

  21. I own a house that was foreclosed on, and was abandoned for three years before I bought it from the bank. […]

    And you are blaming renters for its condition? After it being abandoned for three years.

    Yet I still have a hard time believing that it would have been in better condition had there been somebody living in the house on the cheap over those three years.

    Yeah, I’m gonna say you’re wrong. You are essentially saying that renters, by-the-by, break their own windows, smash their pipes, drag animal carcasses into the house, and live in hazardous ooze.

    You are just wrong, in description and in degree.

    Renters (especially low budget renters) don’t do maintenance..

    No, landlords do, that’s why you are making over the odds of your mortgage, on the rent. You are providing a service, not just a roof.

  22. I heard an NPR report on the radio about this a few weeks ago. One of the problems that they are having is that these “help groups” are forging documents and creating legal turmoil. An owner of a property may find that someone is squatting in their property and call police to evict them. When the police show up the squatter produces paperwork that looks legit (complete with notarized documents). The policeman now is put into a position where two sides are claiming legal right to something and he has no way to confirm authenticity. I’m all for addressing the homeless problem but, trying to cheat the system and forging documents to create legal confusion is not the way help.

  23. Antinous, have you been a landlord? You may well be an outlier, but you can’t run a business or set public policy based on the outliers. The vast majority of tenants do indeed treat property like shit.

    1. The vast majority of tenants do indeed treat property like shit.

      And I say that’s a big, fat lie and that you’ve just insulted billions of people worldwide. So why don’t you provide some proof for that extraordinary claim?

  24. @27: He was saying this about those who do not rent and will not be finanically burdened by the domiciles degredation.

    You said that you rent – these are not renters, but squatters.

    And have you ever been to a college rental property on move out day – vile is the term most closely associated with the condition of it.

    So, stop with the “Bullshit”.

  25. been a renter and landlord both. Got screwed as both. Mammals, can’t live with them, can’t obliterate the Class (yet).

    How about letting the market decide what the rent should be? If the properties are empty, the landlord should be happy to get taxes and minimum maintenance. Certainly affordable to renters in an economic depression

  26. It would make sense for banks to allow foreclosed owners to remain in place.

    Not really.
    If the banks allow that, what incentive do owners have to avoid foreclosure?

    On the topic of property rights:
    These houses do not belong to people. They belong to companies. The houses were created and stand empty because of the shortsighted policies of these companies. These companies are hurting the nation by having put these policies in place – policies which create homelessness, foreclosures and urban decay. Yet the companies escape unpunished.

    Having to do some community service in the form of helping the needy seems like a just punishment for these companies – the fact that the companies actually benefit from it is just icing on the cake.

    I do agree that this is almost certainly illegal, but laws and morals are not the same thing. Sometimes breaking the law is the right thing to do.

    Kudos to the guys behind this.

  27. college students are not human.

    Fact is, you’re all renters. You borrow the Earth from your children and all you personally will ever own is 6’x3′ (if lucky)

  28. “The vast majority of tenants do indeed treat property like shit.” is just another way of saying the vast majority of humans are bad. Do you really believe that?

  29. No. This simply will not do. Now, if the banks (or whoever is the legal holder of title) decided they’d be fine with folks living in those houses, then… OK. But -call me crazy- I don’t think the legal holders of title would be apt to do that. And, while I’m thinking of it, the charmingly anarchic “if you don’t like something change it” tag implies an ethic that cuts both ways, mes amies. When the real owners come along and say, “hey– I don’t like tenants who pay nothing, so I’m going to change the situation by means of [whatever is at his/her disposal]”, can’t nobody cry and moan about the poor squatters… Sure, legal is not always moral; but if it’s morality you’re after, don’t even think about trying to sell someone on the idea that freeloading -against the will or knowledge of the real property owner- is somehow moral.

    1. kripes,

      For some of us, property rights are not the cornerstone of our sense of morality. In fact, they’re not part of it at all.

  30. I wish I could find the citation on it, but I remember reading a story a couple of months ago about how many of these forclosed houses have had the mortgages change hands so many times the legally required paper trail has gotten lost, & nobody can produce the actual documents proving they own the house. Why not let someone w/out a home live there – or even the original tenants (don’t be fooled by the rhetoric, you are not a ‘homeowner’ until you pay off your mortgage), until someone comes forward & produces actual proof they own the property. I say we ought to legalize squatting, give the theoretical owner say 5 years from date of occupancy to claim the property (WITH documentation), otherwise title cedes to person occupying the residence as long as they’ve been paying the property taxes. This produces a financial incentive for the squatters to maintain the property, as it could possibly be theirs for cheap someday soon!

  31. H– nd th nm f th grp, “Tk Bck th Lnd”? Hw bt “BY Bck th Lnd”? r myb, “Mk Shrwd Lng-Trm nvstmnts n Rl stt nd Hmn Cptl s tht W Hv th Cptl t BY th Lnd F nd NLY F th Prsnt wnrs Wsh T Sll t T s”. Tht snds lttl lss… Sdtnlndsh, wht wth th “tkng wtht skng” nd ll…

  32. So what happens when a person who can finally afford a home because it is a foreclosed property inherits the house, squatters and all?

    Does Florida have Castle Doctrine or “Make My Day” Laws?

    I can see strange people trying to force you out a home you own in a southern state ending very badly.

  33. It’s a clever idea, but really short-sighted. As many people above have pointed out, it’s illegal and can potentially get these homeless families in a great deal of trouble and cause a lot of problems.

    If these volunteers have the time for these shenanigans, couldn’t they use their time to getting homeless people back into the system by helping them find jobs and legitimate residencies?

    Their heart is in the right place, but this seems like an ugly band-aid over a huge problem, and it’s still possible for people with good intentions to be opportunists.

  34. @ 43: Sr. nd ‘ll jst “brrw” smn’s cr ntl thy hv th dcmnts prvng wh hs lgl ttl. sy w ght t lglz grnd thft, gv th thrtcl (by whch mn CTL nd LGL) wnr 60 mnths fr th dt f thft t clm th cr (WTH dcmnttn), thrws, th ttl cds t th thf– srry, th nw drvr– s lng s thy’v bn pyng txs nd nsrnc nd gttng th l chngd vry [whtvr ntrvl s crrct].

    Wht’s tht y sy? Thr rn’t lt f ppl-lss crs t thr th sm s wth hss? Hmmm. G t yr lcl Frd dlr.

    nd nthr thng: f ths flks cn’t py rnt, hw r thy gng t py txs nd nsrnc? Gd lck tryng t stl ths…

  35. woo woo woo
    “The great — and good, I believe — White Chief sends us word that he wants to buy land. But he will reserve us enough that we can live comfortably. This seems generous, since the red man no longer has rights he need respect….
    So your offer seems fair, and I think my people will accept it and go to the reservation you offer them. We will live apart, and in peace…. It matters little where we pass the rest of our days. They are not many. The Indians’ night will be dark. No bright star shines on his horizons. The wind is sad. Fate hunts the red man down. Wherever he goes, he will hear the approaching steps of his destroyer, and prepare to die, like the wounded doe who hears the step of the hunter….
    We will consider your offer. When we have decided, we will let you know. Should we accept, I here and now make this condition: we will never be denied to visit, at any time, the graves of our fathers and our friends.
    Every part of this earth is sacred to my people. Every hillside, every valley, every clearing and wood, is holy in the memory and experience of my people. Even those unspeaking stones along the shore are loud with events and memories in the life of my people. The ground beneath your feet responds more lovingly to our steps than yours, because it is the ashes of our grandfathers. Our bare feet know the kindred touch. The earth is rich with the lives of our kin.”

  36. I am torn on this one, admittedly. While on the one hand, having a resident inside a property does indeed cut down or eliminate altogether much of the blight and crime associated with foreclosed properties, well, they are *not* renters. They are squatters, with no personal obligation whatsoever to either maintain or protect the premises (beyond it being a roof over one’s head). That doesn’t mean by any stretch, that I think all squatters would run amok and trash the place…simply, that since it isn’t theirs even on a month-to-month basis, it isn’t in that person’s interest to make much if any effort. Humans being what we are, some will still make the effort anyhow simply because it is *nicer* to come “home” to a place that isn’t a dump, and they are less likely to meet with drifters trying to muscle in on the territory if it appears lived-in and kept up to at least some degree.

    I have been a renter all of my adult life, and I, like some of the posters above, have considered it an obligation on my part to leave the property in better shape than when I moved in. I plant, I install sprinkler systems where needed, repair what needs repairing if it is minor, scrape and paint exteriors, keep the yards groomed and neat and inviting. I would have been mortified to have ever lived in the ugliest place on the block, and if it was the ugliest when I signed the lease, within 3 months it was one of the nicest-looking. Call it pride if you like, but keep in mind that pride is not the sole province of a home OWNER. We renters have it, too.

  37. I don’t want to hear one more nasty, uncharitable comment about how these homeless people haven’t worked for a home. Plenty of people become homeless while working full time, or are working full time (and then some) until illness or some other problem disrupts their lives.

    Do you imagine that talking trash about those less fortunate than yourselves is a magic charm that will guarantee that it never happens to you?

    Stop patting yourselves on the back. It’s false moral superiority. None of us are immune to misfortune. Children certainly aren’t, and they make up a sizeable fraction of the homeless population. They don’t deserve to suffer.

  38. “I can see strange people trying to force you out a home you own in a southern state ending very badly.”

    What’s this about southerners? If they’re so goddamn tough how come they lost?

  39. “Plenty of people become homeless while working full time, or are working full time (and then some) until illness or some other problem disrupts their lives.”

    All too true. I’d hazard a guess that likely a good 50% of the members of this site are but a handful (or fewer) of missing paychecks away from that same spectre.

    What I actually wanted to add, was that because of the grossly inflated prices of these homes, the property taxes are beyond the reach of the people squatting – out of reach, even, of many folks who do have jobs. If they could reach in their pocket and pull out 7k, they would likely not be living on the streets in the first place.

  40. BadKittyM @31, you’re in good company. Avram, Antinous, and I are all responsible long-term renters. My current landlord and my first NYC landlord are the only ones I’ve ever had who cared as much as I did about the condition of the building. That has nothing to do with whether I’m paying rent, or whether I expect to get my deposit back.

    When I hear people argue that everyone would be irresponsible and destructive if they could, I take it to mean that they would.

    1. I was actually thinking about NYC in regards to that. Almost everybody rents. Yet I don’t imagine that almost everybody trashes their rentals. Especially not when they rent the same apartment for three or four decades. Same for San Francisco. I lived in more than a dozen flats there. In every case, I crossed paths with the outgoing tenants and in every case the place was in fine condition. The one exception was my last landlord in SF. He refused to spend a couple hundred bucks to fix the tilework in the shower. It cost him $30K to rebuild one side of the building. Of course, he regarded it as our fault and tried to recoup his costs for deferred maintenance by raising our rent. Fortunately I kept all those registered letters referring to dilapidations.

  41. “that doesn’t change the fact that college students are not human.”

    …If I’d said that, Takuan would have been all over me with vehemence.

    [shakes head in dismay]

  42. For all those people out there waiving their hands around and squawking about legality/illegality.

    Property rights, property ownership and property value all depend on the owner occupying the property and making use of it. Failure to occuply the property or have someone pay you to occupy it so the property taxes get paid, means that local law enforcement is not getting paid to enforce your property rights.

    Furthermore, since no one is around to chase trespassers off or notify your local law enforcement, you have allowed your rights and ownership to erode.

    The foreclosed properties around your now abandoned property don’t have any clear ownership as the loans have been sold, resold and sold again, so no one is maintaining them or paying property taxes on them.

    Then the local criminal element decide to start breaking in to see if anything of value was left.

    Dance around, yell and shout, and wave your hands about, doesn’t do anything about fixing the problem because the property, despite legal ownership is still abandoned property. Welcome to the McMansionville Ghost town with its beautiful brown lawns.

    “All too true. I’d hazard a guess that likely a good 50% of the members of this site are but a handful (or fewer) of missing paychecks away from that same spectre.”

    Not only are you probably correct, but beyond that they probably think it won’t happen to them because they follow all the rules. They work hard. They dress right. Follow as many of the accepted societal conventions as they can.

    Also, something I may or may not have mentioned here on BB before but I’ve had as a working theory for a while now, the attitude of some folks towards those of lesser means/lower societal status is bordering on superstitious. “Totemic sacrifice” is usually how I refer to it. I don’t even know if it’s a conscious act really. It seems to be what leads people to heap derision and slander on those below them, out of some subconscious belief that it’ll keep the same fate away from them. And you know what? It doesn’t bloody well work.

    No matter how badly you treat those below you on the ladder, it’s no guarantee you won’t end up down there yourself. I speak from personal experience here. In my world, people on public assistance were just lazy deadbeat drug addicts, leeching off my hard-earned taxes. And then I ended up getting very ill, lost my job and suddenly I was one of the people on public assistance. Cold dash of reality in the face and all that. I learned what it was like to have people look at you like you’re some kind of parasite. I learned what it was like trying to navigate a system of “assistance” that’s been restructured to please people who believe that everyone on said assistance is a lazy deadbeat drug addict.

    So, as far as everyone lamenting the plight of the poor property owners, please bear in mind that should your circumstances change suddenly, you may find yourself at the mercy of your own philosophy. Life’s kinda funny like that sometimes.

  44. Flippantly I will say property is theft.

    But in practice I say no one will end up occupying the house so long as the owner is keeping an eye on their property. If they are not then the property will be occupied with or without this guys help.

  45. It’s comment threads like this that confirm my decision to generally not participate in BoingBoing comment threads. Slagging the homeless? Check. Comparing squatting to Nazis? Check. Standing up for the rights of oppressed banks? Check. What a bunch of dicks.

  46. @63: it’s comment threads like these that make me glad as hell i’m leaving north america. capitalism is on the way out, folks. get on the train or get run over along with your morals of property ownership.

  47. Skullhunter, good reframe there.

    We see the same thing happen in civil liberties threads, where commenters are always popping up to insist that it’s the victim’s fault, even if they have to adduce dozens of made-up “facts” to get the story to come out the way they want. This puzzled me until I realized they were saying those rights violations could never happen to them.

    Another interesting angle on this thread is that when the subprime mortgage problem first became a crisis, and we had various comment threads discussing it, those same voices were insisting that all the soon-to-be-former homeowners facing bankruptcy and eviction had either bought on speculation, or had taken on mortgages they knew they could never maintain. Lazy ne’er-do-wells! Greedy speculators! An affront to the sacred Invisible Hand of the Marketplace! Toss them out, and show no mercy!

    Those commenters had to have it explained to them that while some foreclosed-upon properties had no doubt been purchased by speculators, many of them had belonged to households caught between stagnant wages and rising housing prices.

    If you already own a house, a constantly inflating housing market is a rising tide that lifts all boats. The trick, though, is to own a house. Thus the starter home: houses that families stretched their finances to buy, so that later on they could swap those houses’ by-then-inflated value, plus whatever equity they’d accumulated, against the constantly inflating prices of other houses. They were buying earlier than their finances strictly warranted because they’d been told it was the only way they could avoid being turned into road kill by the real estate market.

    And so forth and so on. There were lots of ways respectable homeowners could wind up under water through no fault of their own. Some commenters kept scoffing anyway.

    But look at this thread! Suddenly, foreclosed-upon former homeowners have become solid citizens, men and women of property, with all of the rights and privileges pertaining thereto. I expect it means that right at this moment, those commenters are more eager to reassure themselves that they’ll never be homeless than they are to believe that they’ll never face foreclosure.

    After all, they’re responsible, hard-working, highly motivated individuals. The fact that they have jobs and homes is proof of that. But then, so were their 401-k accounts.

  48. Johnny Coelacanth, stick around and join in. You’ll notice that slagging off the homeless didn’t get very far.

    Are you new to online conversation? Is this the first time you’ve seen a thread like that?

  49. A lot of the comments have been focused on legality and the need for homeless folk to work within the system to legally obtain housing.

    The system is broken. The system perpetuates homelessness. Why does homelessness exist? A lack of housing. Would the homeless be happy with a rented apartment? Heck yes, especially when the alternative is the frightening shelter system or sleeping in doorways. But here in Seattle, affordable low-income housing is being replaced by condos at an alarming rate. It just isn’t there.

    I suggest people stop acting and thinking on the premise that property laws (and indeed, many of the practices of the american status quo in general) will be around in recognizable form for much longer.

  50. I’ve been saying for a while that we have all these houses with no one in them, and all these people in hurricane damaged areas in need of houses…

    Obviously we can’t just give them the houses, but as the article points out, vacant houses breed crime and theft. The banks aren’t making anything on the houses and are asking for public bailouts. Could we not rent the people these houses that we basically own anyway?

    Makes more sense than continuing to stick them in hotels, trailers, or out on the streets.

  51. Personally, I would rather have children shivering in alleyways and under bridges than disrupt conventional notions of ownership and property. If the Bank of America and other lien-holders want to allow their foreclosed properties to go to seed and invite crime and fire risks, then it’s their right. America is a better place when the poor are left uncared for, and my superficial, remedial notions of “right” and “wrong” are supported.

  52. I think renting is a reasonable response to this – I can’t imagine people paying to live in a house, even temporarily, would treat it worse than people squatting there.

    The other thing about Civil Disobedience, which some commenters have already mentioned, is that it comes with it a willingness to accept the consequences of said disobedience. The difference between someone practicing Civil Disobedience and a criminal is that the former only violates the law they find unethical, not the entire concept of law.

  53. Teresa,

    “We see the same thing happen in civil liberties threads, where commenters are always popping up to insist that it’s the victim’s fault, even if they have to adduce dozens of made-up “facts” to get the story to come out the way they want. This puzzled me until I realized they were saying those rights violations could never happen to them.”

    Just so.

    It’s not really entirely about those other people, it’s also about the speaker. It’s about the skin-crawling fear that they could end up in such a situation despite being good little boys and girls. So it’s not enough that they prepare against that eventuality, they have to heap disdain on those who they see as not having prepared for it. In its own way, it’s as nonsensical and primitive as any witch hunt. They have to figure out a way to rationalize things, explain it, no matter how many mental gyrations they have to go through. Otherwise they have to face the fact that it can easily happen to them no matter what preparations and precautions are in place. That’s an understandably scary prospect for most people. Unfortunately fear makes people do ugly, unconscionable things.

  54. #10: Give me a f**king break. This doesn’t sit well with my sense of hard work = ownership.

    Exactly. With all due respect to what TNH and others are saying, this whole situation came about because that equation was forcibly distorted by bleeding-heart lawmakers and greedy mortgage peddlers.

    Distorting the equation further by introducing even more unearned entitlements will not fix the underlying problems. Sorry, folks, but reality has a well-known capitalistic bias.

  55. This – in effect, unofficially swapping one set of homeless people for another to prevent widescale wreck and dereliction – seems to be an artefact of the (to me strange) US system, where there appears to be no attempt to keep people in their homes where they fall behind on their mortgage and, even odder, no liability on the person defaulting – they can simply hand in the keys and walk!

  56. Well I have a different angle to throw into the renters treat it like crap debate:

    First off, I can see how we have a difference of opinion: I (being and living in a mostly home oriented area) see a decent amount of apathy about rental properties. Someone from a major city (like NY) would see it much differently.

    Some of you call it pride, and I love to hear someone out there still has it. I know I try to. And the same time what you translate to “pride” I also translate into know how. Having that can-do attitude is important in keeping up a house (that or a deep wallet). And frankly there is a large majority of people who don’t have the know or the how. And at this point in their lives they have pretty much missed that boat, and don’t want to set sail period.

    I have known people on both sides, and the ones that let things slide I believe didn’t do it intentionally. (Or at least directly). I believe they just didn’t know what or how to fix the situation.

    Back to this pride thing. I have never left a property in a worse condition then when I found it. I have never left a rental in substantially better condition then when I moved in either. What’s the point in that? I upgraded/redid all the bathrooms in my previous house, and that paid off. But in a rental? I might put in a really good toilet, but that’s so I don’t have to plunge as much….

  57. #75:

    reality does not preclude compassion.

    Sure, but these shenanigans aren’t compassionate. These people are playing a zero-sum game. Somebody built the house with the sweat of their brow. They were paid with money that someone else, maybe even a big evil corporation or bank, also earned. When someone gains the value of the house for free, someone else has to lose it.

  58. reality does not preclude compassion

    That’s the hard part. Until compassion exists for all at all times independent of actions, we can not but pretend and there will never be any hope for peace.

    If it was left to love
    There would be no question

    The world has taken a right

    Then I get pissed off and frustrated and want to nuke the whole god damned place.

  59. @ 50: Property rights are not the “cornerstone” of my morality, but they are logical extensions of it. If your “morality” has no place for the personal property of others, then it’s not moral by any reasonable standard. If you have legal title to anything, you’re a hypocrite on this count. But let’s say that you don’t have legal title to anything- maybe you’re a renter and you don’t have a car (these are the major title-holding things that come to mind); still, you do realize that taking things that don’t belong to you is wrong… That wrongness is a reflection the fact that property rights are a part of morality.

  60. @skullhunter: Go hang out with homeless people. Almost every one will want to tell you his/her story almost immediately. What their medical problems are, why they can’t work, how they’re the victim of unfair treatment by the cops, or the disability/welfare/VA office.

    Homeless people almost universally are dying to explain to anyone who will listen that they’re not worthless sacks of shit, there are good and tragic reasons for them living like this. Granted, they’re not always totally on the level, but most of the time they are.

    The crazy thing is, most of the people who tell you their sympathetic story will, in the next sentence, turn around and tell you how the other homeless folks are worthless sacks of shit. How they’re all drug addicts or crazy or are just bad people – unlike them, who just had a run of bad luck. The idea that those other people are in a sorry state because of a run of bad luck too is inconceivable to them. People have been trained so strongly to detest and deride those in poverty that even when they find themselves completely destitute, they still find a way to look down on others.

    On one hand I think it has to do with self- respect. People who are treated very poorly need some way to preserve their own sense of human decency, and if it’s by telling themselves “I’m not really homeless, because those people are disgusting”, then fine. On the other, it’s very sad that in order to have self-respect and feel confident about ourselves we need to look down on the underprivileged at all.

  61. One of many comments from a holocaust survivor that has always stuck with me, was from a woman on her arrival at the camp. Upon seeing the current residents on the other side of the fence she couldn’t understand how people could be so filthy and disgusting, not knowing that in a matter of weeks she too would be reduced to a filthy starving bedraggled wretch.

  62. There is a lot of talk about the sanctity of personal property and hard work and all the rest… while I understand this sentiment, what I do not understand is why housing, food, and medical care (I know that this article is only addressing the first of these) are not basic human rights. POWs under the Geneva convention are granted these things, but citizens elsewhere are not? We overlook and turn a blind eye to homelessness as a culture (here in the US, I am not attempting to speak for other locals) and we expect that the homeless will just sit idly by and wait for help? I am personally quite happy to see this sort of direct action being taken, and I would hope that as the economic conditions worsen, people continue to help provide for one another’s basic needs, even if they do so at the expense of property rights. If anyone can explain to me how personal property trumps the value of human life without sounding like a complete sociopath, Ill be impressed.

  63. As a renter who spent hours excavating bullet shells and syringes from my yard at the last place, I take umbrage at the idea that all renters trash a place. Moreover, I take umbrage at the idea that poor renters (hi, there) always trash a place. I have made as little as about 5k per year and I DIY the shit out of places, exchanging services (I make a mean pizza, for instance) for help from friends to repair the things my landlords frequently don’t give a shit about, like leaking plumbing and those bullet casings, syringes and broken glass.

    So eat me.

    When someone ends up homeless, it is usually due to a lack of skills as well as a problem (be it medical, social, mental or luck.) Part of the process of rehabilitation involves teaching people things like how to assume the behavior of another class, because you cannot get that job and rise without having to learn all the nifty secret codes of the classes above you. If those people find out you are not a member of their class, they WILL try to get you out of their environment (fire you, discriminate against you, lose your project/break your equipment/ruin your projects/refuse to work with you.) I’m in grad school right now, and I write about my life in terms of class and suffer the above for it. My paperwork gets lost, people who listen to me read about being homeless won’t work with me/tell me to work on my reputation, I’ve been told that I make people sick/they shouldn’t have to read or listen to my story, etc. I’ve been fired, lost friends and the rumors flying around about me are interesting at best and have caused people to actually come up to me, on campus, and ask what’s wrong with ‘girls like me’ or what I’m doing there. Or, ‘It’s good you made it out,’ as in ‘oh look, everyone can make it.’ And I’m in grad school. Theoretically, I’ve ‘made it.’ Despite the fact that I’m not human :p

    Rising is not easy. Don’t discount the fact that it is very much about social networks. And do any of you know how fucking hard it is to get a job with no permanent address? Or to be judged every day for the fact that you know what it’s like to have to sleep in parks/be raped/do hard drugs/be abused/any of the things that happen to many homeless people on a regular basis? Because judging is what we’re good at, here in the US. It’s a regular fucking cottage industry.

  64. TNH say: “Johnny Coelacanth, stick around and join in. Are you new to online conversation? Is this the first time you’ve seen a thread like that?”

    Thanks for the kind invitation to stick around. Of course I’m not new to online conversation. The problem is, I’ve seen too many threads like this. I like boingboing very much, and I do not like to be reminded that roughly fifty percent of my fellow boingers seem to be pseudolibertarian social Darwinists.

  65. “unearned entitlements ”

    Living indoors in the winter time = unearned entitlement if you’re really poor.

  66. JustAnAssembler: If anyone can explain to me how personal property trumps the value of human life without sounding like a complete sociopath, I’ll be impressed.

    Buddy66: Ask any Libertarian.

    Itō: Unintentional irony is always the best!

    I do not think all Libertarians are sociopaths, but they almost invariably sound that way when they try to explain their views on personal property.

  67. Libertarians, for instance, seem to be free from the burdensome knowledge of cultural anthropology. They see no difference between private property and personal property, which would have dumbfound millennia of hunter/gatherers who had (have) no concept of owning property other than what they actually put to use. Private property as we define it is a recent creation.

    For example, it drove the American Northwest “Indians” so crazy that they invented potlatch to fend it off and render it harmless. It amuses me to imagine Donald Trump at such a ceremony.

  68. “The difference between someone practicing Civil Disobedience and a criminal is that the former only violates the law they find unethical, not the entire concept of law.”

    I am reminded of a criminal in a jail some of us “occupied” after being arrested for civil disobedience. He was incredulous:

    “You mean you dumb motherfuckers don’t HAVE to be in here?!”

  69. Takuan, one day I hope to sprout tentacles and neurotoxins (God, I wish my bite was poisonous) and be able to say, with asperity, ‘damn humanoids.’

  70. As to the “all property is theft” vs. “poor people deserve what the get” debate, I think both positions are far too simplistic to provide any meaningful solutions to our collective problems.

    There must be some middle ground where human dignity is respected while hard work is also rewarded. Neither total regulation (by this I mean socialist ideal) or complete lack of regulation (by this I mean the libertarian/anarchist ideal) strike me as particularly practical.

    Extreme positions may make for an empassioned debate, but rarely do they provide any real answers.

    JustAnAssembler @84:

    I agree that property rights should never trumph the value of human life. However, I need to point out that homoring property rights does not require devaluing human life. On the contrary, as stated in Article 17 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

    “(1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.

    (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.”

    This is one of the rights that the Declaration seeks to protect in order to preserve the value of human life.

  71. Looks like some of y’all got coal in your stockings this year. Do you really need to take it out on people who are worse off than you are?

    I do not like to be reminded that roughly fifty percent of my fellow boingers seem to be pseudolibertarian social Darwinists.

    Bluntly, some of our readers are hardwired to have problems with empathy and emotions. It’s a disability, not a conscious choice.

  72. Takuan, I’ve never mastered the trick of changing reality or someone’s head would explode during a TA meeting, right around the time they announced yet another change in the necessary paperwork to graduate/get paid/continue to work there. They like to do that without warning or explanation.

    Also when they smarted off to me, although if I could do the poisonous bite thing, I would rather bite one. More personal. Nothing says ‘I hate you, asshole’ quite like a chunk missing from your leg. (stares at self in mirror, hoping for nerotoxins.)

  73. I have to come down on the side of the people who mention that having a tenant can help stave off urban decay. And it sounds like they’re checking up on them, at least to help the tenants do yard work, which implies to me that the tenants they’re picking are interested in maintenance. If an area is mostly vacant, there’s usually no surveillance to keep people who will trash the place (in my experience, middle class kids who feel angsty) out.

    Moreover, since financial and actual literacy are only marginally a part of education, especially in schools in poor neighborhoods (I have some of those in the classes I’m teaching), how were people from lower incomes/class strata supposed to be able to decipher the loan paperwork? Also, if you had children and lived in a neighborhood (like the last one I lived in) which boasted the state rehab intake for hard drugs, three halfway houses for offenders on parole, gang warfare so bad that the yard was full of shells from 00 to .22, as well as syringes, broken glass and bounty hunters trying to find someone, wouldn’t you take any fucking chance you could to get out? Especially if you were told the rate was low enough for you to afford. I suspect a lot of people took it hoping to find a better job. Long-term planning is incredibly difficult to do when you spend all day working your ass off to stretch $40 in groceries across at least five people for a week or more, not to mention the way your half-paid bills for utilities nag at you. Also when you spend at least one day per week huddled inside your house, listening to gunshots and people screaming, often for Jesus, at about 1 am. It disrupts long range planning. And sleep. And living in fear or desperation will mess up your sense of being autonomous/ability to carefully peruse paperwork that represents GTFO.

    Poor people are busy. Even when they aren’t at work.

    It just seems like this could work out for the banks, if they struck a deal with people. Almost no one likes to be homeless. We shame people rather efficiently for that and the insecurity that comes with the shame and the conditions which surround homelessness is a pretty good deterrent. Some people, if you give them a chance, would use that as a stepping stone. With periodic inspections, they could be earning a small sum as caretakers for the properties.

    People do pay for that, you know. And if the bank can’t or won’t invest in upkeep on a property, what’s the point in bitching about someone living in it? If you’ve written a property off, why be surprised when if gets trashed? At least this way there’s a chance that they property would be maintained.

    1. I always found that hostile, suspicious, parsimonious landlords created angry tenants. Tenants are customers. In what successful business model do you treat your customers as the enemy? Start out thinking like a slumlord; end up owning a slum.

  74. now that is a PERFECT summary, Anti.

    Back to landlords: leave a property abandoned and you get nothing but liability. Get squatters and you create potential to compromise your title. And liability. Rent out the property at a rent far lower than you like but far higher than zero or worse than zero – and you have a business relationship. Go with the market. If you must hold rental property, rent it. At the market rate. Which in times like this is damned low.

  75. Hell, go a little further and make the renter a contractual partner, a caretaker with vested interest. If they can help maintain and protect the property then they receive a commensurate cut of the action upon a successful sale.

  76. <>“Tkn, n dy hp t sprt tntcls nd nrtxns (Gd, wsh my bt ws psns) nd b bl t sy, wth sprty, ‘dmn hmnds.'”

    …Crfl. Tkn hs th bckng f th BB lt hr, s tlkng bck t h/sh/t cn rslt n yr bng brndd s nt n f th “n-crwd”.

    …That being said and out of the way, I think what those crying “hobo bashers” and “bum rushers” are conveniently ignoring is that, outside of the board trolls, the problem most people are having with this squatters’ tactic isn’t that the homelss are being forcibly sheltered, its that they’re being sheltered in dwellings formerly O&O’d by people who themselves might be homeless now without any concern for the former dwellers of the dwellings in question. If I were, say, a husband and father of four who’d been evicted because of the financial scam crisis, and suddenly found that a bunch of bums, hobos, transients or whatever you wanted to call them were now living in your home rent-free, I’d view that as a box of salt in the wounds.

    Bottom Line: it’s not that nobody sympathizes with the homeless, its that this scam is “Robin Hood” taken to the wrong extreme.

  77. Om,Om,Om (Om), examine your filters. Mouthy and I are exchanging intimacies, not biting (yet…much). I fear you miss and misunderstand too many signals. Do you really think I despise college students? As for the rest of what you just said, it’s been said above before. Can you add to that rather than repeat it? And avoid provocative terms like “board trolls”?

  78. Wow, it’s like the 70s never happened. I get the impression squatting’s not well known outside Europe, is that right?

    I lived in a couple of squats in my time, and at the time I thought “well, on the bright side, I’m sure that in years to come I’ll look back foldly on these experiences”. Actually, it was a profoundly horrible time for me already (partly why I ended up homeless in the first place), and the experience of squatting didn’t do much to improve my morale. It had nothing to recommend it at all except that it beat hostels or the streets hands down.

    YMMV of course; Here’s a jauntier take on squat culture.

  79. though it is a nice idea to give these people homes to live in, this is not the way to go about it. if these people are found “squating” in other peoples homes and get kicked out it would just make things a lot worse.
    In the end they’re just giving these people false hope.

  80. Thanks Takuan… I had it as wikipedia.ogr , quite appropriate now we’re in the panto season. (Ohhh, no it isn’t!)

  81. a virtual bOINGbOING pantomime? Seasonal yet? Oh yeah… we need a director to assign roles, a script of sorts and of course, victims – I mean “audience”. (I get to be the Lion, or at least, The Unclean Behemoth)

  82. If you are moving homeless people into a home why wouldn’t you just let the people who lost that home in the foreclosure stay there?

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