Occupy Offshoot Aims To Stop Foreclosures

fromWUWM

Tuesday is billed as National Occupy Our Homes Day, and people are being asked to participate in some sort of civil disobedience at foreclosed, bank-owned homes. But a group in Madison, Wis., has been illegally moving people into foreclosed properties for the past couple of years.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Today, activists across the country are calling for people to demonstrate at banks and bank-owned foreclosed homes. This day of action is being promoted by a spinoff of the Occupy Wall Street movement. The here goal is to stop foreclosures while also housing homeless people in properties that are vacant. LaToya Dennis of member station WUWM reports on a Madison group that's already in action.

LATOYA DENNIS, BYLINE: Just down the road from the state capitol building in Madison, Christina Long is living in a three bedroom duplex.

CHRISTINA LONG: This is the kitchen. It's nice and neat. Stove, table, refrigerator, dishwasher.

DENNIS: Long has lived here for the past three months. She's furnished the living room with a couch, a console TV set that looks like it's from the '70s, and a storage cabinet. She says there's nothing like having your own home. But there's just one catch: It's not her home and she's not renting it either.

LONG: It's illegal, but at the same time it's reasonable to me. I mean, you know, is it really illegal to have somewhere to stay? To me, socially(ph) , no, it's fair.

DENNIS: Long is a single mother of three from Chicago, and she argues that housing should be a human right.

LONG: Everyone deserves somewhere to live. Everyone deserves their own peace of mind. Everybody deserves to be comfortable.

DENNIS: Long moved into this duplex with the help of a national group called Take Back the Land that has a branch here in Madison. Its goal is to move homeless people into bank or government owned foreclosures and help those about to lose their homes stay in them. Since last May, the Madison group has occupied four properties, though right now it only has this one duplex.

Max Rameau founded Take Back the Land five years ago and is one of those calling for civil disobedience at banks and foreclosed homes across the country today.

MAX RAMEAU: The companies who are responsible for kicking people out of their home have already gotten hundreds of millions of dollars of bailout money from the very people who they kicked out of those homes. So we've financed our own evictions in a real significant way.

DENNIS: Rameau isn't sure how many people will participate in protests, but he hopes it's only the beginning.

RAMEAU: December 6 is and will be seen as the practice round for what we're calling the 2012 spring offensive, where you're going to see the occupation and liberation of homes all across the United States.

DENNIS: If that happens, Clayton Patton says it will present a new problem. Patton is a real estate agent at Encompass Realty Group in Milwaukee.

CLAYTON PATTON: You can't sell it if you can't show the property to a prospective buyer.

DENNIS: Patton says typically while homes that are lived in are in much better shape than those that sit vacant, that's just not the case when squatters are involved.

PATTON: When tenants, or we can call them squatters in this particular case, stay in a home, the house starts to become in a deteriorated state, because no one's keeping up on the major/minor repairs on the house(ph).

DENNIS: Banks aren't happy about squatters either. Those contacted for this story declined to be interviewed, though Chase Bank did say it has encountered squatters in some of its foreclosed homes. A Chase spokeswoman says when it does, the bank works with local police to evict them.

For NPR News, I'm LaToya Dennis in Milwaukee.

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