[Marxism] Homes with no People, People with No Homes

Greg McDonald sabocat59 at mac.com
Tue Dec 9 14:51:00 MST 2008

Published on Monday, December 8, 2008 by Associated Press

Homes with No People, People with No Homes
Activist Moving Homeless People Into Foreclosed Houses in Miami

by Tamara Lush

MIAMI - 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."

[Max Rameau says he's "matching homeless people with people-less  
homes." (By J. Pat Carter -- Associated Press)]Max Rameau says he's  
"matching homeless people with people-less homes." (By J. Pat Carter  
-- Associated Press)
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.

"We're matching homeless people with people-less homes," he said with  
a grin.

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 for 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?"

With the housing market collapsing, squatting in foreclosed homes is  
believed to be on the rise across the country. But squatters usually  
move in on their own, at night, when no one is watching. Rarely is  
the phenomenon as organized as Rameau's effort to "liberate"  
foreclosed homes.

Florida -- especially the Miami area, with its once-booming condo  
market -- is one of the hardest-hit states in the housing crisis,  
largely because of overbuilding and speculation. In September,  
Florida had the nation's second-highest foreclosure rate, with one  
out of every 178 homes in default, according to Realty Trac, an  
online marketer of foreclosed properties. Only Nevada's rate was higher.

Like other cities, Miami is trying to ease the problem. Officials  
launched a foreclosure-prevention program to help homeowners who have  
fallen behind on their mortgage payments, with loans of up to $7,500  
per household.

The city also recently passed an ordinance requiring owners of  
abandoned homes -- whether an individual or bank -- to register those  
properties with the city so police can better monitor them.

Elsewhere, advocates in Cleveland are working with the city to allow  
homeless people to legally move into and repair empty, dilapidated  
houses. In Atlanta, some property owners pay homeless people to live  
in abandoned homes as a security measure.

In early November, Rameau drove a woman and her 18-month-old daughter  
to a ranch house on a quiet street lined with swaying tropical  
foliage. Marie Nadine Pierre, 39, had been sleeping at a shelter with  
her child. She said she had been homeless off and on for a year,  
after losing various jobs and getting evicted from several apartments.

"My heart is heavy. I've lived in a lot of different shelters, a lot  
of bad situations," Pierre said. "In my own home, I'm free. I'm a  
human being now."

Rameau chose the house for Pierre, in part, because he knew its  
history. A man had bought the home in the city's predominantly  
Haitian neighborhood in 2006 for $430,000, then rented it to Rameau's  
friends. Those friends were evicted in October because the homeowner  
had stopped paying his mortgage and the property went into foreclosure.

Rameau, who makes his living as a computer consultant, said he is  
doing the owner a favor. Before Pierre moved in, someone stole the  
air-conditioning unit from the back yard, and it would be only a  
matter of time before thieves took the copper pipes and wiring, he said.

"Within a couple of months, this place would be stripped and drug  
dealers would be living here," he said, carrying a giant plastic  
garbage bag filled with Pierre's clothes into the home.

He said he is not worried about 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."

Miami spokeswoman Kelly Penton said that city officials did not know  
Rameau was moving homeless people into empty buildings -- but that  
they are not stopping him.

"There are no actions on the city's part to stop this," she said in  
an e-mail. "It is important to note that if people trespass into  
private property, it is up to the property owner to take action to  
remove those individuals."

Pierre herself could be charged with trespassing, vandalism or  
breaking and entering. Rameau assured her he has lawyers who will  
represent her for free.

Two weeks after Pierre moved in, she came home to find the locks had  
been changed, probably by the property's manager. Everything inside  
-- her food, clothes and family photos -- was gone.

But late last month, with Rameau's help, she got back inside and has  
put Christmas decorations on the front door.

So far, police have not gotten involved.

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