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Rochester, USA, Homeless Squatting In Foreclosed City Homes

The Local Action Group (LAG) in Rochester is continuing to move "homeless people" into people-less homes. Raising housing to a human right . Starting in January 2011 the TakeBack the Land movement will launch its winter offensive with sustained actions in key mid west cities.
Take Back the Land-Rochester has liberated two (2) homes in Rochester, NY and is planning eviction defenses for more. In the video, we meet the family saved from the street and Ryan Acuff talks about the organization's objectives.

The City of Rochester has about 3,000 vacant buildings. Several of them have new occupants – homeless people – who moved in, changed the locks, and turned on the lights.Legally, they’re known as “squatters,” people who live in a place without a deed or tenant agreement. They’ve been living in the houses for months without anyone noticing.

“It’s just wonderful to have a house, to have heat, to have food in your refrigerator,” said a woman who moved into a three-bedroom house last week with her two children, including a 3-week-old newborn.

The homeless individuals and families didn’t move into the houses on their own. They were helped by Take Back the Land Rochester, a local chapter of a national organization. The group identifies foreclosed properties in good condition and becomes a sort of landlord, arranging to have the utilities turned on and securing the houses. CNN Money featured the group's efforts in Rochester.

Take Back the Land has taken over four city houses in the last four months. Three are occupied by individual families and another is occupied by five unrelated people.

“We think that houses should be used for people,” said Ryan Acuff, head of the local group. He said he has a waiting list for houses.

13WHAM News agreed not to identify the occupants or the addresses of the houses, as the residents are fearful they will be found out and evicted. Several local attorneys said it’s unlikely the owners would call the police on the occupants. Rather, the banks that own the houses would file a civil eviction proceeding, which includes a court hearing.

Acuff said if any civil action is filed against the residents, Take Back the Land would fight it in court. He also plans to submit a proposal to a bank to buy one of the houses for $1. He said his group has been making improvements to the properties.

“Take Back the Land Rochester’s primary concern is not what’s legal and illegal, but what’s moral and immoral,” said Acuff. “We believe it’s immoral to have people out on the street, especially in Rochester’s winter especially during the holiday season.”

Jeff Eichner, an attorney for the City of Rochester, said he was shocked to hear about the squatters. Deputy Mayor Tom Richards, who frequently dealt with housing issues when he was Corporation Counsel, also had not heard of the situation. He said his main concern would be safety issues.

The woman who moved into a house with her two children is in her late 30s and said she became homeless after she could no longer work because of her high-risk pregnancy. She said she could not secure housing assistance because she earned unemployment. She said area homeless shelters turned her away for the same reason.

The woman said the house she moved into is “livable.”

“Pipes and stuff got froze up,” she said. “Some of the tiles on the ceiling came down, needed to be painted. But this is what happens when homes just sit up there. And nobody’s in there. Now I’m in there and I can help get it back livable.”

The woman said the house is hers.

“You ride around you see how many houses are for sale or vacant or boarded up, so why wouldn’t you want me to stay there instead of it just sitting there?” she said. “It’s a better solution for both of us.”

Based on Rachel Barnhart and Take Back the Land


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