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The Occupy Movement Finds a Direction: Vacant Homes

By       Message Jerry Nelson     Permalink

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The yellowing house on the street in the East side has sat empty for years. Three years ago the predator, formerly known as Countrywide, refused to do anything about the increasing interest rate on a mortgage which was filled with tucked away clauses and trapdoors for the owners to fall through. 

Instead of working with the homeowners, Countrywide sold the paper to Bank of America. Bank of America started eviction proceedings to put the owners and their belongings into the street. The owners weren't alone. 16 owners for every 1000 homes are in foreclosure -- the highest rate in New York and one of the highest in the country.

These predatory banks are shutting out owners from their homes at a faster and faster rate each day. In a study paper released just this week, the Government Accountability Office said that nonseasonal vacant properties have increased 51% nationally from nearly 7 million in 2000 to 10 million in April 2010, with 10 states seeing increases of 70% or more.

While the number of homeless people is increasing monthly, most foreclosed homes will sit vacant for years. Neglected by the banks, they fall into disrepair and bring down the value of the surrounding neighborhood even more.

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In some places in Washington D.C. -- as in New York -- you can walk down almost any block and see just about every sixth house vacant and boarded up.

There's a lady in NYC named Tasha Glasgow. Tasha has spent a big part of the last ten years without a home. Bouncing in and out of New York City's shelter program, she has had to try to care for her autistic eight year old daughter and a five year old son. 

On top of this struggle, she's been trying to find work -- without luck. When she received a voucher from the city government, she thought she could turn the corner on homelessness. Just as she was preparing to move into a home of her own, the safety net was pulled away - Mayor Michael Bloomberg initiated financial cuts through his recent austerity program.
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Here's where Occupy Wall Street comes in. They're matching needy homes with needy families. Just this week, Occupy Wall Street moved Tasha into the vacant home which is now owned by Bank of America.

It makes good sense. The banks have been pulling the strings of Washington. Using our tax dollars the banks have put together a tremendous bailout for themselves -- all the while kicking homeowners out of their housing the very homeowners who are suffering under the predatory lending practices created by the banks themselves.

People, who argue that individuals like Tasha should just "pull themselves up by their own bootstraps" show their ignorance, lack of empathy and basically non-existent values. How can people like Tasha pull herself up by her own bootstraps when she can't even afford the boots?

This could be the next step for the Occupy movement. Occupations are already planned in more than 20 cities nationwide -- and the list is growing. In Atlanta this week, the police and movers refused to evict a 103 year old woman who was living with her 83 year old daughter.

Now if you think that evicting a 103 year old lady is morally corrupt, ask yourself at what age is it morally ok when you'll end up just leaving the vacant house to fall apart and decay.

It's easy for candy-ass yuppies to say "that's how banks work", but that's the same whining excuse that corrupt lenders like Countrywide said when they found themselves under criminal investigation. It's the same lame comment the banks made when they caused the housing crisis and trashed our economy by making lousy loans on subprime loans and then begged the government to cover its losses.

Hundreds and hundreds of thousands of Americans lost their homes in 2010. Banks filed a record 3.8 million foreclosures. The total for 2011 is expected to be even higher.

Many people are couch-surfing with relatives or crashing in roach infested motel rooms, or are homeless. The U.S. Conference of Mayors determined in 2010 that in 26 cities the rate of homelessness had jumped 9%.

The Occupy movement is offering opportunity back to the nation. It's restoring the idea that our economy and the political system can work and must work for the 99%.

Of course, stopping eviction notices and helping homeless families occupy empty, bank owned property's is a short tem fix -- but it's getting America's attention.

Any person that says the Occupy movement isn't clear about it's direction and demands should find the Tasha Glasgows of their area and talk with them.

Washington has its hands tied behind its back by the yuppies on Wall Street. Washington won't budge to create jobs and force the banks to adjust mortgages and cut the inequality.

So it's up to us, the American people, to take empty homes from banks that have already taken too much from us and let's give them to needy, hardworking families. By doing this, the Occupy movement is creating a home for the 99% in a political and economic system that has been kicking all of us to the curb for way too long.


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Jerry Nelson is a nationally recognized photojournalist. His work has appeared in a wide variety of publicaitons and news outlets including USAToday, CNN, Upsurge, CBS, Dream Row, Earthwalkers and others. He photographs and licenses images for all manner of commercial and editorial use as well as (more...)

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