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Creative Engagement With Global Housing Crises
Homes with No People, People with No Homes 

Max Rameau first drew national attention with his outspoken advocacy for the residents of Umoja Village, an emergency shanty town in Miami that housed people who couldn't afford a place to live or who had been displaced from public housing. Rameau published the book Take Back The Land: Land, Gentrification, and the Umoja Village Shantytown, which chronicles the struggles that he, other organizers, and the people who lived in Umoja faced in their efforts to achieve housing equality in Miami. The shantytown was eventually destroyed and its inhabitants displaced and forced into even more precarious living situations.

This didn't deter Rameau, in fact, he is stepping up efforts to house people in many of the houses that have been lost due to the sub-prime mortgage collapse and the violent downturn in the global economy. The article below appeared earlier this month. Rameau's continued work is deeply inspiring, and sadly necessary in more places than just in Miami.


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

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."

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.

Mar 13 (2009) (UTC)
I hate the word Unhoused.. Stop Foreclosure
Mar 13 (2009) (UTC)
Um, ok, is that all you have to offer? The term "unhoused" is used to describe a lot of different situations where societies actively create structures of exclusion that make it either extremely difficult for people to get and retain housing (which is the case with the subprime mortgage scam and the subsequent evictions) or to have access to it at all (the word "homeless" suggests an individual's lack and deficiency rather than being the victim or subject of a society that has organized itself in a way to exclude him/her). You may not like the term "unhoused" but there has to be an attempt to create language that shows the violence in the ways we let some people have houses and don't let others, in fact criminalize them for it.
Oct 7 (2009) (UTC) - please visit this site...
Aug 5 (2010) (UTC) - Moving Homeless People into Foreclosed Houses
Is that legal?

If anyone needs help to stop foreclosure you can go to http://savemefromforeclosure.com
Nov 30 (2010) (UTC)
useful information you have shared, Keep continue with such type of writing.

Mumbai apartments
Jan 4 (2011) (UTC)
After reading this article I realized how insecure is everything even for the current homeowners that have a monthly mortgage to pay. Under these circumstances the notion of home insurance has much more meaning for me now.
Jan 19 (2011) (UTC)
The problem can be solved easily in my opinion; if the government would buy the houses the banks aren't able to sell and the government would rent them to the homeless for a modest fee than everybody would be happier.
Feb 14 (2011) (UTC)
With manufactured homes I found to be an easy way to get an affordable home. You can pick and choose what special features you can do without in your new home. It can really bring the price down.
Feb 16 (2011) (UTC)
This this situation is common. Who doesn't want an affordable house? There are offers on the market, but is to hard to buy one. I know how hard it was for me to have my own home. Now I can use California reverse mortgage. The mortgage gives to me greater financial security, because I don't have to paid back immediately.
Feb 21 (2011) (UTC)
When using drugs and being around drug dealers, it could suck you into going down a dangerous path. Going down that path could result in losing your friends, family, job and even your home. My friend was having problems with drugs and he could never meet his rent and got kicked out. With www.drug-rehab.org you can get the help you need.
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