[URBANTH-L]NEWS: Neighbors Helping Neighbors - to BreakintoVacantHouses

Stephen C. Maack smaack at earthlink.net
Tue Feb 24 17:17:30 EST 2009

Thanks to all for the interesting comments in response to my post.  Keep
them coming.  I want to say a special thanks to Susan Mazur-Stommen since I
live in Los Angeles, not that far from the Venice neighborhood referenced in
the article and within an hour and a half of Santa Barbara.  Sometimes
examples of innovative actions are right in one's own "back yard" and in a
big urban area one just hasn't heard about them yet.  Other information
concerning efforts in other countries provides some great cross-cultural
examples of approaches for those of us in the U.S.!!

Just FYI -- I'm not a professor or a graduate student or someone just
researching and writing a paper or preparing a conference presentation.  I
am now and have for years been an applied/practicing anthropologist.  While
I have no particular group to approach (yet) I am serious about trying to
gather innovative solutions to the increasing homelessness problem, educate
myself and others, and get some people on the list motivated to try to do
more IN PRACTICE AND POLICY than is currently being done.  I'm NOT thinking
of change within AAA or SfAA but in real-life political and urban arenas
making real differences in homeless people's live.  (Although if there is
some group already active within AAA or SfAA that works on such matters
OUTSIDE the venue of the professional organizations, please point me to it.)
Let me know if you want to try to get a set of local, national (U.S.) or
international action or policy initiatives of some sort going among
anthropologists around homelessness, what form that might take, and/or which
existing organization(s) might be best to work with.  Or if that's just a
dumb thought.  I'm not promising anything but sometimes two or three people
can make a difference for change (there is a Margaret Mead quote to that
effect, I think).  Feel free to contact me off-list.  Thanks.  Ciao.

Best Regards,

Dr. Stephen C. Maack
DBA REAP Change Consultants
2872 Nicada Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90077-2024
E-Mail: consultant at reapchange.com
Telephone: 310-384-9717
FAX: 310-474-4161

-----Original Message-----
From: urbanth-l-bounces at lists.ysu.edu
[mailto:urbanth-l-bounces at lists.ysu.edu] On Behalf Of Susan Mazur-Stommen
Sent: Friday, February 20, 2009 9:36 AM
To: urbanth-l at lists.ysu.edu
Subject: RE: [URBANTH-L]NEWS: Neighbors Helping Neighbors - to

Speaking of innovative solutions that involve the powers that be, social
workers, and the un-behoused:



Susan Mazur-Stommen, Ph.D.

Principal/Cultural Anthropologist
Indicia Consulting
Blog: Small Signs and Omens

susanmazur (skype)

> From: Hendrik.Pinxten at UGent.be
> To: smaack at earthlink.net; urbanth-l at lists.ysu.edu; 
> jancius3022 at comcast.net
> Subject: Re: [URBANTH-L]NEWS: Neighbors Helping Neighbors - to Break 
> intoVacantHouses
> Date: Fri, 20 Feb 2009 11:04:34 +0100
> dear colleagues,
> In Ghent and other cities in Belgium (and the netherlands) we have a 
> tradition of at least a decade where the Mayor and his services get in 
> contact with illegal occupants and make a deal with them.When the 
> houses or appartments are demolished or sold it in not uncomon that 
> the Elderman or mayor orders to find a new home for the occupants.
> Rik pinxten
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Stephen C. Maack" <smaack at earthlink.net>
> To: <urbanth-l at lists.ysu.edu>; "'Angela Jancius'" 
> <jancius3022 at comcast.net>
> Sent: Friday, February 20, 2009 1:51 AM
> Subject: RE: [URBANTH-L]NEWS: Neighbors Helping Neighbors - to Break 
> intoVacantHouses
> > Comparative anthropology -- while I don't have precise references, I 
> > know that in Europe (e.g., France, Germany) there has been a 
> > movement going on for several years to take over vacant apartment 
> > buildings. This is due to a lack of affordable housing and 
> > homelessness problems. I think that occupying vacant apartment 
> > buildings has also happened in some of the larger U.S. cities 
> > (perhaps in NYC -- parts of Manhattan, Brooklyn or the Bronx?).
> > Anyone have details on those movements? Is taking over vacant single 
> > family homes a variation on the theme? I've lived in Minneapolis or 
> > St. Paul for nine winters and don't blame anyone trying to get out 
> > of the cold, or at least the wind, in mid-February!! Breaking into 
> > vacant houses is, of course, completely illegal.
> >
> > In relatively warm Southern California there are many, many vacant, 
> > foreclosed homes that are virtually new in San Bernardino and 
> > Riverside Counties in particular (until recently two of the fastest 
> > growing counties in the United States).
> >
> > If this deep recession is going to last for some time, which is what 
> > is expected, homelessness is only going to get worse and worse. 
> > Someone has to start thinking of innovative solutions beyond 
> > mortgage bailouts of current homeowners, and I can't think of a 
> > better group than those of us on the Urbananth list.
> >
> > Here's an idea for consideration. What if instead of just reacting, 
> > observing, going "tsk, tsk" or talking about neoliberalism, some 
> > applied urban anthropologists started becoming proactive with 
> > solutions less dangerous to poor and middle-class victims of what 
> > has transpired than illegal home occupancy? For example, one idea 
> > might be to talk to banks and social service agencies about setting 
> > up a program to turn at least some of the vacant properties into at 
> > least temporary shelter for families who have lost their homes due 
> > to no particular fault of their own (e.g., lost a job in the 
> > economic downturn, or lost a home due to a bank-encouraged bad 
> > mortgage decisions). Having so many homes on the market at the same 
> > time will only further depress prices. More and more homes are being 
> > put up for lease near where I live (in a very good neighborhood), 
> > and not being leased due to too high lease/rental prices (so that 
> > may eventually force down prices). So homes aren't going to turn 
> > over quickly anyway, as owned or leased properties. If banks with 
> > large stocks of foreclosed homes let them out at very low rents for 
> > say six months or a year they would have occupied properties less 
> > likely to be trashed or used for illegal activities (shooting up 
> > drugs comes to mind...), might at least cover the cost of utilities 
> > (electricity, heat, water) -- especially important in cold climates 
> > to avoid damage to pipes and such -- and would certainly produce 
> > "good will" in the community. The banks could phase the program and 
> > apply it to only some of their properties or certain neighborhoods. 
> > Applied anthropologists, social service agencies, neighborhood 
> > groups, and banks could work together to redefine "risk" and what 
> > constitutes an "acceptable tenant." What do you think? Could it 
> > work? Or am I just too much of an idealist, not enough of a 
> > revolutionary, or too logical? Why wouldn't/couldn't this work?
Enlighten me....
> >
> > Best Regards,
> > Steve
> >
> > Steve Maack
> > smaack at earthlink.net
> > Telephone: 310-384-9717
> >
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: urbanth-l-bounces at lists.ysu.edu 
> > [mailto:urbanth-l-bounces at lists.ysu.edu] On Behalf Of Angela Jancius
> > Sent: Wednesday, February 18, 2009 10:03 AM
> > To: urbanth-l at lists.ysu.edu
> > Subject: [URBANTH-L]NEWS: Neighbors Helping Neighbors - to Break 
> > into VacantHouses
> >
> > Neighbors Helping Neighbors -- to Break Into Vacant Houses
> > http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2009/02/18-7
> >
> > Wednesday, February 18, 2009
> > Twin Cities Daily Planet
> > (Minneapolis - St. Paul, Minnesota)
> >
> > by Madeleine Baran
> >
> > Poverty rights activists broke into at least a dozen vacant 
> > Minneapolis buildings this week and helped homeless families move in.
> >
> > "This is the modern underground railroad," said Cheri Honkala, 
> > National Organizer for the Poor People's Economic Human Rights 
> > Campaign, the group organizing the "takeovers."
> >
> > This week's actions are part of a growing national movement to 
> > illegally open up thousands of vacant, foreclosed homes to provide 
> > housing for the growing number of homeless people. Over 3,000 
> > Minneapolis homes went into foreclosure in 2008. Advocates estimate 
> > that over 7,000 Minnesotans are homeless. Most Twin Cities' homeless 
> > shelters have been filled to capacity for months.
> > ...
> > /snip/
> >
> >
> > _______________________________________________
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> > URBANTH-L at lists.ysu.edu
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> > 
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