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

A. Scott Catey catey at ufl.edu
Wed Feb 25 17:45:04 EST 2009


A brief introduction: My name is Scott Catey, I am a degree 
candidate in anthropology adn law at the University of Florida. 
Currently I am conducting field research in Cardiff, Wales, 
focusing on the production of law and policy here. There is 
considerable attention paid to homelessness by Members of the 
National Assembly for Wales, and by their caseworker staff. In 
addition, Westminster is currently involved in welfare reforms 
which are projected by some to carry frightening consequences in 
terms of evictions, foreclosure rates, increasing homelessness, 
and related issues.

Complementing Don's message, as well as those of Stephen and 
others, I am keenly interested in the role of anthropologists in 
policy processes, and the interpolation of ethnographic and other 
forms of quantitative evidence into deliberative practices, and I 
look forward to discussing, networking, and especially _doing_ 
this kind of work.

-scott catey..

On Wed Feb 25 10:41:22 EST 2009, "Donald M. Nonini" 
<dnonini at email.unc.edu> wrote:

> I agree with Alan that this has been a very interesting 
> discussion string. I
> would urge Stephen and like-minded colleagues, especially with 
> European
> experience, to get together (electronically or at the AAA) to 
> discuss this
> issue and his practical proposal to work to reduce homelessness 
> in the USA
> by opening up foreclosed residences for temporary occupation, 
> which has been
> implemented elsewhere (e.g. in Belgium as Rik made clear, and 
> also I believe
> in Spain).   Writing personally, I think this is a very important 
> policy issue, and I
> agree with Stephen that anthropologists potentially have a lot to
> contribute. Perhaps a task force of urban anthropologists 
> interested in
> working on this and other challenges of the current deep economic 
> crisis is
> called for?
> Don Nonini
> Professor & Director of Graduate Studies Anthropology Department
> University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
> -----Original Message-----
> From: urbanth-l-bounces at lists.ysu.edu
> [mailto:urbanth-l-bounces at lists.ysu.edu] On Behalf Of Alan Smart
> Sent: Monday, February 23, 2009 2:49 PM
> To: urbanth-l at lists.ysu.edu; 'Angela Jancius'
> Subject: RE: [URBANTH-L]NEWS: Neighbors Helping Neighbors - to
> BreakintoVacantHouses
> This has been an interesting string of discussion.  I've 
> published a couple
> of articles dealing with governmental toleration of illegal 
> housing;
> surprisingly there is relatively little known in general about 
> toleration of
> illegality despite its frequency of occurrence.  References:
> Smart, Alan "Impeded self-help: toleration and the proscription 
> of housing
> consolidation in Hong Kong's squatter areas."  Habitat 
> International
> 27:205-225 (2003).
> Smart, Alan "Unruly places: Urban governance and the persistence 
> of
> illegality in Hong Kong's urban squatter areas."  American 
> Anthropologist
> 103(1):30-44 (2001).
> And for a broader perspective:  Heyman, Josiah and Alan Smart 
> "States and
> illegal practices:  An overview."  In Heyman (ed.)  States and 
> Illegal
> Practices.", pp. 1-24.  Oxford:  Berg, 1999.
> Alan Smart
> U of Calgary
> -----Original Message-----
> From: urbanth-l-bounces at lists.ysu.edu
> [mailto:urbanth-l-bounces at lists.ysu.edu] On Behalf Of Rik Pinxten
> Sent: February-20-09 3:05 AM
> To: smaack at earthlink.net; urbanth-l at lists.ysu.edu; 'Angela 
> Jancius'
> Subject: Re: [URBANTH-L]NEWS: Neighbors Helping Neighbors - to 
> Break
> intoVacantHouses
> 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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