At 12:00 noon today, February 23, Take Back the Land liberated a vacant house in order to move an extended family of 12, including six minors, back into the home they lost to foreclosure on Friday, February 20th. The foreclosure was a result of a fraudulent refinance scheme by a predatory lender.
The home is located at 849 NW 137th St. in unincorporated Miami-Dade County. As this message is sent, Take Back the Land is assisting the family in their move back into the home.
Take Back the Land identifies vacant government owned and foreclosed homes and moves homeless people into the people-less homes. The organization has been "liberating" foreclosed homes since October 2007, a year after liberating a vacant government owned piece of land and building the Umoja Village Shantytown, housing homeless individuals until a fire destroyed the community. Take Back the Land has liberated eight (8) homes to date.
After Mary's husband lost his job, the couple and their two teenage children were forced to move back in with her mother. Soon after, the contracting job market forced Mary's adult daughter and fiancee back to the house with their four children, all under 10. The crashing economy ultimately forced 12 relatives, spanning four generations, to cram into Grandma Carolyn's two bedroom one bath house.
Unbeknownst to the families, almost two years prior, Carolyn fell victim to a scam predatory lender. The salesman convinced her that with a new reverse mortgage she would only be compelled to pay the taxes on the house, significantly reducing her expenses as she entered retirement age. When they started receiving the foreclosure notices, it was too late, even with almost every adult in the house regaining employment.
The family was evicted from their home on February 20, upon which they called Take Back the Land requesting assistance. Since then, they have been sleeping together in a van and bread truck in the parking lot of a local supermarket. Local homeless shelters are full and not fitted for families and, therefore, can only split the family between Homestead and Miami and then divide the men and women.
The house itself is in need of repairs and there are at least three other vacant homes on that street and numerous others on adjacent streets. As such, the home is unlikely to be sold or occupied in the next year or even two years and will only contribute to blight and unsafe conditions in the neighborhood. Furthermore, homes vacant for even short periods of time are often vandalized and stripped for valuable parts and fixtures. The vacant house, therefore, does not help the family, the neighborhood or even the bank who owns a structure rapidly decreasing value.
It is inhumane and immoral to evict a family of 12 human beings, who are left to sleep in a truck, and not even fill the house with another family, but leave it vacant, potentially for years to come.
Housing is a human right which is threatened by corporate demands to maximize profits. Take Back the Land calls on people of good conscience to defend their communities and fight for the right of human beings to housing, particularly during this economic crisis.