[Hpn] Some homeless squat in foreclosed houses

William C. Tinker wtinker@verizon.net
Sun, 17 Feb 2008 21:23:38 -0500


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Some homeless squat in foreclosed houses

Some Homeless People Turn to Empty Houses for Shelter Amid Nation's =
Foreclosure Crisis

THOMAS J. SHEERAN
AP News

Feb 17, 2008 14:25 EST

The nation's foreclosure crisis has led to a painful irony for homeless =
people: On any given night they are outnumbered in some cities by vacant =
houses. Some street people are taking advantage of the opportunity by =
becoming squatters.

Foreclosed homes often have an advantage over boarded-up and dilapidated =
houses abandoned because of rundown conditions: Sometimes the heat, =
lights and water are still working.
"That's what you call convenient," said James Bertan, 41, an ex-convict =
and self-described "bando," or someone who lives in abandoned houses.

While no one keeps numbers of below-the-radar homeless finding shelter =
in properties left vacant by foreclosure, homeless advocates agree the =
locations - even with utilities cut off - would be inviting to some. =
There are risks for squatters, including fires from using candles and =
confrontations with drug dealers, prostitutes, copper thieves or police.

"Many homeless people see the foreclosure crisis as an opportunity to =
find low-cost housing (FREE!) with some privacy," Brian Davis, director =
of the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, said in the summary of =
the latest census of homeless sleeping outside in downtown Cleveland.

The census had dropped from 40 to 17 people. Davis, a board member of =
the National Coalition for the Homeless, cited factors including the =
availability of shelter in foreclosed homes, aggressive sidewalk and =
street cleaning and the relocation of a homeless feeding site. He said =
there are an average 4,000 homeless in Cleveland on any given night. =
There are an estimated 15,000 single-family homes vacant due to =
foreclosure in Cleveland and suburban Cuyahoga County.

In Texas, Larry James, president and chief executive officer of Central =
Dallas Ministries, said he wasn't surprised that homeless might be =
taking advantage of vacant homes in residential neighborhoods beyond the =
reach of his downtown agency.

"There are some campgrounds and creek beds and such where people would =
be tempted to walk across the street or climb out of the creek bed and =
sneak into a vacant house," he said.

Bertan, who doesn't like shelters because of the rules, said he has been =
homeless or in prison for drugs and other charges for the past nine =
years. He has noticed the increased availability of boarded-up homes =
amid the foreclosure crisis.

He said a "fresh building" - recently foreclosed - offered the best =
prospects to squatters.

"You can be pretty comfortable for a little bit until it gets burned =
out," he said as he made the rounds of the annual "stand down" where =
homeless in Cleveland were offered medical checkups, haircuts, a hot =
meal and self-help information.

Shelia Wilson, 50, who was homeless for years because of drug abuse =
problems, also has lived in abandoned homes, and for the same reason as =
Bertan: She kept getting thrown out of shelters for violating rules. =
"Every place, I've been kicked out of because of drugs," she said.

Michael Stoops, acting executive director of the National Coalition for =
the Homeless, hasn't seen evidence of increased homeless moving into =
foreclosed homes but isn't surprised. He said anecdotal evidence - =
candles burning in boarded-up homes, a squatter killed by a fire set to =
keep warm - shows the determination of the homeless to find shelter.

Davis said Cleveland's high foreclosure rate and the proximity of =
downtown shelters to residential neighborhoods has given the city a lead =
role in the homeless/foreclosure phenomenon.

Many cities roust homeless from vacant homes, which more typically will =
be used by drug dealers or prostitutes than a homeless person looking =
for a place to sleep, Stoops said.

Police across the country must deal with squatters and vandalism =
involving vacant homes:

_ In suburban Shaker Heights, which has $1 million homes on wide =
boulevards, poorer neighborhoods with foreclosed homes get extra police =
attention.

_ East of San Francisco, a man was arrested in November on a code =
violation while living without water service in a vacant home in =
Manteca, Calif., which has been hit hard by the foreclosure crisis.

_ In Cape Coral, Fla., a man arrested in September in a foreclosed home =
said he had been living there since helping a friend move out weeks =
earlier.

Bertan and Wilson agreed that squatting in a foreclosed home can be =
dangerous because the locations can attract drug dealers, prostitutes =
and, eventually, police.

William Reed, 64, a homeless man who walks with a cane, thumbed through =
a shoulder bag holding a blue-bound Bible, notebooks with his pencil =
drawings and a plastic-wrapped piece of bread as he sat on a retainer =
wall in the cold outside St. John Cathedral in downtown Cleveland. He's =
gone inside empty homes but thinks it's too risky to spend the night.

Even the inviting idea of countless foreclosed empty homes didn't =
overcome the possible risk of entering a crack house.

"Their brains could be burned up," said Reed, who didn't want to detail =
where he sleeps at night.

Sometimes it's hard to track where the homeless go.

In Philadelphia, the risk is too great to send case workers into vacant =
homes to check for homeless needing help, said Ed Speedling, community =
liaison with Project H.O.M.E. "We're very, very wary of going inside. =
There's danger. I mean, if the floor caves in. There's potential danger: =
Sometimes they are still owned by someone," Speedling said.

William Walker, 57, who was homeless for seven years and now counsels =
drifters at a sprawling warehouse-turned-shelter overlooking Lake Erie, =
has seen people living in foreclosed homes in his blue-collar =
neighborhood in Cleveland. He estimated that three or four boarded-up =
homes in his neighborhood have homeless living there from time to time.

Sometimes homeless men living in tents in a nearby woods disappear from =
their makeshift homes, Walker said. "The guys who were there last year =
are not there now. Are they in the (foreclosed) homes? I don't know. =
They are just not in their places," Walker said.

___

On the Net:

NE Ohio Coalition for Homeless:  http://www.neoch.org


New Hampshire Homeless
Founded 11-28-99
25 Granite Street
Northfield,N.H. 03276-1640 USA
Advocates,activists for disabled,displaced human rights.
1-603-286-2492
http://www.missingkids.com
http://www.nationalhomeless.org
http://www.newhampshirehomeless.org
newhampshirehomeless-subscribe@topica.com

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<DIV>
<P id=3Dmochila-headline-441>Some homeless squat in foreclosed =
houses</P>
<P id=3Dmochila-subheadline-441>Some Homeless People Turn to Empty =
Houses for=20
Shelter Amid Nation's <SPAN class=3DjFhilite=20
style=3D"PADDING-RIGHT: 0px; DISPLAY: inline; PADDING-LEFT: 0px; =
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CURSOR: pointer; COLOR: #000099; PADDING-TOP: 0px; BORDER-BOTTOM: 3px =
double; TEXT-DECORATION: none">Foreclosure</SPAN>=20
Crisis</P>
<P id=3Dmochila-byline-441>THOMAS J. SHEERAN<BR>AP <SPAN =
class=3DjFhilite=20
style=3D"PADDING-RIGHT: 0px; DISPLAY: inline; PADDING-LEFT: 0px; =
BACKGROUND: none transparent scroll repeat 0% 0%; PADDING-BOTTOM: 0px; =
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double; TEXT-DECORATION: none">News</SPAN></P>
<P id=3Dmochila-byline-441>Feb 17, 2008 14:25 EST</P>
<DIV id=3Dmochila-article-441>
<P>The nation's foreclosure crisis has led to a painful irony for =
homeless=20
people: On any given night they are outnumbered in some cities by vacant =
houses.=20
Some street people are taking <SPAN class=3DjFhilite=20
style=3D"PADDING-RIGHT: 0px; DISPLAY: inline; PADDING-LEFT: 0px; =
BACKGROUND: none transparent scroll repeat 0% 0%; PADDING-BOTTOM: 0px; =
CURSOR: pointer; COLOR: #000099; PADDING-TOP: 0px; BORDER-BOTTOM: 3px =
double; TEXT-DECORATION: none">advantage</SPAN>=20
of the opportunity by becoming squatters.</P>
<DIV id=3Dmochila-ad>Foreclosed homes often have an advantage over =
boarded-up and=20
dilapidated houses abandoned because of rundown conditions: Sometimes =
the heat,=20
lights and water are still working.</DIV>
<P>"That's what you call convenient," said James Bertan, 41, an =
ex-convict and=20
self-described "bando," or someone who lives in abandoned houses.</P>
<P>While no one keeps numbers of below-the-radar homeless finding =
shelter in=20
properties left vacant by foreclosure, homeless advocates agree the =
locations =97=20
even with utilities cut off =97 would be inviting to some. There are =
risks for=20
squatters, including fires from using candles and confrontations with =
drug=20
dealers, prostitutes, copper thieves or police.</P>
<P>"Many homeless people see the foreclosure crisis as an opportunity to =
find=20
low-cost housing (FREE!) with some privacy," Brian Davis, director of =
the=20
Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, said in the summary of the =
latest=20
census of homeless sleeping outside in downtown Cleveland.</P>
<P>The census had dropped from 40 to 17 people. Davis, a board member of =
the=20
<SPAN class=3DjFhilite=20
style=3D"PADDING-RIGHT: 0px; DISPLAY: inline; PADDING-LEFT: 0px; =
BACKGROUND: none transparent scroll repeat 0% 0%; PADDING-BOTTOM: 0px; =
CURSOR: pointer; COLOR: #000099; PADDING-TOP: 0px; BORDER-BOTTOM: 3px =
double; TEXT-DECORATION: none">National</SPAN>=20
Coalition for the Homeless, cited factors including the availability of =
shelter=20
in foreclosed homes, aggressive sidewalk and street cleaning and the =
relocation=20
of a homeless feeding site. He said there are an average 4,000 homeless =
in=20
Cleveland on any given night. There are an estimated 15,000 <SPAN =
class=3DjFhilite=20
style=3D"PADDING-RIGHT: 0px; DISPLAY: inline; PADDING-LEFT: 0px; =
BACKGROUND: none transparent scroll repeat 0% 0%; PADDING-BOTTOM: 0px; =
CURSOR: pointer; COLOR: #000099; PADDING-TOP: 0px; BORDER-BOTTOM: 3px =
double; TEXT-DECORATION: none">single</SPAN>-family=20
homes vacant due to foreclosure in Cleveland and suburban Cuyahoga =
County.</P>
<P>In Texas, Larry James, president and chief executive officer of =
Central=20
Dallas Ministries, said he wasn't surprised that homeless might be =
taking=20
advantage of vacant homes in residential neighborhoods beyond the reach =
of his=20
downtown agency.</P>
<P>"There are some campgrounds and creek beds and such where people =
would be=20
tempted to walk across the street or climb out of the creek bed and =
sneak into a=20
vacant house," he said.</P>
<P>Bertan, who doesn't like shelters because of the rules, said he has =
been=20
homeless or in prison for drugs and other charges for the past nine =
years. He=20
has noticed the increased availability of boarded-up homes amid the =
foreclosure=20
crisis.</P>
<P>He said a "fresh building" =97 recently foreclosed =97 offered the =
best prospects=20
to squatters.</P>
<P>"You can be pretty comfortable for a little bit until it gets burned =
out," he=20
said as he made the rounds of the annual "stand down" where homeless in=20
Cleveland were offered medical checkups, haircuts, a hot meal and =
self-help=20
information.</P>
<P>Shelia Wilson, 50, who was homeless for years because of drug abuse =
problems,=20
also has lived in abandoned homes, and for the same reason as Bertan: =
She kept=20
getting thrown out of shelters for violating rules. "Every place, I've =
been=20
kicked out of because of drugs," she said.</P>
<P>Michael Stoops, acting executive director of the National Coalition =
for the=20
Homeless, hasn't seen evidence of increased homeless moving into =
foreclosed=20
homes but isn't surprised. He said anecdotal evidence =97 candles =
burning in=20
boarded-up homes, a squatter killed by a fire set to keep warm =97 shows =
the=20
determination of the homeless to find shelter.</P>
<P>Davis said Cleveland's high foreclosure rate and the proximity of =
downtown=20
shelters to residential neighborhoods has given the city a lead role in =
the=20
homeless/foreclosure phenomenon.</P>
<P>Many cities roust homeless from vacant homes, which more typically =
will be=20
used by drug dealers or prostitutes than a homeless person looking for a =
place=20
to sleep, Stoops said.</P>
<P>Police across the country must deal with squatters and vandalism =
involving=20
vacant homes:</P>
<P>_ In suburban Shaker Heights, which has $1 million homes on wide =
boulevards,=20
poorer neighborhoods with foreclosed homes get extra police =
attention.</P>
<P>_ East of San Francisco, a man was arrested in November on a code =
violation=20
while living without water service in a vacant home in Manteca, Calif., =
which=20
has been hit hard by the foreclosure crisis.</P>
<P>_ In Cape Coral, Fla., a man arrested in September in a foreclosed =
home said=20
he had been living there since helping a friend move out weeks =
earlier.</P>
<P>Bertan and Wilson agreed that squatting in a foreclosed home can be =
dangerous=20
because the locations can attract drug dealers, prostitutes and, =
eventually,=20
police.</P>
<P>William Reed, 64, a homeless man who walks with a cane, thumbed =
through a=20
shoulder bag holding a blue-bound Bible, notebooks with his pencil =
drawings and=20
a plastic-wrapped piece of bread as he sat on a retainer wall in the =
cold=20
outside St. John Cathedral in downtown Cleveland. He's gone inside empty =
homes=20
but thinks it's too risky to spend the night.</P>
<P>Even the inviting idea of countless foreclosed empty homes didn't =
overcome=20
the possible risk of entering a crack house.</P>
<P>"Their brains could be burned up," said Reed, who didn't want to =
detail where=20
he sleeps at night.</P>
<P>Sometimes it's hard to track where the homeless go.</P>
<P>In Philadelphia, the risk is too great to send case workers into =
vacant homes=20
to check for homeless needing help, said Ed Speedling, community liaison =
with=20
Project H.O.M.E. "We're very, very wary of going inside. There's danger. =
I mean,=20
if the floor caves in. There's potential danger: Sometimes they are =
still owned=20
by someone," Speedling said.</P>
<P>William Walker, 57, who was homeless for seven years and now counsels =

drifters at a sprawling warehouse-turned-shelter overlooking Lake Erie, =
has seen=20
people living in foreclosed homes in his blue-collar neighborhood in =
Cleveland.=20
He estimated that three or four boarded-up homes in his neighborhood =
have=20
homeless living there from time to time.</P>
<P>Sometimes homeless men living in tents in a nearby woods disappear =
from their=20
makeshift homes, Walker said. "The guys who were there last year are not =
there=20
now. Are they in the (foreclosed) homes? I don't know. They are just not =
in=20
their places," Walker said.</P>
<P>___</P>
<P>On the Net:</P>
<P>NE Ohio Coalition for Homeless:&nbsp; <A=20
href=3D"http://www.neoch.org">http://www.neoch.org</A></P></DIV></DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2><BR>New Hampshire Homeless<BR>Founded=20
11-28-99<BR>25 Granite Street<BR>Northfield,N.H. 03276-1640=20
USA<BR>Advocates,activists for disabled,displaced human=20
rights.<BR>1-603-286-2492<BR><A=20
href=3D"http://www.missingkids.com">http://www.missingkids.com</A><BR><A =

href=3D"http://www.nationalhomeless.org">http://www.nationalhomeless.org<=
/A><BR><A=20
href=3D"http://www.newhampshirehomeless.org">http://www.newhampshirehomel=
ess.org</A><BR><A=20
href=3D"mailto:newhampshirehomeless-subscribe@topica.com">newhampshirehom=
eless-subscribe@topica.com</A><BR></FONT></DIV></BODY></HTML>

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