For Max Rameau, a vacant, boarded-up home is more than just a symbol of the national housing crisis. It`s an opportunity to house the homeless.
Rameau, a homeless advocate, runs a controversial program in Miami [Florida] that helps families squat in homes vacated because of bank foreclosures. Using Internet listings and a team of volunteers, Rameau and his Take Back the Land foundation matches homeless families with empty homes.
Rameau, 39, says his efforts are creative solutions for two of America`s biggest problems: rising numbers of vacant homes and a growing homeless population. He has moved in six families since January. The authorities so far haven`t stopped him.
It`s morally indefensible to have vacant homes sitting there, potentially for years, while you have human beings on the street," Rameau says.
Kelly Penton, a city of Miami spokeswoman, says police don`t have the manpower to scour neighborhoods looking for squatters. Police only act on a complaint by a property owner, which so far hasn`t happened, she says.
People need to obey the law, obviously," Penton says. "But it has to be something that`s reported to the city.
With 44% of the nation`s 744,000 homeless unsheltered, it`s not surprising that people want to take over homes, says Michael Stoops, executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless.
Original article: http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2008-12-10-homesquatters_N.htm