Foreclosed homes for the homeless

A new form of philanthropy, a new way of doing good with other people’s property! Miami activist moves people into foreclosed houses – washingtonpost.com:

[Max] Rameau is an activist who has been executing a bailout plan of his own around Miami’s empty streets: He is helping homeless people illegally move into foreclosed homes.

“We’re matching homeless people with people-less homes,” he said with a grin.

Rameau and a group of like-minded advocates formed Take Back the Land, which also helps the new “tenants” with secondhand furniture, cleaning supplies and yard upkeep. So far, he has moved six families into foreclosed homes and has nine on a waiting list.

“I think everyone deserves a home,” said Rameau, who said he takes no money from his work with the homeless. “Homeless people across the country are squatting in empty homes. The question is: Is this going to be done out of desperation or with direction?”

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Mary

    People see the law in such a funny way now–not disciplinary, not protective, but as though law itself is red tape.

    Though maybe the home owners (banks, government, whomever) could at least use the property for some good, even lending it temporarily to charitable agencies for the winter. Cuz these properties certainly aren’t abstractions on a piece of paper–they really do exist and could probably serve in some capacity.

  • Bruce Gee

    “The question is: Is this going to be done out of desperation or with direction?”

    Will part of “the direction” include ensuring that the properties are kept in good order and not abused?

  • Joe

    The question is will the banks go to court and have them tossed out.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    What Joe says. I hope Mr. Rameau works well with his attorneys. He’ll need to to defend himself for the burglary charges and the civil lawsuit he’s going to face from the banks, as buyers know quite well that at least some of the homeless are homeless for a reason.

  • Pete

    God bless this man.
    He sees a need, and like the Samaritan, works to meet it. The more outwardly religious among us, like the priest and the Levite, ignore the need and instead tut-tut about the legalities, which, interestingly enough, apparently don’t concern the Miami authorities. According to the article, they are not troubling this man.
    We forget how good someone can feel when they have a home, even under the unusual circumstances here. I say again, God bless this man.
    Leave him alone.

  • Joe

    Pete – I don’t remember the good Samaritan stealing anyone else’s property to care for the man on the road. Instead, when he left the man at the inn he paid for the room and to have someone tend to the injured man.

    I have no problem with this guy’s desire to help these people. It would be better if we all had a healthy does of that impulse. That said there are ways to go about this. He could have called the local banks and asked them to work with him to set up such a program. He could have attempted to raise funds to make some sort of a modest rent payment.

    I don’t think anyone is objecting to motive but means matter. The “how” is important. If we ignore the means then, there is nothing stopping me from taking all of your money and giving it to someone I decide needs it more than you.

  • Pete

    My larger point was, why so much concern for the property, but so little for the homeless? This guy’s not stealing anything; he’s trying to help his neighbors who have no roofs over their heads, and the article suggests that’s mainly the most vulnerable among us: single mothers with young children. Good for him. Go thou and do likewise. And read Les Miserables.
    There’s always time for the banks to do their thing and squash this guy. In the end, the money men will never lose a dime.

  • Jenna

    Geez. Moving in the homeless into other people’s property.

    What about the people who’ve been foreclosed upon? Presumably, they’re homeless now, too. No sympathy for them?

    Not everyone who’s lost their home in this downturn is a feckless loser, who overmortgaged on way too much house. Some have been struggling in states where jobs dried up several years ago, and couldn’t sell their homes because the housing market had tanked long before the rest of the nation’s did.

  • Pete

    Jenna, I agree that many lose their homes through little or fault of their own – they are overwhelmed by circumstances, sometimes unforeseen, that cause them to declare bankruptcy or default. A common problem is bankruptcy due to unpaid medical bills. I think such folks should be allowed to remain in their homes for as long as is humanely possible -what’s the harm?
    This article is not about moving the homeless into “other people’s property.” These foreclosed homes are owned by mortgage companies, which are corporations, not invididuals, though they are considered “persons” for legal reasons. Until the mortage companies can sell these homes, at best a difficult process now, they sit empty, prone to vandalism and theft. So here comes a guy (obviously not a good Republican) who quite openly wants to move responsible homeless people into these homes. Unusual, to be sure, but he’s open about it, and the people he’s moving in understand the need to take care of the place; it’s in their interests to do so. Again, we can all sleep well knowing that, in the end, the banks and mortgage companies will win; they’ll make this guy pay dearly for what he’s done, but meantime I applaud him.

  • kerner

    Well, wait a minute. If these people are so responsible, can they afford to pay any rent to the property owners (the banks, at this point, I guess)? Are they planning to pay for heat and water and electricity? If they are really going to “take care of the places”, it might be in the banks’ interest to reach some kind of agreement with these people, as the properties might need caretakers. But shouldn’t the banks (on behalf of their shareholders) have some say about whom they get to “take care of the places”? And aren’t the banks’ shareholders “people”…with some rights in deciding what happens to their property?

    All we’re saying, Pete, is this sounds good idealisticly, but the issues involved in actually doing it are not so simple.

  • Pete

    No, it’s not simple – I didn’t say it was.
    But how simplistic is the typical American Christian response to such stories — blame the irresponsible poor guy, but always put in a good word for the bank’s interests. We worry about the whether the abandoned house will be clean, but could care less whether the homeless guy can even take a bath.
    Christ have mercy on us.

  • Joe

    Pete – enough with the baseless accusations and overly dramatic statements about the “good Republicans” and the “typical American Christian response.” Hyperbole is not argument. There are obvious and serious problems with what this man is doing – despite his good intentions.

  • Joe Griffin

    I couldn’t believe this story when I heard it this morning on NPR. Using this individual’s logic, why should we wait for a home to be empty before we take it over in the name of charity? Maybe we could force ourselves into every home and see if there is a vacant guest room that we can move people into, or we could possibly force all individuals to disclose their vacation home addresses and move people into those.

  • Don S

    Pete @ 11: You seem to be awfully generous with other people’s resources. Your rationalization that companies aren’t really “people” is great, except who do you think owns the shares? A lot of hurting people who have lost almost all of their equity, and don’t need to lose anymore. Funny thing — Christ is really careful throughout the gospels not to take other people’s property without their permission. He certainly encouraged people to fulfill their obligations to the government, and to share their own resources with the poor, but I don’t recall any teachings about robbing Peter to give to Paul.

    Whom would you suggest be responsible for the inevitable damages to these properties by those whom this noble fellow moves in, without owners’ permission?

    Why don’t you start by moving some of these folks into your own home, rather than so graciously offering the homes of others?

  • http://www.newreformationpress.com Patrick Kyle

    Why not let the soon to be homeless owners being foreclosed upon stay in their homes, paying the mortgage companies what they can afford, until such time as the owners can get back on their feet, or an arrangement can be made with the bank? It keeps the homes occupied and kept up, and eventually the residents will e able to pay it off.
    Although I do not have much sympathy for those who bought too much house or made foolish decisions, the banks make more than the original price of the house in interest alone over the course of repayment. A $300K house will actually cost almost a million dollars over the course of a 30 year mortgage. Isn’t this the classic definition of usury?

  • WebMonk

    Patrick, what figures are you using? A $300,000 home at 6% interest will be almost $650,000. At 7% it will be almost $720,000. Not until the rate is 10+% will it be up to a million dollars. You’ve got some funky standards if our current ~6% interest rate is usurious!

    Don’t forget, that’s over the course of 30 years. The length of time makes a difference. What if it were 100 years? The borrower would be paying less than 0.01% interest for 100 years to pay a million dollars. That’s the same final numbers – $300K and $1M, but surely a 0.01% interest rate isn’t horribly usurious! The length of time makes the difference.

    Don’t take just the raw numbers when dealing with interest issues. A bank could give a loan for a house for $300,000 and require it be paid back in 1 year for $400,000 so the people get a house for only an extra $100,000 instead of an extra $400K over 30 years! Yay! Errr, not. That’s 33% interest – much worse than a little 6% rate.

    If you want to deal with absolute numbers, then don’t ignore the length of time.

    (sorry – I like math and sometimes go overboard)

    On to the original topic – has anyone SEEN what low-rent renters do to a house?!?!? Go on a beneficence trip with your church delivering Christmas/Thanksgiving dinners to poor families. Go babysit for families who are jobless living in low-income housing. With 100% consistency, the domiciles have always been trashed. (and the sample size in my experience is significant, not just a single anecdotal happening) The owning banks will have to pump tens of thousands of dollars into repairing each one of those houses before it can be resold. And what happens when a home buyer comes to take a look at the house and finds it filled with people?

    There are a LOT of much better ways to help with homeless housing issues that don’t involve stealing from banks and corporations. There are lots of examples out there – groups that are using empty houses with owners’ permission for low rent to house people and guaranteeing repairs will be made.

    I like the motive of the guy – helping the homeless. The method, theft, is all wrong!

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Pete, as another has noted, I’ve yet to find the place in the Scriptures where theft is advocated as a means of helping the homeless. It’s also worth noting that one of the cruelest things one can do to many homeless people is to help them–it allows them to stay in that condition without getting hungry, and to continue to abuse the drugs that got them into that place.

    I don’t even concede that Mr. Rameau’s motives are good. Is it truly to help the homeless, or is it to “get” the banks? It’s not like breaking locks and moving people into these homes is going to help their value on resale.

  • http://www.tfrec.wsu.edu/JTfavorites.html Jerry

    Sounds like news from a third-world country; not surprising because by every other sign we seem headed that way

  • James

    i had a dream one night that me and my family would go under and become homless, i dont want that. ive always thought of having a government paid home were the taxes are out and bread and some meats were free

  • Miranda

    Well, his methods may be questionable, but he got people to notice the problem.

    Now, what are we going to do about it? Sit around and cluck our tongues? Disparage his methods? What are our methods? Have we any? I suspect not.

    The houses were empty and were going to stay that way for some time. And the longer they stayed empty, the more difficult it would be to get someone to buy them. Now they have families living in them and (according to the article) taking care of them with the help of the organization that put them in the houses.

    Perhaps the banks should consider paying these folks a stipend for taking care of their property.

  • ken harrington

    if the president, gives a new homeowner eightt housand dollars. tax credit why doesnt he give a homeless person, half of the money to stay in the house,until the property is sold? then the person who buys the house,can claim the taxes on the person who stays in it.


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