Occupy Our Homes–the offshoot of Occupy Wall Street working to prevent wrongful evictions and foreclosures–says on its website, “Everyone deserves to have a roof over their head and a place to call home. …We believe everyone has a right to decent, affordable housing.”
Child homelessness is now epidemic in the US. 2.3 million children are part of families who have lost their homes to foreclosure. Another 6 million children are in at-risk situations. According to the National Center on Family Homelessness, 1.6 million children had no home at all, living on the streets, or in shelters or motels. The correlation with the financial crisis is unmistakable; child homelessness is up 33% in the last years.
“Home ownership tends to be the price of admission to top-quality public education,” writes Peter S. Goodman on HuffPost. But what chance does a kid have at an education if she doesn’t have a home at all?
From many of the activists behind Occupy Our Homes DC, I hear an underlying theme. The conversation always starts with stopping wrongful evictions and foreclosures, but it soon gets around to the right to housing.
“Before anything else, people need homes,” says Mike Isaacson, who risked arrest today when he refused to leave the lobby of the Chase Home Loan Modification offices. He sat on the floor and quietly texted to other Occupy Our Homes activists on the upper floors. They were trying to gain a negotiation meeting on behalf of Deborah Harris, a retired paramedic who faces foreclosure on her home.
“We’re stopping the eviction of tenants and homeowners fallen on hard times,” Isaacson continued. “But it’s really about housing in general. Everybody has a right to housing.”
In our society, the right to housing is a revolutionary idea. If you can’t pay, you don’t get shelter. That’s the way it works.
Laura Lising, also of Occupy Our Homes, put it this way in front of the Freddie Mac headquarters on 7th Street: “Banks don’t need houses.” Freddie Mac bought Deborah Harris’ mortgage from Chase and is still aggressively pursuing foreclosure. “There are more empty houses than homeless people by far. We believe that housing is a human right,” Lising said.
Gary Nelson, a Baltimore firefighter attending the protest in solidarity with his fellow emergency responder, said, “I think everybody has had somebody foreclosed on or in danger of it. These things must change.”
The human cost of mass evictions and foreclosures can’t be calculated. If 8 million children grow up homeless–without stability, community and safety–we’ll pay the price for generations.
For more information, about Deborah Harris and Occupy Our Homes’ effort to stop foreclosure on her home, go here.