The usually tent-dependent Occupy movement promises to move indoors Tuesday in a nationwide demonstration against aggressive foreclosures that in many cities involves relocating protests into vacant, bank-owned properties.
In Chicago, demonstrators are staging a "housewarming party" for a family that has moved into an abandoned building in Belmont Cragin on the city's Northwest Side. Organizers hope to illustrate the impropriety of homeless people and families coexisting in a city rife with empty, foreclosed homes.
"I believe what we are doing is right, because people need a place to live," said Sabrina Morey, who recently moved into the abandoned building. "There should be no vacant homes anywhere."
In Chicago, foreclosed homes have been called out for welcoming crime and blighting neighborhoods. In October, Ald. Deborah Graham proposed an ordinance backed by the Chicago Teachers Union that would require banks to secure vacant buildings near schools, after parents and neighbors complained that uninhabited homes are often taken over by drug dealers and gang members, bringing violent crime into the surrounding community.
This demonstration is far from the first outcry against foreclosures in the Windy City. In October, five Chicago women, all mothers and grandmothers, were arrested for "returning" garbage collected at foreclosed Bank of America properties to a downtown branch, part of a protest led by Take Back Chicago.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel has already signed off on a rehab-focused loan program, the Micro-Market Recovery Program, to stabilize property values and stabilize about 2,000 homes in five years, but members of the Occupy movement say it isn't enough--and isn't focused enough on keeping homeowners facing foreclosure from being turned out.
"Because of the foreclosure crisis Wall Street banks created with their lies and greed, millions of Americans have lost their homes, and one in four homeowners are currently underwater on their mortgage," Occupy Our Homes states on their website. "We, the 99%, are standing up to Wall Street banks and demanding they negotiate with homeowners instead of fraudulently foreclosing on them.