No Trespassing!: Squatting, Rent Strikes, and Land Struggles Worldwide

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9780896085954: No Trespassing!: Squatting, Rent Strikes, and Land Struggles Worldwide

Contents

Introduction
Chapter One: Homes Not Jails:The Secret Success of a Squatting Movement to House the Homeless
Chapter Two: Battling the Banana Baron: Rural Hondurans Fight Chiquita Brands
Chapter Three: Arguments to Squat By: The Challenge to Property
Chapter Four: Direct Action and the Law
Chapter Five: Repression, Violent Resistance, and Reform
Chapter Six: Tactics and Mobilization: The Primacy of Power
Conclusion: The Future of Land and Housing Movements

An Excerpt from No Trespassing! By Anders Corr

Draft Version: Please do not quote

Chapter 1

Homes Not Jails:

The Secret Success of a Squatting Movement to House the Homeless

Benjamin volunteered to open the vacant building on Shotwell and 22nd, and said I could follow. He had squatted it before the landlord kicked him out, but now lived in a sleazy downtown hotel. We walked up to the alley door, and just as Benjamin produced his crowbar, a very large guy (much smaller than Benjamin and much bigger than me) walked up to his own door just a few feet away. Benjamin thought quick and pretended legitimacy by knocking. "Whatcha knockin for?" the neighbor asked. His eyes narrowed. "Nobody lives there."

Benjamin has broken into hundreds of buildings with Homes Not Jails and knew when to lead a tactical retreat. But undaunted, he circled the building and easily lifted his seven-foot frame over a fence and into the backyard. From my cowardly vantage I could see a weak flashlight flickering at us from a window in the second story of the next-door flat. Was it the neighbor who confronted us? Did he have a gun? Again, Benjamin either failed to notice the flashlight-wielding neighbor or cared little. He climbed the back stairs, jimmied the door, walked out the alley and returned with two homeless people who needed a place to stay. After letting the two into the squat, Benjamin promised to help change the lock if they stayed for a week. Afterwards I skipped to keep pace as, with a crowbar dangling from his pinkie, Benjamin lumbered about the neighborhood in search of more squats.

Homelessness and the Growth of U.S. Squatting

Homes Not Jails began with the wave of other homeless activist gro

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About the Author:

About the Author Anders Corr's writing and photography on the subject of land and housing movements have been published in the San Francisco Examiner, San Francisco Bay Guardian, San Francisco Weekly, Z Magazine, the Progressive, the Independent, Everybody's News (Cincinnati), Anarchy Magazine, Fifth Estate, Slingshot, Kick It Over, Land and Liberty, Squat Beautiful, Tenant Times, Street Spirit, and Spare Change. A former squatter himself, he co-founded the Santa Cruz Union of the Homeless. About the Author Anders Corr's writing and photography on the subject of land and housing movements have been published in the San Francisco Examiner, San Francisco Bay Guardian, San Francisco Weekly, Z Magazine, the Progressive, the Independent, Everybody's News (Cincinnati), Anarchy Magazine, Fifth Estate, Slingshot, Kick It Over, Land and Liberty, Squat Beautiful, Tenant Times, Street Spirit, and Spare Change. A former squatter himself, he co-founded the Santa Cruz Union of the Homeless.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Homes Not Jails: The Secret Success of a Squatting Movement to House the Homeless Benjamin volunteered to open the vacant building on Shotwell and 22nd, and said I could follow. He had squatted it before the landlord kicked him out, but now lived in a sleazy downtown hotel. We walked up to the alley door, and just as Benjamin produced his crowbar, a very large guy (much smaller than Benjamin and much bigger than me) walked up to his own door just a few feet away. Benjamin thought quick and pretended legitimacy by knocking. "Whatcha knockin for?" the neighbor asked. His eyes narrowed. "Nobody lives there." Benjamin has broken into hundreds of buildings with Homes Not Jails and knew when to lead a tactical retreat. But undaunted, he circled the building and easily lifted his seven-foot frame over a fence and into the backyard. From my cowardly vantage I could see a weak flashlight flickering at us from a window in the second story of the next-door flat. Was it the neighbor who confronted us? Did he have a gun? Again, Benjamin either failed to notice the flashlight-wielding neighbor or cared little. He climbed the back stairs, jimmied the door, walked out the alley and returned with two homeless people who needed a place to stay. After letting the two into the squat, Benjamin promised to help change the lock if they stayed for a week. Afterwards I skipped to keep pace as, with a crowbar dangling from his pinkie, Benjamin lumbered about the neighborhood in search of more squats. Homelessness and the Growth of U.S. Squatting Homes Not Jails began with the wave of other homeless activist groups that sprouted nation-wide following the economic recession of the 1980s. As a result of soaring rents, small-business failures, and massive corporate layoffs, landlords evicted thousands onto the streets. These new homeless, who were often well-educated, drug and alcohol free, mentally stable and middle class, joined the traditional homeless population that more often suffered mental or substance-abuse problems. Hundreds of homeless organizations sprouted across the nation that used squatting as a tactic, like Community on the Move Homesteaders Association in the Bronx, Mad Housers in Atlanta and Chicago, Drop in Center in Cincinnati, Homes Not Jails in San Francisco, and similar groups in almost every major U.S. urban area. Groups in New York, Philadelphia, Seattle, and Oakland successfully acquired title to several squatted properties. By opening vacant buildings like the one on Shotwell and 22nd, Homes Not Jails hopes to provide at least some shelter for the growing number of homeless. Between 1992 and 1998, available housing in San Francisco fell from a high of 6,500 vacant buildings (enough to house the City's entire homeless population) to less than one percent of the total housing stock. In 1994, estimates of San Francisco's homeless population were as high as 14,000, and through 1996, the number grew by 300 per month. One hundred and fifty homeless people died on the streets of San Francisco that year. Between the last quarter of 1996 and the first quarter of 1997, the number of San Francisco homeless families doubled. Boston, where Homes Not Jails is also active, has thousands of vacant buildings that could solve the City's homeless problem. In December 1995, less than three weeks after the first HNJ Boston action, the Boston Emergency Shelter Commission counted 4,896 homeless people. Many homeless advocates placed the number much higher. According to HNJ Boston, there are "thousands of residential units-largely derelict or foreclosed-which lie vacant and could be used for low-income housing or homesteading." The Power and Ethics of Media-Savvy Squatters Homes Not Jails describes itself as an all-volunteer organization committed to housing homeless people through direct action. "It is clear to me that it is possible to house everybody in San Francisco," said Miguel Wooding, a member of HNJ and volunteer tenant counselor at the San Francisco Tenants Union. "It is clear that by pressing on the issues of abandoned, vacant, tax-default buildings, we can make housing a right to which everyone has access." With the power that public takeovers provide HNJ's media spokespersons, HNJ drives their message home to the general public. "Which Do You Believe?" questions one Homes Not Jails Flyer. "1) People Who Are Homeless Should Fix Up & Live in Vacant Buildings. 2) Leave Buildings Boarded Up & Vacant; People Can Sleep Outside." HNJ's tongue in cheek rhetorical question sums-up their philosophy: common sense demands that vacant homes should house the homeless. But common sense is not so common, wrote some big-name philosopher. Even many homeless people consider squatting ethically or morally questionable, not to mention police, landlords, government figures and members of the general public. "People are scared to go open houses." said Connie, a 21 year-old who ran away from home at age fourteen in Israel and started squatting with a gang of other Israeli kids. "Squatting is a violation of everyone's basic idea of society. Property is sacred. When you open a building you are violating someone's property." When I asked Graham, who quit his office job to become a full-time homeless activist and squatter, how he would react to landlords calling him a thief, he flung that epithet right back. "For them to say that we steal their unused property, while they speculate on the rental market, is criminal. They steal when they charge us rent, as opposed to us stealing when we squat. We should not ask whether it is a crime to 'steal' a piece of property, but whether it is a crime to charge rent."

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