FORECLOSURE SQUATTERS

POSTED: Tuesday, February 3, 2009 - 5:20pm

UPDATED: Wednesday, February 17, 2010 - 3:23pm

Community group helps squatters find foreclosed homes to take shelter in.

With the number of foreclosures continuing to rise, squatting has become a growing trend among the homeless.

"I had to squat because nobody gave a squat," said 'Mary.'

We're calling her 'Mary' and concealing her identity because she's a squatter.

She recently lost her job and took up residence in a vacant foreclosed house.

"This will afford me a few minutes to be able to breath and be able to regroup and get back out there into the workforce to be the productive part of society," said 'Mary.'

She keeps the place and her belongings in order.

We can't reveal the location because she's there without the owner's permission.

Community activist Max Rameau placed Mary in the home through his organization, Take Back the Land.

"Our role is to identify these places and make them available for people who need places to stay, and that's what we do," said Rameau.

He's placed seven such families in foreclosed homes.

In Florida's Miami-Dade area an estimated 4,800 people are homeless.

There are plenty of homes there to pick from.

In December alone banks filed 6,000 foreclosures.

"If you would take all the homeless people and move them into vacant, foreclosed houses, we could end the homeless problem today in Miami Dade," said Rameau.

Some of these properties don't even have locks on the doors, so its easy to get in.

Once they're inside, anyone can pay to the utility companies to keep water and lights
running.

But is it legal?.

"This issue of trespassers and squatters as you call them is against the law. If you go into a unoccupied dwelling that's not your property it's actually a misdemeanor under Florida law," said property attorney Richard Gray.

But Rameau says neighbors have to worry about vandals and an eye sore at this home because a family of four squatters was evicted.

"The places that they stay in end up being in much better condition," said Rameau. "For five months this has served for no good to anyone."

'Mary' says in this economy anyone can wind up in her shoes.

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