Sunday, January 13, 2008

Foreclosures Stories

Homelessness and Foreclosures

Sorry for not posting recently. We have all been working on a big foundation meeting we had this last week. There were a series of stories in the Plain Dealer about squatters and the foreclosure crisis. Then there was an editorial lecturing us to play nice with the city. We have played nice with the City since Napoleon stepped aside in 2001. Finally, reporter O'Malley attended our meeting with the Police to discuss the growing problem, and wrote about that meeting.

The story behind the story was nothing news worthy for readers of this blog. We wrote about this problem back in November here. We presented a whole list of reasons for the drop in numbers of people sleeping outside. One of the reasons on the list was the large number of abandoned buildings and foreclosed houses that exist in Cuyahoga County. The foreclosure crisis has devastated this community to such an extent that it is now a huge issue in the media. We only briefly touched on the inability for law enforcement or neighborhood groups to monitor all of the foreclosed buildings. National media are finally paying attention and Cleveland is ground zero for the problem of foreclosures. It has drawn a great deal of print and television face time, unfortunately long after the flood gates were destroyed. We sure could have used some of this attention years ago when there were signs on every street corner screaming to "buy ugly homes" or "Get into a house for no money down!"

Many people that I talked to were impressed by Lt. Stacho comments as forward thinking and proper. It was a great quote, and someone needed to say it in the article. But just for clarity, we did not raise this story to tattle on our own clients. We put it in a press release to explain another issue in the community. We did not approach the media about this issue, because the reality is that people have been sleeping in abandoned buildings for decades. After all, there are 4,000 people on the streets every night and only 2,000 beds in the community. Some stay in cars, some are outside, but a sizable number are in abandoned buildings. The point of our release was there are so many options now that these properties are becoming even more attractive to those who lose their housing. I have talked to five other media outlets about this story.

Squatters are a huge issue that go far beyond law enforcement or the outreach workers. The development corporations, government, recycling centers, United Way, Foundations, and all poverty organizations need to figure out a response. We are dragging down entire streets, entire neighborhoods, and in the case of East Cleveland entire cities.

Posts by Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless staff and Board.

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