Atlanta activists pursue provocative 'take over' of vacant, foreclosed houses

11:42 PM, Dec 8, 2012   |    comments
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ATLANTA -- For the second time in 48-hours, residents of SW Atlanta's Pittsburgh neighborhood went on the offensive, taking over another vacant, foreclosed home. They say they are trying to rid their community of the blight, one way or another.

Even if it's against the law.

And so far, no one's stopping them -- not the absentee owners, including banks that took over many of the community's vacant homes in foreclosure.

Neighborhood residents, who have now unilaterally taken control of the two houses, say they are practicing civil disobedience, in order to accomplish what no one in authority will even try to do for their neighborhood.

"This property's been vacant for some years, and it looks real bad," said Pastor Bobby Williams of Community Ministry Church. "We have so many abandoned houses over here in the Pittsburgh community."

Pastor Williams calls them crime magnets.

His church, as well as a school, are across the street from the dilapidated house where the activists were focusing their efforts on Saturday.

They cleaned up the property as best they could, with help from the group Occupy Our Homes Atlanta, hauling away layers of trash dumped across the yard, including old tires, and cutting back the weeds, tall grass and other overgrown greenery.

Their clean-up is a prelude, they hope, to moving someone in, with or without the permission of the absentee owners -- just like they did on Thursday, a few houses down the same street, Windsor Street, when two women and their children exercised "squatters rights" on a vacant, foreclosed, bank-owned home.

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From Thursday: Occupy Atlanta moves homeless family into bank-owned home

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"We have investors that are just holding these properties hostage," said one of the women, Michelene Meusa, on Thursday. "For what?"

Meusa said she and her family are not only solving their personal housing crisis by taking over the foreclosed house, they are also joining -- celebrating -- what they believe is a nationwide, civil rights style movement.

"So why do we have a homeless issue, why do we have a 'displacement' issue, with all these homes boarded up and sitting there rotting away?"

The bank that owns the home they occupied is reportedly investigating the situation before deciding whether to file a complaint with Atlanta police to try to force the squatters out.

Pastor Williams hopes the owner of the vacant house across from his church -- whoever the owner is, Williams and others are still tracking down the property records -- will just give the house away, to his church or someone else who wants it, for the good of the neighborhood.

"So this is something positive, just cleaning this property up, and putting all the debris on the street, hoping that the owner will see that we are out here and they will donate this house to the church."

"If something is not done about this issue," said Michelene Meusa, "I'm sure plenty of more people are going to do this very, same thing" and occupy more vacant, foreclosed houses. 

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