Published on 18 feb 2009 by the Twin Cities Daily Planet (Minneapolis – St. Paul, Minnesota)
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by Madeleine Baran
Poverty rights activists broke into at least a dozen vacant Minneapolis buildings this week and helped homeless families move in.
“This is the modern underground railroad,” said Cheri Honkala, National Organizer for the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign, the group organizing the “takeovers.”
This week’s actions are part of a growing national movement to illegally open up thousands of vacant, foreclosed homes to provide housing for the growing number of homeless people. Over 3,000 Minneapolis homes went into foreclosure in 2008. Advocates estimate that over 7,000 Minnesotans are homeless. Most Twin Cities’ homeless shelters have been filled to capacity for months.
On a recent afternoon, organizers planned their next takeover while eating cabbage, rice, sausage, and corn bread prepared by Rosemary, a 59-year-old African American woman facing eviction from her home. Rosemary, who asked that her last name not be used, plans to remain in her house illegally after the March 31 eviction date. In the meantime, she spends her time organizing for tenant’s rights.
“Welcome to the revolution,” Rosemary said, greeting a homeless couple looking for housing.
Lonnetta and Dwayne took a seat on Rosemary’s couch. Dwayne, 52, walking on crutches from a series of recent foot surgeries, explained that he lost his janitorial job in June when he broke his foot. The married couple asked that their last name not be used.
“Welcome to the Revolution!”