Archive for Homelessness

Heckuva Job, Bam

Obamavilles are growing so fast, they may soon need representation in Congress!

Lenders took back more homes in August than in any month since the start of the U.S. mortgage crisis.

The increase in home repossessions came even as the number of properties entering the foreclosure process slowed for the seventh month in a row, foreclosure listing firm RealtyTrac Inc. said Thursday.

In all, banks repossessed 95,364 properties last month, up 3 percent from July and an increase of 25 percent from August 2009, RealtyTrac said.

August makes the ninth month in a row that the pace of homes lost to foreclosure has increased on an annual basis.

We’re going backwards! You know how trucks beep when they’re in reverse? We’re beeping our national a**es off!

I’m thinking of staking out prime territory for my tent now, even though I don’t think I’ll need it. I bet most of those out on the street didn’t think they’d be roughing it either. I hear Yosemite is nice.

This family has the right idea:


The Obama Bust

No, I’m not talking about Michelle’s string bikini on the beach at Martha’s Vineyard (scary thought!).

I’m talking about the opposite of the Baby Boom:

America’s birth rate was lower in 2009 than at any other time in the past century, the AP reports — and many experts feel that the economic downturn is to blame.

In 2009, the total number of births across the country fell for the second year in a row — from 4,247,000 in 2008 to 4,136,000, according to provisional data released Friday by the National Center for Health Statistics. No doubt about it: By historical standards, 4 million babies is still a lot of new kids coming into the world. But the rate — the number of births per 1,000 people already alive — is very low indeed. There were roughly 4 million babies born in the U.S. in 1960 too, but back then the population was only 60% as large it is today — so that the birth rate back then was much higher. In 2009, the new data shows, there were only 13.5 live births for every 1,000 U.S. residents.

Many statisticians and social scientists say it’s no coincidence that birth rates fell at the same time that the economy sputtered.

This is not the first time fertility rates have dipped during times of economic strife either. U.S. birth rates plummeted during the Great Depression.

Great. First dumpster-diving (see Aggie’s post below), now plummeting birth rates. How long before marathon dancing and homeless camps return?

Oh wait:

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Pitch Your Tent in Hahvahd Yahd

How many of these Obamavilles will sprout across the landscape before we act?

After peddling donated books in Harvard Square each day, Kenneth O’Brien packs up his belongings and family and heads around the corner to a city-owned park, where he sets up for the night.

As darkness falls, O’Brien and his girlfriend, Earlene French, prepare for bed in a new encampment in Flagstaff Park staked out by the homeless, who huddle under tents while the bright lights of vehicles swirl around them.

“This is where we want to be,’’ O’Brien said.

Recently, the camp, located at a park at the junction of Garden Street and Massachusetts Avenue, has been a source of intrigue among passersby and on YouTube, where videos proclaim a new tent city rising at Harvard’s front doors.

The camp has also placed Cambridge authorities in a quandary as they wrestle with the legality of removing harmless homeless people from public land and with the question of what to do with O’Brien, a longtime Harvard Square fixture who has wrangled with them on other issues.

Longtime fixture? How long?

This long:

O’Brien, 56, has been on the streets for 35 years. He met French, known as Frenchie, five years ago when he was panhandling in the square. She eventually joined him on the streets, and the two formed a family with their dog, Penny, who was rescued from a puppy mill, and their cat, Charlie, who was found on the busy streets of Harvard Square.

They run Almost Banned, a sidewalk book table that the city shut down earlier this year. But O’Brien reopened the Harvard Square business soon after, hoisting a brightly colored sign on a pole daring authorities to close it again.

The book table, where books sell for $2 each, is their lifeline.

When they lost their apartment in February, they camped under the table in Harvard Square for a few months until they decided to pitch a tent around the bend at the quiet Flagstaff Park.

Typical Glob journalism: he’s been on the street either 35 years or eight months, depending on which paragraph you read. And how can Flagstaff Park be “quiet” with all those vehicles “swirling about them”? Come on. Edit much? I know the corner well, and quiet it ain’t.

Look, Cambridge is entitled to run its affairs as it wishes, and if it wants to keep its parks and public spaces clear of tents, I support that. But this is typical liberal wishy-washy thinking: we love the homeless, especially when they break our laws. He himself admits he’s there by choice, so what’s wrong with the community choosing to evict him and his mate and his dog and his cat and his tent—their whole unsightly mess—from city ground?

It’s what they do:

Cambridge, known for its prestigious institutions and intellectual flavor, also has a growing reputation as a haven for the homeless.

The Cambridge area has seen its homeless population increase by 33 percent, from 487 in 2008 to 651 in 2009, officials say.

Panhandlers flock to high-traffic areas in Central and Harvard squares. Others, including those weary of shelters, have been pitching tents in the woods, behind buildings, and in public parks in a struggle for autonomy.

The homeless are also finding the Cambridge Common very attractive, especially at night when it is not heavily traveled, Helberg said. But residents began complaining, and over the summer police cleared a band of homeless people who were sleeping there.

So far, however, authorities have left O’Brien and his friends alone.

“We don’t do the Common, because the Common is a drinking crowd, and we don’t do that here,’’ O’Brien said.

See? Even this guy thinks he’s too good for the common riff-raff. Why should the likes of Lawrence Tribe and Skip Gates be bothered with his mangy dog and his scurvy cat? And if they’re fine with him, why did they run off the rummies on the Common? Can’t a homeless man unwind at the end of a day?


Your Home is My Home

As the lady put it, President Obama is going to pay our gas and mortgage.

Well, not mine, and maybe not yours.

But some people’s:

Frances Louis last week lugged her belongings into an empty and unlocked three-story townhouse in Roxbury that she does not own nor rent, intent on taking over the bank-owned property and making a statement.

She claims to have a “moral’’ right to live in the newly renovated building on Cobden Street, a four-bedroom unit seized in June by a Wisconsin bank because the owner failed to make mortgage payments. It’s one of many foreclosed and vacant properties in the neighborhood.

“Now is the time for banks to step up and help families instead of putting them out,’’ said Louis, 41, who needed a place to live after losing her home in Mattapan to foreclosure. “There are all these vacant, empty places for no reason.’’

You know what? Good for her. I mean, it’s illegal, and she should be tossed out on her ass the second a qualified buyer hits the selling price—but if the bank is going to leave a perfectly decent house unlocked and unoccupied, what else do they expect? They got what they deserved.

City Life’s unorthodox – and illegal – action appears to be yielding results. Yesterday, the townhouse’s owner, Guaranty Bank, said it will sell the property to Boston Community Capital, a nonprofit lender that specializes in selling and renting to local residents homes that were formerly owned by banks. That means Louis might be able to stay put.

Guaranty Bank chairman Jerry Levy – who learned about the City Life takeover earlier this week from a Globe reporter – said he doesn’t condone trespassing, but the bank is eager to resolve the matter, and it has no plans to force Louis from the building.

“We are sensitive and concerned about the responsibilities we have as a lender to the communities we work in,’’ Levy said.

Yeah, yielding to blackmail is always a good business practice. They could have just sold the place (giving some deserving family a godd price and a shot at owning their own home).

Oh wait, they did!

The Cobden Street unit is one of many vacant and foreclosed units in the neighborhood that Boston Community Capital has been attempting to purchase to either rent or sell back to former owners. Elyse Cherry, its chief executive, confirmed she signed an agreement to purchase the property at an undisclosed price. She would not comment on City Life’s takeover. “Our whole goal is to stabilize the neighborhood and buy the properties and resell them to an existing owner or tenant,’’ Cherry said.

So, this squatter is keeping some family squished in an overpriced, undersized rental because no one has the nuts to tell her to hit the bricks?

And she gets free electric?

The home, with stainless steel appliances and hardwood floors, had running water and electricity until Tuesday morning.

Louis has since put the electricity account in her name and expects to remain in the townhouse indefinitely. She eventually wants to buy the property, with help from her father, and was relieved to learn about the tentative deal. “We are in the position to purchase it,’’ said Louis, who has a temporary job in the convention industry.

Then here’s a tip, honey. Buy the home first, then move in. It’s legal that way, even if you won’t be celebrated in the pages of the Boston Glob.

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The Streets of San Francisco

I can understand if Michael Douglas has his hands full with that hot wife of his (bad boy! impure thoughts!), but where’s Karl Malden when you need him?

ONE of the best ways to see a city’s bones is to take a long jog in the hour before dawn. That’s what I did in San Francisco this week.

The city reminded me of Calcutta.

By day, the camouflage of color and crowds makes the multitudes of homeless less apparent. At the chilly end of the night, though, they lie strewn on the sidewalks like plague victims, wrapped in filthy blankets and abandoned.

New Yorkers have no idea how bad a homeless crisis can be.

I didn’t even run in the rougher sections, where old garbage fills the alleys and druggies prowl. My course ran from the slopes of Nob Hill, south of Union Square, down to the Embarcadero, up to North Beach and back. That’s the better part of downtown.

My new symbol of San Francisco is a man with ulcerous calves exposed, head and torso thrust into a cardboard box in front of a Prada boutique.

I refuse to romanticize the homeless – unlike those who live in San Francisco’s multimillion-dollar Victorians and idealize the homeless from a distance, then cross the street to avoid giving a deranged beggar a quarter.

My problem lies in our moral cowardice regarding those who aren’t capable of making sane decisions. When we write off a man or woman who is clearly disturbed, incapable of basic sanitary practices and living at a level below that we accord our pets, we shouldn’t pat ourselves on the back for giving him or her a handout now and then.

We’re avoiding the hard moral choices, the questions whose best answers still leave us uneasy: We worry more about stray dogs and cats than we do about stray humans.

The writer elaborates on the comparison with Calcutta—and finds San Francisco wanting. In such a bastion of liberalness (Hiya, Speaker Pelosi!), the throwing out of human refuse can’t occur from a lack of “compassion”, which they have to excess, or from lack of money (San Fran is one of the most expensive cities in America to live in). No, this shame must arise either from criminally bad policy or from hypocrisy—both of which they also have a surfeit.

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