As community supporters brace for imminent eviction defense
at the Ceballos family home, they held a barbecue celebrating the reclamation of a vacant house half a block away for people experiencing housing instability. The home at 4207 14th Ave S belonged to the grandmother of Mike McDowell, a community supporter who has moved back into the home.
"What I really care about is people who aren't able to find housing," said Mike. "I just want to be part of something that helps people live."
Thursday afternoon the management company from U.S. Bank, assisted by the Minneapolis Police Department, came to board up the home, even though it has not gone through a legal eviction process. Community supporters took back the house by climbing through a window. Eventually the management company and police left, saying it was a civil matter.
"While banks order homeowners like Sergio and Mike's grandmother forcibly removed from their homes rather than work with them to modify their loans, homelessness in Hennepin County is at a six-year high," said Jen Arnold, an organizer with Occupy Homes MN. "Last year the city of Minneapolis spent over $40,000 evicting the Cruz house
only to let it sit empty for a year. It's time we put these houses to use for people, not for profits." If Sergio's family is evicted, their house will be the third vacant home on the block.
Lawrence Lee, one of the home's residents, spoke powerfully at the barbecue about his experience with homelessness. "I didn't want to be here on this planet anymore, and I thought about how sad it would be for my kids not to know what happened to me. But now that I'm in this house with the support of this movement, it's time to turn my life around. I've got three kids and I want to be there for them. I believe in this movement."
In February, Occupy Homes MN reclaimed an abandoned Wells Fargo-owned home on 2nd Avenue for Jessica English
, a single mother experiencing homelessness. The house helped Jessica gain the stability she needed to rent an apartment for her family. Nearly six months later, the house on 2nd Avenue is still a home and organizing space for people experiencing housing instability.
"Now that I'm on my feet again, I want to give that opportunity to more people," said Jessica English. "It's so important for people experiencing homelessness to not be thrown away, to have a place where they're invited to contribute and be part of a community in a way they haven't been."