'Occupy Our Homes' targets vacant houses

Activists are moving homeless families into vacant, foreclosed homes in Chicago and elsewhere in the country.

December 6, 2011

By Ashley Gross

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(WBEZ/Ashley Gross)
Sabrina Morey and her daughter, Keosha Cummings, stand in front of the West Side home they've moved into.

In Chicago and elsewhere in the country Tuesday, activists have been moving homeless families into empty, foreclosed homes.

In the West Side neighborhood of Belmont-Cragin, Sabrina Morey took the megaphone and welcomed a group of about 20 protesters. Then she led the group on a march to the house she illegally moved her family into last month. Now, she and her boyfriend and four kids, along with her sister and her sister's three kids, are living in the brick bungalow.

As they marched, they chanted, "Fight, fight, fight, housing is a human right." People carried signs saying, "It's about real people versus really rich people" and "Why do they only call it class warfare when we fight back?"



Morey says she's been homeless off and on for the past 12 years. The only jobs she’s been able to cobble together are at McDonald’s and other fast food places, and none has been permanent.

She says she can’t afford to rent an apartment and doesn’t qualify for public rental assistance because of a felony drug conviction on her record.

"It's either pay your rent or you eat, and I don't know which one is more important because we need housing and we need food," Morey said. So when a group of activists called Communities United Against Foreclosure and Eviction suggested she move into a vacant, foreclosed home, she says it made a lot of sense.

"They’re sitting there, they’re vacant, it brings high crime volume to the neighborhood, things happen and there’s all these homeless people," Morey said. "Instead of throwing people out of their homes, they should be putting people into them."

Morey says she didn't have to break into the house - the door was open. She says she's gotten electricity and gas turned on in her name and plans to get the water turned on as well. She says the home was in good shape, although people had previously broken in and stolen the sinks and the copper, but she and others have been working to fix it up.

Property records show Bank of America has filed a foreclosure action but not taken possession. Bank of America spokeswoman Jumana Bauwens confirmed the bank does not have possession of the property.