The Housing Chronicles Blog: Homeless eying vacant homes

Monday, February 18, 2008

Homeless eying vacant homes

It's hard to argue with someone sleeping on the streets who wants to improve their situation and is made aware of vacant homes lost to foreclosure. Add to that mix lenders who are overwhelmed with the task of maintaining vacant homes, police who have other things to do and it's easy to see how such a trend can escalate. From USA Today:

The nation's foreclosure crisis has led to a painful irony for homeless people: On any given night they are outnumbered in some cities by vacant houses. Some street people are taking advantage of the opportunity by becoming squatters.

Foreclosed homes often have an advantage over boarded-up and dilapidated houses that have been abandoned because of rundown conditions: Sometimes the heat, lights and water are still working...

While no one keeps numbers of below-the-radar homeless finding shelter in properties left vacant by foreclosure, homeless advocates agree the locations — even with utilities cut off — would be inviting to some. There are risks for squatters, including fires from using candles and confrontations with drug dealers, prostitutes, copper thieves or police...

Many cities roust homeless from vacant homes, which more typically will be used by drug dealers or prostitutes than a homeless person looking for a place to sleep, Stoops said.

Police across the country must deal with squatters and vandalism involving vacant homes:

• In suburban Shaker Heights, which has $1 million homes on wide boulevards, poorer neighborhoods with foreclosed homes get extra police attention.

• East of San Francisco, a man was arrested in November on a code violation while living without water service in a vacant home in Manteca, Calif., which has been hit hard by the foreclosure crisis.

• In Cape Coral, Fla., a man arrested in September in a foreclosed home said he had been living there since helping a friend move out weeks earlier.

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