The home at 1043 Windsor Street sits in the center of the Pittsburgh community, a neighborhood in SW Atlanta that is one of the hardest hit in the nation by the foreclosure crisis. In the years leading up to the crisis, the neighborhood was aggressively targeted with predatory lending practices by the big banks pushing subprime mortgages. The result? Since the financial crash in 2008, thousands of homes have been foreclosed on, leading home values in this community to plummet an astonishing 84%. Entire blocks are filled with vacant and boarded up homes, increasing crime, and destroying the community. These same empty homes are then quickly snatched up by out of state investors, hoping to buy cheap and make a quick buck when the market turns around, leaving the people of Pittsburgh continuously held hostage. At the same time these homes sit empty, thousands of Atlanta families struggle with no roof over their heads at all.
Michelene, Reneka, and their two children Dillon and Jahla are just one of these families. After losing their jobs earlier this year, they struggled to make ends meet. Despite their best efforts, they couldn’t keep up and were unable to make the rent on their townhouse, landing them somewhere no family ever imagines they will be– homeless. “The biggest struggle is always trying to keep the kids focused on what they need to be focused on even though we might be falling apart” says Michelene. For months the family bounced around from shelter to shelter, often unable to stay together due to being a same-sex couple.
On December 6, the one year anniversary of the Occupy Homes movement, Reneka, Michelene, and their family, joined with Occupy Our Homes Atlanta, community members, homeowners, tenants, renters, and the homeless to reclaim the home on Windsor Street from the bank. After the hardships they endured, Michelene and Reneka were ready to take the bold step of publicly moving into the home. But this action was not just about them. There are currently 7 empty homes for every homeless person in America, raising many questions about the priorities held in our society. “We attribute our hard times as well as our good times to a higher power. We want to use our voices and circumstances to not only help ourselves, but to help others even more, and we’re ready to take bold steps in order to see change that can be felt around the globe” said Reneka shortly before the action took place.
Reneka and Michelene, together with the pastor of the church next door, the neighbors across the street, and the former owners of the house, hope to persuade M&T bank to turn the home over to a non-profit that will determine it’s use for years to come. It’s time to take the control of communities out of the hands of Wall Street and the big banks and place it right back where it belongs– with the people who live in them.
SIGN THE PETITION HERE!!