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First Person: Occupying Our Homes, Fighting Foreclosures

By Robert Derenthal, Occupy Atlanta

With a staggering number of homes being foreclosed upon this year and the millions of families facing homelessness, one would hope a grassroots resistance against the epidemic of foreclosures would spring up.  

Well, the resistance is rising.  Occupy Atlanta is about to enter into its fifth month of defending families from morally reprehensible and legally questionable evictions due to foreclosures.  

Most often the thieves are banks who extend predatory loans and conduct shady exchanges of property.  Other times the thieves are not banks but are instead corporations such as Investors One Corporation.  This entity claims ownership over the Frazer home in South Dekalb, near the county line.  

Occupy Atlanta is coming up on its fourth week of occupying the Frazer family home at 3662 Wellhaun Road in unincorporated DeKalb County.

This house on Wellhaun Road is home to a four-generation family.  The homeowner, Christine Frazer, with her daughter, her toddler grandson, and her 85-year-old mother face the threat of eviction everyday at the hands of Investors One Corp.   

In the defense of this family and in defense of their home, we have set up tents and refuse to leave until Ms. Frazer, fondly known as Chris, is able to sleep securely in her home.

Upon arrival we began thinking of ways of making our presence known in the area.  We made signs that were put up in Chris's yard and along the roadside outside of the street.  They said things like, "Warning-Class Warfare Ahead," "Foreclose on Banks, Not People," and "We Shall Not Be Moved."

In the front yard of the home, between two trees, we flew a bed sheet banner, "This Home Is Occupied."

The tents, the signs, and the banner made it clear who had moved in next door.      

Then it was time to start knocking on doors to get to know the community.  We formed three teams and canvassed the street Chris lives on and the two closest neighborhoods.  

The responses were largely positive; everyone recognized that foreclosures and evictions are not only detrimental to individual families, but also detrimental to communities.

We invited them all to our very first weekly community meeting that Saturday.  We took down names, email addresses, and phone numbers to form a contact list.  When the marshals come to complete the eviction, neighbors, Occupiers, and friends will be called to defend the Frazer home.

The writ of possession has reached the Marshal's office and is active as of March 21st.

We must defend the home during business hours throughout the week.  We implore any and all who are sympathetic to this cause to participate in defending the home from the hands of a broken system.  Come and join us in the resistance.

Walking down Wellhaun Road, one can see how truly desperate the area has become. The four homes at the end of the cul-de-sac stand vacant either foreclosed upon or abandoned.

According to one of Chris’s neighbors, a long time resident of this struggling community, one of the homes has been empty for nearly fifteen years.  The long-vacant home is overgrown by vines, the windows are broken, and the walls and ceiling are falling in.

A van is in the driveway up on blocks, probably the remnant of a car theft.  The other uninhabited homes are not in much better shape.  One, according to neighbors, played host to meth-producing squatter for time.  Another was bought for a pittance at public auction; the new owner began and then abandoned a renovation and left it to rot.

Houses like these, in addition to presenting a danger to their communities, bring down the value of every home in the area, and families suddenly find themselves underwater and their biggest investment a fraud.

One neighbor expressed his concerns about the uncontrollable decline in his neighborhood at the community meeting.  

He vented his frustration over the lack of decency demonstrated by those who drive down Wellhaun Road and dump trash from their car windows onto the overgrown front lawns of abandoned properties.  

Those of us newly occupying the Frazer home looked at each other with the same idea on our minds, "We can start with this."

We told the neighbor that we would begin a cleanup of the neighborhood, starting the next weekend and for as long as necessary.  He seemed taken aback at the idea that what had become a personal chore had become a communal occupation.

So, Occupy Atlanta got our hands dirty a week later and the results were: the truck bed of a pickup filled with bags of trash, tires, pieces of wood, a broken television, a tidied Wellhaun Road, and a smiling neighbor.

Now that we have met the immediate neighbors, taken down their information, and regularly kept them informed of events, we enter a new phase.  While we protect the Frazer home from the threat of immediate eviction, we are embarking on a project of expansion.  Only a few miles in every direction from this home are other homes at varying states of the foreclosure process, or are in pre-foreclosure.

A useful program has allowed us to identify all the homes in foreclosure in the area and the facts are staggering: dozens of homes in almost every neighborhood for miles around.

Some streets have several homes in foreclosure and more pop up every few days.  

We want the people of South Dekalb to occupy their neighborhoods.  We want the entire country, coast to coast, to occupy their communities.  It is to be hoped that a model for the entire country is developing.

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