By Jeff Johnson
Last month, activists from Occupy KC officially launched an Occupy Our Homes initiative to address the foreclosure crisis here in Kansas City head on. Occupations in other cities have had Occupy Our Homes direct actions underway for some time, and many people in Kansas City felt it was overdue for Occupy KC to get with the program.
Kansas City’s version will not be put together hastily, though. Over the past five months, Occupiers here have organized a string of demonstrations, marches, teach-ins, and forums, sometimes with little lead time. But this time it’s different.
At the inaugural Occupy Our Homes meeting, facilitator Michael Enriques drew out from the roughly 20 attendees their ideas for long-term, intermediate, and short-term goals of the plan. The long-term goals included legislation, neighborhood revitalization, and other large-scale policy concepts.
Toward the end of that first meeting, some expressed a sense of urgency. “People are getting foreclosed on everyday,” said a new Occupy KC supporter. Having been inspired to get involved recently after getting acquainted with a home-owner that was on the verge of losing their home, this attendee appealed to the group, “We need to do something right away.”
But it was clear from the printed agenda, and the deliberate pace of the meeting, that this initiative was going to involve serious and thoughtful planning, starting with research. Considering the scope of the foreclosure crisis in Kansas City, that makes sense. It would be one thing to run out and occupy a home, maybe interfere with a foreclosure, and get some temporary publicity. It would be quite another if Occupy KC’s initiative managed to connect to long-range plans involving solutions that could help more than just a couple of random foreclosure cases.
A repeated theme was concern that the foreclosure issue has impacted minorities disproportionately, so this is one point that is likely to drive the local initiative. Whether the initiative will involve resisting evictions, negotiating loan modifications, or helping families occupy otherwise vacant homes (or all of the above) is still to be sorted out.
The Occupy Our Homes group meets weekly at 4 p.m. on Sundays at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, 3800 Troost. All are welcome.