And that tactic sometimes backfired: In OOH's infancy, some of the original Occupy Wall Street protesters reportedly wrecked a foreclosed home that they'd intended to reclaim.
But "it's gone from activists paratrooping into the front lawn of the homeowner ... to now being much more thoughtful about how people can build their base," Newby said.
Organizers now often prepare homes for full-on occupation but do not camp out at a residence unless it's clear that an eviction is imminent. "We're not going to pull the trigger until we absolutely have to," D.C. organizer Franzen said.
That's allowed organizers to conduct more campaigns simultaneously because, at the touch of a button or the click of a mouse, they can use cell phones and social media to immediately summon support. "We have hundreds of people that are looped into text blasts," Newby said of OOH Minnesota's membership. "When we send it out, it mobilizes people in real time."
Indeed, Occupy Our Homes has leveraged technology and new media to great effect. It produced a YouTube video and raised $34,000 using crowd-funding website LoudSauce.com to pay for the video to appear on networks including CNN, Fox and MSNBC. The group also created theOccupyOurHomes website to provide a field manual for battling foreclosure and an online tool called "start an occupation." The tool is designed to help homeowners enlist the support of local OOH groups.
Gaining Acceptance but More Support Needed
Another key to Occupy Our Homes' success has been its ability to partner with other housing advocacy groups. The Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, for example, was one of the first advocacy groups to link arms with an OOH chapter.
The ACCE, which used anti-foreclosure sit-in tactics before the OOH emerged, offered guidance and support to fledgling OOH activists in Los Angeles. "We were able to share some best practices," said Peter Kuhns, an ACCE organizer. He mentioned teaching activists how to call a press conference as an example. ACCE told AOL Real Estate that it has been involved in 11 "home defense" campaigns, some of which have received support from California OOH groups.