By Teke WigginThough Occupy Wall Street is fading from the public eye, one of its offshoots continues to garner attention, carrying the torch as perhaps the most potent legacy of a movement that's largely cooled. Ten months ago, Occupy Our Homes officially launched in more than 20 cities, staging sit-ins at properties in danger of foreclosure to help distressed homeowners stave off eviction. And even in its youth, the movement is gaining steam as it tweaks its campaign tactics in order to reach a larger swath of homeowners and musters additional support from peer advocacy groups and public figures. Organizers of some of the most active chapters of OOH -- in Atlanta, Minnesota, California and Washington, D.C. -- indicated that, since then, they have fought for more than 40 homeowners headed toward foreclosure and eviction. And, according to them, a majority of the campaigns ended in the favor of the homeowners. "You look at the Occupy movement and you say, 'What are they doing?' " said Tim Franzen, an organizer with OOH Atlanta. "I think that Occupy Our Homes has brought tangible results for the 99 percent."
Barber said that she avoided going public with her case for two years because she didn't want to "air my dirty laundry." But now that she's a focal point of an OOH effort, she said that she feels "pride." The shift in her mindset is an example of what many point to as Occupy Our Homes' greatest contribution: The movement has helped chip away at the stigma attached to foreclosure and has spurred distressed homeowners and their neighbors to fight back.
the homeowner out." Two other campaigns are ongoing, he added. Cultivating Empathy OOH has brought many cases of struggling homeowners facing foreclosure into the limelight, and that's put "real faces and real people" to a foreclosure crisis that has claimed millions of homes, said Eric Hersey, a spokesperson for the National Community Reinvestment Coalition. The organization's affiliates often partner with OOH groups. "I think it creates much more empathy: Neighbors standing up to protect neighbors from a system that's stacked against the little guy," Hersey said. OOH chapters have snowballed in some communities, organizers said. Residents may initially come to the defense of a neighbor only to become rank-and-file members of OOH afterward, participating in other campaigns. Organizers also said the same goes for the homeowners who actually receive the support. Rev. Michael Vanzant, who is disabled after suffering a stroke and is working with OOH D.C. to hold onto his home, said that he plans to support the group even if it fails to turn back his eviction. "I've realized that I am not alone and that there are many other people who are in the same situation that I am," said Vanzant, the founder of a D.C. church.
Military veteran Bobby Hull, who received a loan modification thanks to OOH support, is another person who has joined the group to fight on behalf of other distressed homeowners. AOL Real Estate reported on the campaign at his home when it launched with others around the country last December.
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.
In fact, collaboration between OOH and other groups has become so entrenched that many organizers identify as Occupy Our Homes members while maintaining activist roles in other groups. Franzen, for instance, is a member of the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker-founded social justice group that he said is helping to "build power" for OOH Atlanta. In recognition of the cross-pollination between many groups, activists recently formed theHome Defenders League, which lists 25 partners, most of them non-OHH groups. But OOH faces an uphill battle in winning the backing of many other housing groups, especially those that receive grants from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. For example, the housing group NeighborWorks America, which funnels aid to hundreds of affiliates around the country, "would be crazy to try and identify and collaborate," Hersey said. A primary role of NeighborWorks, he said, is to "procure funds from the government."
lenders don't like bad publicity," E'laine said about OOH and ISAIAH, which boasts more than 100 member congregations. Speaking of saving her home, she added: "I'm thinking there's still a way." --Written by Teke Wiggen for AOL Real Estate More From AOL Real Estate Tenant Installs Surveillance, Now Faces Eviction Vacant Homes Plague Neighbors as Lenders Drag Feet Loan Officer Lifts the Lid on Deceptive Lending in 'The Liar and His Loans'