“Approximately 3.5 million people in the U.S. are homeless, many of them veterans. It is worth noting that, at the same time, there are 18.5 million vacant homes in the country.” – Tanuka Loha, Amnesty International, December 2011
by Erin Wiegand
IT’S A COLD, WINDY NIGHT IN SAN FRANCISCO, and three men are about to take shelter in a vacant apartment building. One of them digs a crowbar and bolt cutters out of his backpack; another keeps a careful eye out for police or passersby. In a matter of seconds they’ve snipped off the lock and opened the door. They survey the house, looking for any signs of occupancy or renovation—newspapers or mail, paint buckets or ladders. Satisfied that the house has been empty for some time, they relax and settle down for the night. Tomorrow, they’ll put a new padlock on the door, and set about fixing up their new home.
Thousands of miles away in Amsterdam, 50 young people have set up a barricade outside the front of a large building. The police, in full riot gear, file out of their vans and form a line opposite them. Inside the house, the doors have been reinforced with sheets of scrap plywood. The last remaining people in the building pour bottles of vegetable oil down the stairs in order to slow the cops down. Outside, the police raise their batons and charge the house.