Monday, August 22, 2005

The Plight of Squatters

We live in a world where hundreds of thousands of people can be violently pushed from their homes and it's just a local story. I tried to rectify that a bit in this article on the demolition drives in Mumbai and Zimbabwe, just published as an Op-Ed in The Washington Post.


Spring said...

I saw your article in the Elyria Chronicle Telegram. There was a picture of a little boy, Malvern Chishazhe, age 7. My little boy is 7. As a mother, all I could think of was wanting to gather him up and take him away from that, protect him, comfort him and make him feel safe. At that age, a child's home is what represents security, normalcy, regardless of the conditions. What has happened to that little boy? Did the photographer just leave him there in the dust, crying, heartbroken? How can people help? What can I do? The picture of that child is haunting me and I have it by my computer. I know that one person alone cannot save the world but I do know that I can help that particular child. I have 4 children of my own. My 7 year old boy is my youngest and only boy. My son, Paul, and I want to reach out to him and let him know that even though we're worlds away from each other there is someone here in this little town of Lorain, Ohio who cares about HIM and we care that he's hurting and sad. Please help us help him. Thank you, Mary

rn said...

Mary: Thanks for your note. And thanks for being open to feeling what this must be like for kids like Malvern Chishazhe.

Many reporters and photographers do chronicle these things without intervening. Yet it's almost impossible to get involved: one risks the wrath of the cops and the accusation that you are no longer being objective. Plus how do you choose which disrupted, downtrodden, dejected person to help out?

Luckily, there are some organizations doing things on the ground:

Amnesty Interational ( has been working on this, as has the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (

I'll try to post more about other organizations and what they're doing.

One other thing: the U.S. government is strongly opposed to establishing the right to housing under international law. Even if there was a legal right to housing, it wouldn't stop these kinds of evictions--because governments break the law all the time. But it would help to build a concensus that mass evictions like these are immoral and simply cannot tolerated.