Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Pottinger Settlement

No, it's not a Robert Ludlum title.

It's a unique Miami law that takes its name from Pottinger v. City of Miami, a 1988 federal court case (decided in 1992), in which the city's policy of arresting homeless people for engaging in "life-sustaining conduct" on the street (thus making it a crime simply to be without a home on public land) was ruled illegal. "The City’s practice of arresting homeless individuals for the involuntary, harmless acts they are forced to perform in public is unconstitutional," senior United States District Judge Clyde Atkins wrote in the decision, adding that "the City’s practice of seizing and destroying the property of homeless individuals" was also against the law. The principles of Judge Atkins' decision were memorialized in a 1998 memorandum called The Pottinger Settlement.

Now an intrepid group of activists are building shanties on city-owned lots, citing the Pottinger settlement in support of their legal right to use the land.

Here are a few relevant sites:

take back the land, a blog run by the land invaders

an article from The Final Call

Shantytown U.S.A., an article from the South Florida Sun Sentinel

Liberty City residents have come up with a visionary strategy to create housing. Is anyone in New Orleans planning to follow suit?


Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for putting this in your blog. I am a twenty-five year old resident of Miami, also a native. I have never really been proud of that for many reasons and this situation just adds to my disgust. The media attention on this local, yet worldwide problem, is way past insufficient. I am a college student, and this semester I am taking a social movements course in which we are discussing this matter intensely, some of us have gone down there, to donate supplies, our books, clothing etc. Just our time and effort is conducive to the progress that has been made and continues to be made. It breeds hope which is something that this neighborhood and others in this country, had lost a long time ago. More attention needs to be drawn to this issue of complete poverty and the serious "Feminization" of poverty in this country. So many homeless are women and children who are often overlooked, abused and repeatedly ignored on every level within this country. There has to be more that can be done to go beyond just a temporary solution to a seemingly permanent problem. Get the word out.

rn said...

Thanks for your comment. I'm glad to know that you have joined in the effort as a supporter. I agree that this breeds hope, something that seems in short supply here and abroad.

The sad thing is that it took a broadly interpreted court decree for this to happen.

Imagine if people re-occupied and built a shack community in the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans. What would the response of the authorities there be?