Jan. 7, 2012
They are the faces of the foreclosure crisis, and Occupy Las Vegas wants to set up camp in their yards.
About 20 protesters spread out across the valley and spent Saturday knocking on the doors of homes facing foreclosure in hopes of contacting homeowners and their neighbors. The majority of the properties are single-family homes in Las Vegas, Henderson and North Las Vegas going to auction in the next week or so.
Some of the dozens of properties were caked in cobwebs and decorated with dirty lawn chairs, evidence the owners were long gone. An old welcome mat sat on the porch of one property, but a look through the blinds showed the home was empty.
Others were cleaner, a sign that real estate agents and banks were caring for them or, as some neighbors reported, the owners don't live there anymore but occasionally return to the property to keep it neat.
Some properties were in gated communities where protesters were unable to make contact with homeowners or neighbors. The occupiers left cards and fliers in screen doors and windows whenever they could.
The group of protesters set up a small camp in front of an empty three-bedroom home in the Autumn Chase neighborhood, which has made headlines for internal squabbling among neighbors and homeowners association leadership.
The 1,200-square-foot home in the 5000 block of Golden Fields Street is scheduled to go to auction Tuesday.
Protesters said they want to collectively bargain with banks through public protests and letter-writing campaigns. They said they want to call attention to predatory lending practices.
They are promoting principal reduction rather than simple modifications as a way to break the cycle that created the foreclosure crisis in the Las Vegas Valley, which is commonly called "ground zero" of the foreclosure crisis.
"We're going to put (banks) in a position where they don't gain anything by negotiating with the homeowner, but they'll lose something if they don't," said Sebring Frehner, event organizer.
Occupy Las Vegas is the local chapter of the Occupy Wall Street movement against corporate greed and influence in politics. Local protesters have a permit through late February to camp on county-owned property on Paradise Road near Swenson Street and Tropicana Avenue.
With a crew of five in tow, protester Angie Sullivan scoured a North Las Vegas neighborhood, contacting nearby neighbors of an abandoned property in hopes of tracking down its owner.
Sullivan said she was concerned that the area was too transient, because neighbors didn't know each other and houses appeared to be empty.
"I don't know about organizing a neighborhood where there is no one left," Sullivan said.
Neighbors Jamie and Gina Basham live across from the property in the 2100 block of Mountain Sunset Avenue which is scheduled to be auctioned off Monday. The couple has lived in the neighborhood for almost three years and said they didn't mind occupiers camping on the property across the street to draw attention to the foreclosure issue.
"I don't have a problem with it if it helps everybody else," Jamie Basham said.
Banks "have taken advantage of people, and there are strength in numbers."
Contact reporter Kristi Jourdan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-455-4519.