RNC protesters, homeless working to squat in abandoned homes

7:10 PM, Sep 6, 2012   |    comments
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Tampa, Florida -- Protesters never took over Tampa last week during the RNC, but they're now talking about taking over homes in the Bay Area.

Both protesters and homeless advocates have made numerous references on social media websites to housing "takeovers" in Sulphur Springs, where they enter foreclosed bank-owned homes and take up residence. 

Bruce Wright, organizer of the homeless "Romneyville" camp and no stranger to the 10 News Investigators, was contacted Thursday in Charlotte, where he is protesting the DNC.  Wright said he knew nothing about housing takeovers.

However, he posted on his "Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign" website that "Our plan is to either get another private property for encampment or look at housing takeovers."

He also made several other posts that references takeovers.

The remaining residents at Romneyville indicated the same thing, saying the group was investigating the takeover of abandoned properties.

Wright has recently been associated with leaders of the Apostolic Catholic Church, which posted details about housing takeovers on its Facebook page:

The leaders who took possession are relying on an 1869 Florida statute which allows for adverse possession of abandoned property if the titled owner does not contest an open, adverse, and continuous claim by someone else for seven years. The law was originally passed to keep freed slaves from being put out on the streets. It was not a much different situation then exists today in the inner city.

But attorneys who spoke to 10 News say the group is misunderstanding adverse possession laws and what may be considered "abandoned" property by neighbors is probably not considered "abandoned" in the eyes of the law.

"(If) you don't mow the grass, you don't (ever) come home, and you don't pay the taxes," said Will Shepherd, general counsel for the Hillsborough Property Appraiser's Office, "it doesn't mean it's not (still) your property!" 

Shepherd said adverse possession takeovers are extremely rare and take seven or more years to complete, not several weeks.  Short of the proper legal process, those who "take over" a home are just trespassing.

The State Attorney's office hasn't gotten any calls on squatting recently, but in the last year, they've send several people to jail for similar crimes related to breaking into foreclosed homes and squatting.

Find 10 News Investigator Noah Pransky on Facebook or follow his updates on Twitter. Send your story tips to noah@wtsp.com.

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