Welcome login | signup
Language en es fr
We kick the ass of the ruling class

Blueprint for the Future: Housing the 99%

Posted 1 year ago on Feb. 27, 2014, 3:14 p.m. EST by OccupyWallSt
Tags: Homelessness, Occupy Madison, tiny homes, housing, Direct Action

This article is by Damien Crisp

The future has not been written, but blueprints are being drawn up everywhere.

Many of us live as prisoners to architecture defined by capitalism. Rent is too high and far out of balance with wages. Mortgages are rigged against us.

We can pay and pay but still lose our home to foreclosure. The job market around you has collapsed and you live in fear of exile. We live in fear. Many people are homeless in the United States. Elderly and whole families unable to find shelter are becoming more and more common across the country. Homelessness and becoming a prisoner to your home mortgage are intertwined states.

What is the solution? There are endless solutions. Long term solutions demand redefining architecture, redefining the home, redefining homeless shelters, and redefining perceptions of homelessness. These solutions require lengthy dissections of our whole system but their need is immediate.

In Wisconsin, Occupy Madison occupiers collected energy leftover from the end of a successful occupation and focused on building an organization capable of redefining what it means to shelter the vulnerable homeless from economic violence.

Their tiny houses project has the promise of permanent revolution for Madison. Each homeless person, inside each tiny house, will become a homeowner and steward of projects on the land where houses are parked. Occupy Madison’s solution is: give people a home. Plans for OM’s tiny houses include composting toilets, structures wired to plug into both the grid and solar power sources, vented propane heaters for blistering Wisconsin winters and a water system.

The group imagines on-going construction leaving many tiny houses spread across the city. Mobility and adding sites are central to realizing this larger idea. Tiny houses are designed with trailers on wheels. Keeping homes mobile will allow owners to rotate through a circuit of sites. Becoming stewards for various spaces, every owner would play a role all along this network. Travelling with their house to points along a circuit, owners would have shifting views through windows as they switch parking lots. Tending to projects such as gardens established at all sites, everyone would contribute to projects sustaining the community without becoming fixed on one particular role. Expanding the projects’ map furthers potential for sustainability. One garden becomes two gardens, two become four and four become eight as the list of sites grows. Every additional site multiplies openings for new stewards.

As the circuit grows, it could become a community living visionary alternatives to our dominant order that question traditional parameters defining how living, home and survival are conceived. Purchasing just one site, however, has been difficult enough. Buying one site after another is an impossibility for now but Occupy Madison is working around this obstacle by connecting with churches willing to share their parking lots and surrounding land.

How did Occupy Madison shift from encampment to construction?

“Our encampment was one of the longest,” Occupy Madison’s Bruce Wallbaum said. “It was about 580 days. We found that people that camped and were part of the political protests joined with people who didn’t have homes.“

When Occupy Wall Street was in full swing and energy flowed towards occupations movements nationwide, Wallbaum says, their focus was the “greater political protest”. Special communities had developed within Occupy Madison and lasted after “greater political protests” under Occupy’s banner were pressed until dissolution under the boot of the all-knowing State. Small communities within communities, which had orbited within Occupy Madison at its encampment, were all seeking ways to create a better world with the collective energy they found together occupying. Several people from OM travelled to Eugene, Oregon and learned from a tiny house project there. Wallbaum recalls they found the same narrative there: collective growth during occupations and a shift from greater protest towards creating another world. Because Occupy Madison became a combination of occupiers with homes and Madison’s homeless, their shift from encampment towards building another world for the homeless was simply their group dynamic manifested into an idea.

The homeless population in Madison faces a hostile real estate owner’s market hell bent on constant production of high-end residential buildings with little consideration given to ensuring balanced growth for people from diverse economic circumstances. The city has a 2% real estate vacancy rate, which is only 1% higher than New York City. This creates a top end expensive housing market for owners and renters. It also exacerbates homelessness. The city briefly had more sway over development which ensured real estate plans included affordable housing . This attempt at balance came from legislation championed by future Occupy Madison activists.

Building a solution has been easier than challenging powerful local real estate developers with legislation. Support for OM’s tiny houses has been overwhelming, according to Wallbaum, who says the group struggles to plug in all who want to volunteer. Fundraising events have also seen overwhelming response. Still, OM’s vision faces a myriad of local zoning laws as well as the not-in-my-backyard syndrome which plagues many attempts at empowering, or even sheltering, people who find themselves homeless.

The tiny house movement is an escape for the homeless. Other models of alternative housing gaining popularity focus on building escapes from mortgages and and escapes from rent. Bruce Wallbaum says younger activists joining the tiny houses project see it not only as a solution to homelessness but as a solution to their own crisis of how to survive against the pressure of debt, against a flood of low wage jobs, against widening economic inequality. Escape from standard residential space, which demands its owners or renters play the game out of fear of homelessness, as well as escape through solutions to homelessness, could reach a depth of transformation comparable to any other powerful social revolution.

Too often “home” is narrowly defined by square feet, location, and income from full-time work. Too often “home” is defined by what we are told we deserve if we just work hard enough. Cracks in the illusion our system rewards hard work will not be repaired by raising more expensive condos or denying suffering under the thumb of capitalism all around us. Cracks in the illusion of our dominant order should be encouraged, not repaired, until the illusion shatters and leaves us free to redefine living on a large scale we can only begin to glimpse in projects like Occupy Madison’s Tiny Houses.

Damien Crisp is an artist, writer and activist. He has lived in New York City, Guadalajara. Mexico, and currently lives in southeast Tennessee. His writings can be followed on social media and blogs. He was a body, voice, and citizen journalist during Occupy Wall Street's time at Zuccotti Park, as well as a coordinator for Occupy Sandy.



Read the Rules
[-] 5 points by elf3 (3446) 1 year ago

I'm sorry but I hate this whole tiny house movement -that is the first thing I could focus on was that photo - that tiny house is a band-aid on the real problems ... we need to attack this at the root. The world is getting selfish, and everyday I watch Americans who think that destroying other people is a game, a delicious little game to be won... and if you can't take the heat (well you can always go hang yourself) - America is searching for scapegoats and marketers and the media are playing psychological games with the masses. Human psychology is simple and there are people out there willing to exploit it as if they are somehow master of the game - only what they don't realize is that this mastery is nothing genius and just the willingness to let go of human goodness - it is the place where evil lives and compassion and intelligence dies... when the lives of other beings become nothing but mere chess pieces to be moved or discarded - that is the place where evil lives when lives are seen as objects and the world is viewed as a game. Compassion is a marker of intelligence, the willingness to discard it is the de-evolution of the human mind. Wall Street and their ilk who think in object terms have much in common with shooters and bombers who view themselves as the hero and star of their worlds, the little dictators who must stop at nothing to get ahead, to convince themselves they are smarter and have it over all who cower before them.

Real Estate for Ransom


Does everyone here know that Fannie Mae is allowed to sell foreclosures in bulk packages now to investors


[-] 0 points by JGriff99mph (507) 1 year ago

imo the ultimate solution to almost all of our problems is to decentralize and restore a sense of community. the problems we face are not overly complicated, its simply a result of this system.

Change the system and life becomes very easy again.

[-] 3 points by elf3 (3446) 1 year ago

de-centralize - is a fancy way of saying demonopolize - and they just ain't going to do it - because multi-national corporate conglomerations are also running our government ...I agree community blah blah - but our system of democracy was set up that way (community) - that is why we pay taxes - we have a Robin Hood scenario happening but - we're not calling it what it is. Our system worked before the corruption set it - We don't need to put pressure on ourselves to "communitize" and fix this (though the idea is honorable) they achieved in making you think we are the problem, that we need to try harder (common bully tactic) but we need to wipe out the corruption plain and simple. Let's not try to fix ourselves or our system too hard - let's focus on fighting back and getting rid of the bullies?

[-] 2 points by geminijlw (176) from Mechanicsburg, PA 1 year ago

Our system has not worked for the people as long as I have been around and I am 65 yo. So when did it work? It is our fault it does not work. We do not take our responsibility, to be involved in our government, seriously. It takes work. So let's work at it, and start with the tiny houses. Or start knocking on doors all over your city and talk to people.

[-] 2 points by JGriff99mph (507) 1 year ago

Getting rid of the bullies would be a nice change of pace, thats for sure.

I just don't really see a time where this system was working very well at all. Constant war, constant struggles for rights, etc etc. I think a lot of times people have to look at the good ol days as such because to think its been fucked since the day they landed here and murdered almost all the natives, its probably been corruption central.

Wiping out corruption when its local is easier, I think, because the corrupted realize the ones they are screwing are literally on the same street as them, and a fuckin brick might come through that bedroom window tonight.

Take em and remove em all from the area (state capital buildings and DC) and you remove the fear.

Would you consider us the problem if we are the only ones that can remove the corruption and are not stepping up to the plate as of right now?

This is how I look at it: All of this shit going on is simply because we let em. Its our country, its our government and its our rights. And we have simply decided to take ourselves out of the game at this point, collectively.

The more I study history of corruption here, the more I realize its all propaganda to think it has ever been anything but fucked up.

[-] 1 points by JGriff99mph (507) 1 year ago

Not saying there isnt anything great about it, but Ayers felt so strongly this shit was fucked up he ended up losing his girl over the amount of anger and energy it created in him.

Thanks for that video, I'll leave it playing in the background and get back to you tomorrow. He is usually a good speaker to listen to.

[-] 3 points by geminijlw (176) from Mechanicsburg, PA 1 year ago

Some of you say we need to do this or we need to stop that. Yes, we need to do all those things, get rid of corruption, etc. But, it isn't being done because the problems are so large, so many, and we feel frustrated and overwhelmed. So we start at the bottom, the people. What better way then Occupy Sandy, Rolling Jubilee, and now the tiny house project. It will take time, but you cannot just talk about what is wrong, you need to start something, anything to begin to make life better for us all. It is like a snowball, we are getting bigger each day, and some day we will take down a corrupt system.

[-] 1 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 1 year ago

we could stop dropping bombs today

[-] 3 points by Axis116 (63) 1 year ago

I am in what was once known as Wisconsin, now better known as WalkerWorld..."Open For Business." Our Gover-ignore "Scotty" actually said "...what I would do as your next CEO."

However I believe I represent some of what is the general "resistance" movement growing, not only in MadTown, but also in forgotten-by-many rural Wisconsin where Frac-Sand Mining assaults the land around us and Gtac assaults the Penokee Range, run by a now indicted international criminal, Bill Williams, and patrolled with an Armed Militia. but given special favors by our farce of a State "Government." So that's me, and maybe a unneeded prelude. But we are aware of Occupy Madison as well as Occupy Wall St. And we are part of the "resistance" because that is what we do...RESIST!

It is not the "tiny houses project" that excites me in particular. What I like about all of us in the resistance is our willingness to experiment, to invoke imagination and creativity and to weave the networks that are unafraid to try "new" tactics.

What I like best about this post is the line, "The future has not been written, but blueprints are being drawn up everywhere." Much will be learned as the struggle continues. Much we do not yet know, that we need to know, will become known in the journey.

"Things reveal themselves passing away." William Butler Yeats


[-] 2 points by DKAtoday (31934) from Coon Rapids, MN 1 year ago

Please forward to this enterprising forward thinking/acting group:

Welcome to The Hopewell Project hopewellproject.org

Energy independence, environmental preservation, and economic sustainability represent critical global challenges. The Hopewell Project, a New Jersey Nonprofit ...

[-] 2 points by bullfrogma (448) 1 year ago

I love sleeping outside. Fresh air, depth perception, and shooting stars. I hate people who go out of their way to have a problem with it. Their perfect world is an irrational ego trip.


[-] 1 points by Penston (80) 1 year ago

"What is the solution? There are endless solutions."

I wouldn't say "endless", but other people have already figured out attractive solutions to every major problem facing society. We just need to know which politicians will champion those solutions (and see them through) and then offer our support.

[-] 0 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 1 year ago

so if your not working go die in a ditch

people that don't work contribute nothing to society

and are a cancer upon prosperity

[-] 2 points by Penston (80) 1 year ago

I work in recruitment. I've worked on the agency side and I'm now in-house. I've lost count of the number of unemployed people I've interviewed. All of them wanted to work and all of them wanted to be considered valuable. Some were suffering from depression, which only made finding a job more difficult.

It's true that some people don't want to work. I remember a documentary in the UK several years ago about a couple who had a lot of children (I don't remember how many) and lived on state benefits. Getting a job that paid as much as their benefits was highly unlikely, so they chose to keep their benefits and stay unemployed. They were criticised as being, like you said, a cancer. But what if they'd had the opportunity to earn a fair living wage? We can only speculate, but perhaps it's unfair to condemn them for the environment in which they live.

Before the American Revolution, no one in the colonies was unemployed. That's if you believe what Benjamin Franklin told the British when he visited the UK. He lived in a relatively inclusive society where everyone could share in the wealth they created. Over time, the society became more extractive (think of the Robber Barrons), but this was corrected by politicians like Theodore Roosevelt. Then it became more extractive again and that's where we are today.

If we fix the monetary system, we fix unemployment, inequality and can far more easily deal with the debts we've inherited. The solutions have already been identified - they just need to be implemented. They wouldn't just benefit the 99%, but the 100% and the 9x9^99% (i.e. people who haven't been born yet).

[-] 1 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 1 year ago

people need food and shelter

that is the "work" that must be done

any other work is busy work

only created because we set "working" as the condition to lve

and not food and shelter


I have no intention of paying my debt as I no longer feel it is creditable

[-] 1 points by Axis116 (63) 1 year ago

MattLHolck...I can't tell if you're being sarcastic or not, though I have read your little post and the comment below to Penston several times. If you are then ignore the following, O.K.? If your comment is for real I can only say the Protestant Work Ethic is alive and well...you know...where work is a virtue and not a means to an end. Where people live to work instead of work to live.

It was not always so. In hunter-gatherer societies people worked very hard but then spent much time recreating and relaxing. In early agrarian societies people worked very hard, but "play" and "work" often became intermixed...you played while you worked as much as possible.

I raised my family on a small organic dairy farm, and it was this way for us, 'till Government policies destroyed small family farms.

But, again, assuming you're not being sarcastic and actually believe what you wrote above, what about old people, disabled people, people out of work but wanting to work (to live, not-live-to-work).

What the hell is a "cancer upon prosperity"?

What is cancerous is the notion that, "so if your not working go die in a ditch. people that don't work contribute nothing to society and are a cancer upon prosperity."

What you wrote sound just like "Windigo Politics"...Google it. Or find it here: http://axis.wisearch.com/index.php/archives/571 (Hope its alright to put a link in here at Occupy.)

"Windigo can inhabit people, ideas, political perspective and economic systems."