taking back the land

By LAURA RIVERA

Published: January 16, 2007

New York Times

MIAMI, Jan. 15 — When an emaciated, gray-haired woman staggered into the ragtag encampment complaining of a toothache the other day, Eugene Simpkins fed her peanut butter sandwiches from the communal kitchen and fetched her aspirin from the makeshift medicine cabinet.

As night fell, the woman slept on a urine-stained couch, while Mr. Simpkins fried batches of cornmeal-dusted fish over a campfire. He pointed out four sick people he had been tending to since joining Umoja, a settlement of formerly homeless people in the Liberty City neighborhood of Miami, last month.

“I know someday I’ll be old like her,” said Mr. Simpkins, 43, who said he was an ordained Baptist minister and had lately been serving as Umoja’s unofficial cook. “I just hope that when that day comes, there will be someone to take care of me.”

With 16 huts cobbled together from plywood, discarded closet doors and cardboard, Umoja is a shantytown in the shadow of the biggest construction boom Miami has seen since the 1920s. Started in October by an advocate for low-income housing, it is part social protest and part social experiment, with nightly meetings where decisions on whether to evict people or how to split up chores are determined by consensus.

(read more from source)

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~ by Anayah on January 18, 2007.

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