Tenants Taking Ownership

Model 6

Shane Claiborne and Anthony Manousos introduce the model of “tenants taking ownership.” Shane tells how he led a movement from his student cafeteria at Eastern College in St. Davids’ PA into the urban Philadelphia Kensington neighborhood that rivals third world conditions. Shane and others found what real faith was about while standing with these families. They ended up moving into the Kensington neighborhood and forming the Simple Way. On numerous occasions, The Simple Way, in partnership with the Kensington Welfare to Rights group, has housed homeless families in abandoned boarded up homes.  After they were arrested the judge pardoned them, saying, “They are not criminals, but freedom fighters”.

Anthony Manousos describes how the Occupy movement has also moved in with families to keep their homes from being unlawfully taken by the banks.

In this chapter, Paul Smith unveils the amazing story of “Change from the Inside Out” within one of the worst slum buildings in Los Angeles. He serves with InnerChange, a Christian Order Among the Poor. Paul chose to move into this apartment building to learn from his new neighbors. He was not an expert with an agenda, but seeking to be a neighbor, sharing the gospel. A small Bible study began. When tenants began to discuss the deteriorating conditions in their building, the idea of a resident takeover gradually emerged. God brought the right players to the table—organizers and public interest lawyers—who supported the tenants struggle with an unresponsive landlord, whom they convicted of criminal building neglect. Eventually he abandoned his property. The tenants formed a non-profit corporation, “Comunidad Cambria” that partnered with developers and the city-housing department to purchase and renovate the building. 

The tenants elected Paul Smith, as one of the board members, who in this chapter, tells of his role as an intercessor and bridge between cultures.  Paul felt the frustration of shared leadership, yet found this difficult role was community development at its best.  It was God’s plan for Paul’s transformation as well as for his neighborhood.  God’s fingerprints are clearly visible, as vibrant community life emerged—with youth now choosing college over gangs and tenants-turned-owners feeling pride in their building. This innovative 1907 architectural landmark that had decayed into an “eyesore,” is now an “eye catcher”—a sparkling, well-kept edifice that speaks to God’s creativity and beauty.

In addition to Comunidad Cambria and the work in the Kensington neighborhood, this model has been successful in only a handful of locations throughout the US.  New York has led the way, showing that it can be done. If you know of other successful incidents, please contact Jill Shook: Jill@makinghousinghappen.com


InnerChange, A Christian Order Among the Poor: http://www.innerchange.org/