Friday, November 27, 2009
There were not many people packed in to the Los Angeles “town hall” meeting who had heard of the foreign woman with the unfamiliar title who had come to listen to their tales of plight. But many took it as a good sign that she had worried the last American government enough for it to keep her out of the country.
Deanne Weakly was among the first to the microphone. The 51-year-old estate agent told how a couple of years ago she was pulling in $80,000 (£48,000) a year from commissions selling homes in LA’s booming property market.
When the bottom fell out of the business with the foreclosure crisis, she lost her own house and ended up living on the streets in a city with more homeless than any other in America. She was sexually assaulted, harassed by the police and in despair.
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She turned to the city and California state governments for help. “No one wanted to listen. They blame you for being homeless in the first place,” she said.
Others followed, recounting in English or Spanish, sometimes Korean, their personal crises. Some shouted their anger, others laboriously recounted details of losing homes, families forced into overcrowded shelters, life on the streets.
The United Nations special rapporteur, Raquel Rolnik, listened to it all patiently, occasionally taking notes, nodding encouragement.
Rolnik had waited more than a year to tour cities across the US to prepare a report for the UN’s human rights council on America’s deepening housing crisis following the subprime mortgage debacle.
This article was posted: Friday, November 27, 2009 at 9:35 am