On the 2500 block of North Weber Street, tents have been popped in a yard among signs and protesters.
Occupy Colorado Springs might have been driven out of Acacia Park by the city and winter, but it's found a new home. That home belongs to Bob Crouse — at least for now. The holder of his mortgage foreclosed on him, and eviction is quickly approaching.
Crouse's is one of a half-dozen houses that OCS volunteers are trying to help save, says activist Joel Aigner. In this way, local Occupiers have joined a nationwide movement, known as Occupy Our Homes, that aims to harness the activism of Occupy Wall Street and channel it into the housing crisis.
"We're still trying to navigate the waters of how to stall the process," Aigner says, "and have been working with a handful of attorneys to figure out what docs to send, at what times, in response to what the bank sends."
Crouse, a 63-year-old cancer patient, gained statewide attention in 2011 after being charged with felonies for his use of medical marijuana. Four years ago, he was diagnosed with terminal leukemia. Cash-strapped, he opted out of the western approach of treating his illness, instead using hemp oil. To produce the amount of oil needed, he had to grow 75 plants, far in excess of the six-plant minimum.
That drew law enforcement's attention. According to Crouse, while he had the medical permission to exceed the state limit for plants, a paperwork error led to him being charged by 4th Judicial District Attorney Dan May with felony cultivation and possession with intent to distribute.
OCS organizer and protester Kristie Wheeler, who's also a local medical marijuana activist, was assisting Crouse with his legal case. As his eviction drew closer, she and others mobilized. Last Friday, volunteers emptied the house of Crouse's belongings, moving some to one protester's garage, with the rest going with him to his mother's house in Woodland Park.
Monday, OCS held its general assembly at his home, and two protesters camped out overnight in the front yard. Many more plan to be present when El Paso County Sheriff's deputies show up Thursday.
According to Wheeler, Crouse had stopped his $1,104 monthly payments in February. His house was taken to auction by American Home Mortgage, she says, the Thursday before Christmas. The firm was asking $106,000; the house didn't sell.
Tuesday, Crouse filed an Emergency Petition for Writ of Prohibition with the El Paso County Court and the sheriff. In his petition he notes that because of his leukemia, he is an "at-risk adult" as defined by state law.
"At-risk adults," statute reads, "may not report or prevent financial exploitation due to lack of information, fear, or intimidation."
From his petition: "The Foreclosure process took place at a time when I was in and out of the hospital and getting numerous tests. The amount of things happening in my life caused me to miss any official proceedings or any notice of any proceedings. ... I am now under threat of eviction without ever having the opportunity to plead my case in front of a court of law."
A bed was left for Crouse at his Weber Street home, but it's uncertain if he will stay with the occupation. As protester Jim Michali puts it, Crouse is distraught over the foreclosure, and coupled with his illness, he isn't doing well.
"It's a real stress on him; this is his home," Michali says.
The Indy could not speak with Crouse by deadline.
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