Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson was founded by long-term community activists in Poughkeepsie, NY, many of whom had been foreclosed on in the past. These activists came together and launched the group in late 2011, as members of Occupy Poughkeepsie’s anti-foreclosure working group. Throughout 2012, we slowly built a base of several local homeowners. After attending a June 2012 training hosted by the Right to the City Alliance, we began using the “Sword and Shield” organizing model, pioneered by City Life/Vida Urbana in Boston, which involves using complementary legal strategy and public protest to defend peoples’ homes from the big Wall Street Banks. This model, and our Home Defense Association meetings, allowed us to bring in an analysis of the foreclosure crisis that took the blame off of homeowners, and shift the conversation to holding banks accountable for fixing the housing crisis that they caused.
In 2013, we won our first major victory against Bank of America, with a series of public protests in defense of homeowner Flavia Perry. Flavia’s home was set to be auctioned off by Bank of America, but because of our months of public and legal struggles, she won back her home and an affordable mortgage. This victory showed the collective power of homeowners and allies standing up to banks.
In April 2014, we prevented the eviction of Rosanne Phillips and her family after they came to us with a 10-day notice to leave their home. The Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union initially refused to negotiate, but after we held a vigil outside of HVFCU’s main branch, the Credit Union offered Rosanne a deal to buy back her home. In June of 2014, we hired our first full-time paid staff, Margaret Kwateng and Jonathan Bix.
In November 2014, Nobody Leaves was instrumental in helping to pass a Poughkeepsie ordinance requiring banks to post a $10,000 bond to the city for each foreclosed or vacant property they own. This will save the city millions of dollars in expenses and bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars of revenue.
In late 2014 and early 2015, Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson expanded our anti-displacement fight to include the local struggle against utility monopoly Central Hudson. Their unaffordable bills and high rates of shut-offs disproportionately affect low-income Black and Brown women. Through direct action, advocacy, and legal support we were able to prevent power shut-offs for over 50 households, restructure $115,000 in debt, and win a state investigation into the company. We also won an expansion of a statewide low-income assistance program by $69 million in funding and 550,000 more households in eligibility.
Toward the end of 2016, we started working on education justice through a campaign to close down the discriminatory PACE (“Poughkeepsie’s Academic and Career Excellence”) program, which is separating out “problem” students into a decrepit building, without enough teachers, without grade-appropriate books, and with a growing law enforcement presence leading to increasing arrests of students. In May of 2017, two school board candidates who endorsed our education justice platform, which pushes for the closure of PACE, were elected.
In the beginning of 2017, we launched the Hudson Valley Hate Free Zone with other local community organizations with an opening event that had over 200 people in attendance. Since then, we have worked to build a community defense network of over 900 people and 30 institutions, helped plan a protest against the Muslim Ban, and organized a training in Peekskill. This community defense system is being built so as to have real structures in place to defend communities from workplace raids, mass deportations, mass criminalization, violence, and systemic violation of our rights and dignity. It was modeled after the work of DRUM in NYC.
In the summer of 2017, we hired Ignacio Acevedo to lead and expand our work for immigration justice in the Hudson Valley, and New York state, more broadly. Ignacio, a formerly undocumented immigrant who has spent almost 30 years living in the area, helped us grow to three new cities — Goshen, Middletown, and Monroe — and open a new workspace within three months.
In September, we finally got the results of the state-led investigation into Central Hudson that we won. In response, the monopoly utility company agreed to several policy changes that will reduce the number of shutoffs each year, particularly in the Winter and particularly within low-income communities of color.