Wall Street’s Supposedly Vacant Houses and Fish; Ann Curry’s House and the Harafish.

Some days on Wall Street, either you catch the fish or the harafish catches you.

Harafish is Egyptian and means the urban poor. It may be a slang term.

Bad things happen to vacant houses, when mortgage processors have gone rogue and the poor — that is, the homeless — have nowhere to go. NBC “Today” Show host Ann Curry just found out that a homeless man had been living in her empty $2.9 million townhouse on New York City’s Upper West side. The man was said to have been there for about a year. Curry and her husband have been renovating the house “for about eight years,” while living in Gramercy Park. It has been a magnet to other homeless persons too.

And why not? City shelters may have no space, and are sometimes dangerous. The homeless are chased out of public spaces like Central Park. Urban poor have been taking over rich people’s abandoned homes for centuries, just like in the novel The Harafish by Naguib Mahfouz; although the story’s set in Egypt it rings a bell here.

The other fish story I’d been thinking of happened late last year. Remember when Bank of America changed the locks and shut off utilities to a house they had nothing to do with? A doctor came home from vacation and found signs all over his house saying Bank of America was foreclosing on it. The doctor had no mortgage with them, no connection whatever. He breaks open his door and the whole place reeks of rotting halibut and salmon he’d stored in his freezer before leaving — 75 pounds of it. If someone had been home, maybe that wouldn’t have… yeah, if a homeless person had been inside, maybe he’d have found the fish and taken them out before they made the place smell so bad. Maybe.

Either way, the Wall Street banks, mortgage industry, and the financial companies who helped create the changed economy we are now enjoying — are clearly responsible for a long, long chain of adverse events.

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