In the ashes of the first “official” US shantytown – Dans les cendres du premier bidonville “officiel” des Etats-Unis


Timothy Fuller (jcde)

I met Timothy Fuller one morning of January of this year in Miami. He was angry. The 50-year old man had just lost everything: his wife, his job and his car he was desperately trying to start in order to leave Miami. Timothy had ended up at Umoja (Unity in swahili), the first “official” shantytown in the US. There, in his cardboard hut, he was waiting for something to happen (Please read the story published by 24heures, Tribune de Genève and news agency).

Something did happen. Umoja burnt down one night in late April. Nobody was hurt but 60 or so homeless people lost their last shelter in the ashes of the small village. They also lost a sense of community and a reason for hope.

Three months later, activist Max Rameau, the man who launched Umoja as a protest against housing policies in Miami, is still fighting with the city authorities to get a housing complex for homeless people on the site of the former shantytown. But things are tricky and both activists and the city council of Miami have been unable to come up with a solution. So for now, Umoja is just an empty lot. Max Rameau told Reuters news agency last month that some former residents of Umoja went into rehab, others moved into shelters or made their own living arrangements. But they will probably have to wait for a long time before getting their own small apartment.

For my part, I just hope to find out one day where Timothy ended up.

J’ai rencontré Timothy Fuller un matin de janvier cette année à Miami. Il était en colère. L’homme de 50 ans avait tout perdu: sa femme, son travai et sa voiture qu’il tentait désespérément de faire repartir pour quitter Miami. Timothy avait finalement atteri à Umoja (signifie unité en swahili), le premier bidonville “officiel” des Etats-Unis. Là, dans sa petite hutte de bois et papier mâché, Timothy attendait que quelque chose se passe (voir l’article paru dans 24heures et Tribune de Genève est disponible sur le site de l’agence de presse

Quelque chose s’est produit. Un soir de fin avril, Umoja a brûlé. Personne n’a été blessé mais la soixantaine de résidents a vu son seul abri partir en fumée. Dans les cendres du bidonville, ces hommes et femmes ont perdu leur espoir et un sentiment d’apparteance à une communauté. Je me demande d’ailleurs si Timothy était toujours là.

Trois mois plus tard, Max Rameau, l’activiste qui avait créé Umoja pour protester contre la politique du logement de la ville de Miami, se bat toujours avec les autorités pour obtenir un complexe immobilier capable d’accueillir les sans-abris. La ville s’est déclarée ouverte à cette proposition mais les deux parties n’ont pas (encore) réussi. En juin, Rameau a déclaré à l’agence Reuters que certains des habitants d’Umoja ont entamé des cures de réhabilitation. D’autres ont atteri dans des foyers ou ont trouvé d’autres solutions. Aujourd’hui, tous vont devoir encore patienter pour obtenir l’appartement espéré sur le site d’Umoja.

Pour ma part, j’aimerais bien savoir un jour ce que Timothy Fuller est devenu.

1 Comment

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One response to “In the ashes of the first “official” US shantytown – Dans les cendres du premier bidonville “officiel” des Etats-Unis

  1. Greetings:

    Thank you so much for your piece, both the original and this one.

    I saw this page a few weeks ago and it burned in my mind since then.

    Last Monday, 5 days ago, I was leaving the grocery store when someone called my name. I turned and Timothy Fuller was looking me in the face.

    Timothy has put on some weight, looks more relaxed and is living in his family’s home (I think in Opa Locka, but it might be Carol City). He seems to be doing fine and did not mention leaving Florida, something he used to talk about constantly. I told him you were interested in his whereabouts and he was glad to know someone cared.

    Thank you again.


    Max Rameau
    Take Back the Land

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