Ruby Brown of North Minneapolis won a renegotiated mortgage from Bank of America, just days before her home of 17 years was to be auctioned off in a sheriff's sale. Her settlement marks the fourth negotiated victory for Occupy Homes MN, the activist group formed to help troubled homeowners in the Twin Cities area fight to avoid foreclosure, and homelessness.
Brown fell into foreclosure after years of struggling with inflated payments in an adjustable rate mortgage — a predatory lending practice which is now illegal. She eventually received a trial modification and complied with its requirements for 12 months, but was dropped from the program anyway. The confusion surrounding her modification prompted her to ask the question: “The people at the top (of Bank of America), do they really know what’s going on?”
Brown began working with Occupy Homes MN and Neighborhoods Organizing for Change six months ago. Like others who have taken the pledge to stay in their homes, she felt her shame dissolve. “It generated a fight in me,” she said. “I didn’t realize there were so many people in the same situation, that it wasn’t just me.”
Ruby Brown has a message for others going through similar situations:
“Come out of the foreclosure closet. You know, there’s help. There are people around the country that are fighting. There’s power in numbers. There are a lot of people going through the same thing. There’s no shame in what is going on. It’s not your fault. It’s an epidemic, and we have to fight for the antidote.”
"On Tuesday, June 19, the sheriff posted a 24-hour eviction notice on the front door I have come home to for the last 17 years. I have nowhere to go. I am standing up for myself, my family and community. Although American Indians make up 1% of the population in Minnesota, 11% of homeless adults are American Indian. I can afford to pay for my house."
"All that I am asking is for Woodlands National Bank to sit down and negotiate with me, so I can stay in my community. They are an Indian bank that serves Native people, and right now homelessness is revenging our community. With the support of my neighbors and community, I know Woodlands bank will negotiate witth me, and become part of the solution to the housing crisis we face."
So begins yet another foreclosure story in post-Occupy America. Anita Reyes is working with her neighbors, community, and Occupy Homes MN to stop her foreclosure. Here she tells some stories about the home she has owned for seventeen years, shares thoughts about her personal feelings related to her foreclosure and places a demand on the bank to keep her in her home.
"I'm not moving," she says in the film. "I'm 52 years old - too old to start over."
Last week, I shared the story of Colleen Mckee Espinosa, the single mother of three who was facing foreclosure after CitiBank refused to accept payment on her mortgage, after they moved up the due date for her payment without her knowledge. They also added thousands of dollars in attorney fees because the home went into foreclosure, making it impossible for her to catch up.
After media coverage in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the blog Crooks and Liars, and other outlets, Citibank officials contacted the family, and assured them they were doing everything they could to resolve the case, assigning them a contact in the “executive response unit.” Despite this, the bank is moving to auction the home at a sheriff’s sale this Wednesday at City Hall, after which time the bank would have no legal obligation to work with the family.
An official with CitiMortgage’s Executive Response Unit contacted the Espinosa family with news that Citibank had approved a loan modification that would keep the family in their home and reduce their payments by one-third on a 7.5 year payment plan. The dramatic news came less than 24 hours before the house was to be sold at auction on Wednesday, June 13.
The Espinosa's give thanks to all their supporters, and offer hope to others facing similar circumstances:
“I am deeply grateful to everyone from across the country who stood with our family as we fought our foreclosure,” said Nick Espinosa, Colleen’s son, and an organizer with Occupy Homes MN. “I’m inspired by the outpouring of community support, and it renews my commitment to stand with other families who are struggling to stay in their homes.”
“I’m incredibly proud of what this family has accomplished,” said Anthony Newby of Neighborhoods Organizing for Change. “They’ve managed to rally hundreds of community members to stand with them to save their home. Their campaign will undoubtedly empower other families to stand up and do the same.”
Colleen Mckee Espinosa continued, “When I first learned we were in foreclosure, I felt ashamed and isolated, and sure we were going to lose our home. As I resolved to fight, I realized I had nothing to be ashamed of. If anyone should be ashamed, it’s the banks for tearing apart our communities after we bailed them out with our tax dollars. When we stand together we can win, and I believe thousands more will.”
Nick Espinosa continued, “This negotiation represents a victory not just for our family, but for millions of families facing foreclosures across the country. Countless families could stay in their homes if banks simply modified their loans based on the actual market value and reduced their principal, instead of the price to which banks inflated them before they crashed our economy. As with Monique White and Bobby Hull here in Minneapolis, and others standing up across the nation, we see that when a community stands behind a family and draws attention to their case, the banks are more than capable of solving it. If they can fix it for our family, they can fix it for millions of others.”
Occupy Homes Minnesota has been an amazing lifeline for the people of their state, and they remain dedicated to helping victims of bank fraud and foreclosure. To learn more about them and what they're up to, please visit their website Occupy Homes Minnesota: http://www.occupyhomesmn.org/
[Photo: Colleen and son Nick Espinosa, via Occupy Homes Minnesota.]