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Imperium Watch: The Street War Against Foreclosure

In front yards, banks and courtrooms, activists fight to keep people in their homes.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

No One Leaves/Nadie se Mude, the Valley’s foreclosure-fighting guerrilla squad, won yet another victory January 11, when lender Fannie Mae agreed to a 30-day postponement of foreclosure on the home of Christine and Howard Clark at 114 Corona Street in Springfield.

As soon as the Clarks got their eviction notice, which in Massachusetts gives recipients 48 hours before they have to vacate, NOL/NsM activated its phone banks and inundated Fannie Mae with calls. Joining in on the telephone were the offices of U. S. Sens. John Kerry and Elizabeth Warren, U.S. Rep. Richie Neal and Springfield city councilor Mike Fenton of Ward 2. Also assisting were attorneys from Community Legal Aid. Fannie Mae has agreed to work with the family on possible plans to have them buy back the home through Boston Community Capital.

NOL/NsM has saved other families in the Springfield area from eviction and foreclosure. Modeled after Boston’s City Life/Vida Urbana, a 38-year-old community organizing group which, along with its other programs, assists people who are fighting to stay in their homes, the Springfield group arose in response to the foreclosure crisis of the last few years. It fights eviction and foreclosure on the ground, by staging sit-ins right on the contested property to make it difficult for auctions to go forward, as well as organizing telephone campaigns. On the street and on the phone, NOL/NsM lets lenders know their reputations are at stake when they engage in flawed foreclosure process, such as dual tracking (foreclosing on borrowers who have been told their mortgages were eligible for modification while the mortgage is simultaneously put on track for foreclosure).

Now the Occupy Our Home movement has given rise to such guerrilla actions all over the country. A few of many cases in point:

In Los Angeles on Dec. 23, Occupy Fights Foreclosures moved Soledad Corona and her teenage child back into their home for the holidays after they had been evicted Dec. 14 by their lender, Bank of America.

In mid-November, supporters, including people who just didn’t want to see another vacant house in the neighborhood, packed a court and won a stay of foreclosure for the Jerry Cullors family of Detroit. On Dec. 6, after marching on Bank of America, foreclosure activists Moratorium NOW! and Detroit Eviction Defense got Fannie Mae to cancel an eviction order against the family and sell the mortgage back to Bank of America, owners of Countywide, the original issuer of the mortgage. Bank of America agreed to modify the mortgage to help the family keep the house.

In June, Colleen KcKee Espinosa of Minneapolis got a loan modification from CitiMortgage with help from Occupy Our Homes. Espinosa was reprieved less than a day before her house was scheduled to be sold at a sheriff’s auction. She had missed two mortgage payments last year after failing to receive child support for her daughter, and told Occupy Our Homes that the lender refused to allow her to catch up on the payments.

And Occupy Our Homes Atlanta has been fighting to get homeless families moved into vacant houses instead of letting houses go empty and uncared for while veterans and families, many with children or disabled members, are hard pressed to keep from having to live on the street.

Nationally, Occupy Our Homes (http://occupyourhomes.org) offers resources to help people save their own houses from foreclosure, or to get involved in helping others stave off foreclosure and/or eviction. For local resources, visit www.springfieldnooneleaves.org.•

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