During these tough economic times people are finding it hard to even take care of life's basic necessities - Like food and medicine - and still make the mortgage.
For some, the bills just add up too fast - and lead to the devastation of foreclosure.
Barbara McIntosh's problems began years ago when she had to spend time in the hospital for a slew of medical issues - and couldn't get health coverage.
"Evidently I was deemed 27 dollars over the limit to get coverage so the hospital sued me." explains McIntosh.
To pay her medical bills McIntosh mortgaged her home.
"My payment was 610 dollars and 98 cents and that was supposed to come out of 800 a month."
McIntosh couldn't make the high payments.
Her daughter Jamie says, "About a year ago she was served with papers by the sheriff, a foreclosure notice."
McIntosh's story is a sad one, but it's not the only of it's kind.
Larry Dansinger, a friend of McIntosh, says "When I looked in the registry of deeds for Waldo County the number of foreclosures doubled in two months from 16 to 32."
The Waldo County Sheriff says ten years ago having ten foreclosures in the county each year would have been a lot. The sheriff says in 2008 there were 180 foreclosures, and there have already been 80 in 2009 - a sure sign of tough times.
"And if you extend that out to a whole year for a whole state, we maybe talking about 10 thousand foreclosures." says Dansinger.
And McIntosh says help is hard to find right now. "Trying to get help has been really really difficult because all of these social services, they're so overworked."
"It just seems like there's so much red tape to go through to try to get any type of answers." says her daugher.
The mortgage company has given McIntosh until May first to leave the house. She's not sure what she and her cats will do when that day comes.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
MN PPEHRC: Friends rally to help Minneapolis woman, 60, fighting eviction
Flanked by two prominent activist attorneys and backed by a throng of supporters, Minneapolis resident Rosemary Williams spent her 60th birthday in court Wednesday, resisting a lender's attempt to evict her from her foreclosed house.
She and supporters vowed that if she loses in court, they will use non-violent civil disobedience to try to block authorities from removing her from the south Minneapolis house where she's lived for 23 years.
"My mother was an activist before she died," said Williams. "My grandfather was one when he came out of Decatur, Alabama. It's in my blood."
Williams, a civil rights activist in the 1960s, has lately become a local poster child for protest groups and community organizations concerned about the foreclosure crisis.
They say an epidemic of foreclosures has turned good Minneapolis neighborhoods into crime-ridden wastelands, though some city officials contend that the city has weathered the problems better than many others around the country.
Foreclosures soared to 3,007 in Minneapolis in 2008, a 91 percent increase over 2006. However, the city saw a 31 percent drop in foreclosures in the first three months of 2009 compared with the same period last year, according to city statistics.
Williams, a divorced mother of three, has lived in the same block of Clinton Avenue S. for 55 years and moved into her newly built home 23 years ago.
She took out an adjustable-rate mortgage a few years ago to get $12,000 to pay some bills. Eventually, her monthly payment jumped from $1,200 to $2,200. Meanwhile, she lost her job with an African American women's advocacy group.
She stopped making house payments, and the house went into foreclosure. It was sold at a sheriff's auction Sept. 30.
However, she declined to leave the property by March 30 as ordered. The new owner, GMAC Mortgage, filed a motion in Hennepin County housing court to have her evicted. That prompted Wednesday's hearing.
Outside the courthouse at a protest rally, Williams and her allies said they want a two-year moratorium on foreclosures and a bailout for homeowners instead of for the banks and corporations they blame for her plight.
Decrying "predatory mortgage lenders," her attorney Jordan Kushner told the crowd, "This has to stop."
In court papers, Kushner argued that evicting her would create a nuisance property and harm neighborhood property values. He also said depriving her of housing would be an international human rights violation.
In another document, the Central Neighborhood Development Organization, joined by some of Williams' neighbors and other groups, asked to intervene in the case on her behalf. They contend that a vacant home would hurt the neighborhood.
Court referee Mark Labine sounded doubtful that Kushner and co-counsel Bruce Nestor will be allowed to make such claims in court.
Eric Cook, an attorney with Wilford & Geske, the firm representing GMAC Mortgage, said Congress is the place to address such issues.
"We do really empathize with Ms. Williams because she, like a number of people in our community, are going through some tough times," Cook said.
He added that while he understood the complaints of "potential interveners ... about the circumstances in their neighborhood ... we don't believe the defenses they are raising have merit in this action and go far beyond the scope of issues that are relevant in this eviction action."
Williams' supporters include the Minnesota Coalition for a People's Bailout and the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign, whose activist, Cheri Honkala, said:
"We love her, and we want her to stay in her home."
Randy Furst • 612-673-7382
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Detroit draws 2010 U.S. Social Forum
By Eric T. Campbell
The Michigan Citizen
DETROIT — Local organizers gathered at Central United Methodist Church on April 14 as they plan for one of the largest social justice events in the nation. The U.S. Social Forum will take place in Detroit June 22-26, 2010. Between 30,000 and 35,000 activists are expected to take part in forum sessions to be held at Cobo Hall, Hart Plaza and other locations.
Coordinating with the Social Forum National Planning Committee, the Detroit contingent is currently putting together a committee structure, outlining job descriptions and choosing representatives that will synchronize their efforts with various national and international organizations.
"This is a nightmare of a logistical issue," said Maureen Taylor, of the Michigan Water Rights Organization (MWRO). "All venues and locations are going to have to get involved."There are five anchor groups charged with the planning and local execution of the U.S. Social Forum, including the MWRO, Jobs With Justice, Detroiters Working For Environmental Justice, Centro Obrero and the East Michigan Environmental Action Council. One of the coalition's primary goals is to involve Detroiters in the internationally recognized event, especially residents who don't normally participate in social justice actions.
"If we have 35,000 people at the U.S. Social Forum, we want 15,000 from Detroit who have never done this before," exclaimed Marian Kramer, also of MWRO, at the Tuesday planning session.
The expected attendance will also drastically boost the reserved convention space at Cobo Hall for 2010, not to mention the economic impact for Detroit businesses. Organizers expect to fill 75 Cobo Hall meeting rooms with groups of between 80 and 3,000 people for five consecutive days.
Kramer and others consider 2010 as an opportune time to rally and infuse issues that are plaguing Detroiters and working class citizens across the nation. The U.S. Social Forum National Planning Committee chose Detroit partly because of its recent descent into economic catastrophe — issues such as unemployment, water rights, and foreclosure evictions have made Detroit a vital study in the social justice movement.
"The U.S. Social Forum will play a key role in awakening the sleeping giant that's out here," continued Kramer.
Will Copeland is the facilitator of the local organizing committee. He told the Michigan Citizen that local organizing efforts go back to June of 2008 when, during the Allied Media Conference, Detroit hosted members of the U.S. Social Forum National Committee.
"We had to show that there was a core group that felt they could reach the rest of the city," Copeland said.
At the time Detroit was being considered along with New Orleans, Louisiana and El Paso, Texas. In January, Detroit was confirmed as the 2010 U.S. Social Forum location. Copeland says that, beginning in May, the organizing committee will sponsor a series of public potluck events with the intent of involving more residents in the planning stages and raising consciousness about the objectives of the Social Forum.
The first U.S. Social Forum occurred in Atlanta, Georgia, in 2007, as an offshoot of the World Social Forum (WSF). The first three WSFs, beginning in 2001, were held in Porto Alegre, Brazil, and were sponsored by the Porto Alegre government, led by the Brazilian Workers Party. Subsequent World Social Forums have been held in Mumbai, India; Caracas, Venezuela; Nairobi, Kenya, and Belem, Brazil in 2009.Organizers of the original World Social Forums were members of the anti-globalization, or global justice, movements and gathered in the hopes of promoting an alternative strategy for addressing world economic problems.
Maureen Taylor, toward the end of the meeting in downtown Detroit, issued an ultimatum to organizers to localize the U.S. Social Forum mission query, what would a new world look like?
"How ever we are now, we can't be the same at the end of the 2010 U.S. Social Forum," Taylor said.
Rosemary Williams eviction trial pushed back to May 26; Momentum builds in fight against foreclosures.
April 26, 2009
Rosemary Williams eviction trial pushed back to May 26.
Momentum builds in fight against foreclosures
Press conference and picket
April 28, 9 am
Front of Hennepin County Government Center (5th St side)
Rosemary Williams, her attorneys and leaders of the Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaign and the Minnesota Coalition for a People’s Bailout will be available to speak on important developments in her case.
The eviction trial of Rosemary Williams will be pushed back to May 26. Rosemary Williams, a 55-year resident of the Central Neighborhood in south Minneapolis was scheduled for trial April 28. But now she will remain in her home while the legal proceedings continue.
“I intend to stay and fight,” said Williams. “We are building a movement to get a measure of justice for everyone who is facing foreclosures and evictions. We need a mortitorum on foreclosures.”
Rosemary’s decision to fight the foreclosure and related eviction has drawn broad community support. In addition to the Minnesota Coalition for a People’s Bailout and the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign, the effort to defend Rosemary’s home and stop foreclosures has the backing of ACORN, the MN Tenants Union and the Central Area Neighborhood Development Organization.
Cheri Honkala, of the Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaign, states, “With the trial delayed, we will use the added time to build the fight to keep Rosemary in her home.”
In a unique legal strategy, hundreds of neighbors, friends and community members have signed legal requests to intervene in her case. They argue that her eviction, which will lead to another vacant home, would create a public nuisance for the entire neighborhood. Low-income neighborhoods with high concentrations of people of color have been the hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis.
Linden Gawboy, of the Minnesota Coalition for a People’s Bailout, said, “We are sick of politicians - both republican and democrats - doing nothing about this crisis. In the weeks ahead we are going to turn up the pressure on the bankers and legislators so we can save homes, protect renters and save our neighborhoods.”
For more information contact:
Linden Gawboy / Minnesota Coalition for a People’s Bailout @ 612-296-5649
Cheri Honkala / Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaign @ 267-439-8419
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Birthday eviction hearing for Minneapolis woman
Rosemary Williams spent her sixtieth birthday inside a crowded courtroom April 22, where she began the legal process of fighting eviction from her foreclosed Minneapolis home.
Dozens of local activists packed the Hennepin County Housing Court to support Williams' legal challenge, vowing to engage in civil disobedience if the court rules in favor of eviction in an upcoming jury trial.
"This case is not just about me," Williams said in a press conference before the hearing. "This is about our whole country. We're here today to say the evictions have to stop."
Williams has lived on the 3100 block of Clinton Ave. S. since she was five years old. Twenty-six years ago, she and her mother purchased her current home. When her mother died six years ago, Williams, who worked in social services, struggled financially. She refinanced twice into an adjustable rate mortgage and her monthly mortgage payments went from $1,200 to $2,200. She recently lost her job and owes about $184,000 to her lender, GMAC Mortgage.
When Williams' home was sold at a sheriff's auction, she received notice that she needed to vacate the property by the end of March. Since then, several local activist groups, including the Minnesota Coalition for a People's Bailout, the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign, and the Welfare Rights Committee, have held events and press conferences at Williams' home.
Jordan Kushner, Williams' pro-bono attorney, requested that the court consider the community impact of foreclosures before evicting households. He argued that allowing Williams' home to become vacant would constitute a nuisance. Minnesota statutes define a nuisance as "an activity that, in one way or another, affects the right of an individual to enjoy the use of a specified property." Kushner stated that he is not aware of any legal precedent for his argument.
"There are certain times when the law actually gives way to social needs, when the human suffering that the law causes is so obvious and so significant that the law needs to change," Kushner said. "This is one of those times."
Activists said that several houses on Williams' block are already vacant. Cheri Honkala, an organizer with the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign, argued that empty homes lead to increased criminal activity and destroy neighborhoods. "We don't want these empty houses to be used as crack houses," Honkala said. "We want these empty houses to be used for families. And so we are stepping forward to say no."
Last week, the state Senate's Economic Development and Housing Budget Division voted against a proposed one-year moratorium on foreclosures, angering local activists who contend that the current economic crisis demands a more radical response. Nationwide, the number of foreclosures increased 24 percent in the last three months. Over 800,000 households received a foreclosure notice from January to March, according to the Associated Press.
Judge Mark Levine granted Kushner's request for a jury trial, over the objections of GMAC Mortgage's attorney Robert Williams. The next court date is set for April 28 at 9 a.m.
Madeleine Baran is a freelance journalist, specializing in labor and poverty issues. Her articles have appeared in The New York Daily News, Dollars & Sense, Clamor, The New Standard, and other publications.
MAINE: Foreclosures Hitting Home - WABI Channel 5
Foreclosures Hitting Home
During these tough economic times people are finding it hard to even take care of life's basic necessities - Like food and medicine - and still make the mortgage.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Neighborhood intervene in Rosemary Williams Eviction Today!
Court date is set!
Rosemary Williams went to court today, on her birthday, and was given a court date of April 28th in room A1700. Press conference will take place at Hennepin County Government Center (300 South 6th Street, Mpls. MN) at 8:00am sharp. Court will begin at 9:00 am on that day.
The courtroom was packed today by several neighbors and community organizations. Attached is our motion to intervene.
Please post and put out on listservs.
For those interested in helping to get more signatures from neighbors, please meet tomorrow at 10am at PPEHRC's office (Sabathani Community Center 310-E. 38th Street) 310-E.38th street to spend the day collecting signatures. Also for folks who missed the last non-violent civil disobedience training or who would like to serve as a witness if Rosemary is evicted, we are having another training at 2pm this Saturday at PPEHRC's office (Sabathani Community Center 310-E. 38th Street).
GMAC told the court today that they will be asking for an immediate eviction! We need to fill the courtroom again on the 28th and also be prepared to hold Rosemary's home!
Lastly, this movement is in need of money to pay for legal expenses.
If you would like to make a contribution contact:
MN Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaign 612-821-2364
MN People's Bail Out Campaign 612-822-8020
Monday, April 20, 2009
Neighbors, Friends and Community Organizations Rally & Intervene in Court on Rosemary Williams Eviction Case.
April 20, 2009
Neighbors, friends and community organizations
Rally & Intervene in Court on Rosemary Williams Eviction Case.
Wednesday, April 22, 9:30 am.
Outside Hennepin County Government Center
Rosemary Williams, a 55-year resident of the Central Neighborhood, in south Minneapolis will be going to court the morning of April 22, where she will face evictions proceedings from her foreclosed home. Rosemary's decision to fight the eviction and stand up to foreclosures has drawn broad community support.
Prior to the court hearing, Rosemary Williams will be speaking at a 9:30 press conference and protest organized by the Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaign and the MN Coalition for a Peoples Bailout. Other organizations backing the effort include;
ACORN, MN Tenants Union, ECAG and CANDO.
Rosemary Williams states, "Housing is a human right and we need a moratorium on home foreclosures. I am taking a stand for all people facing homelessness from foreclosures and evictions from foreclosed properties. We can not be sacrificed to the greed of bankers and mortgage companies."
Cheri Honkala, of the Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaign, states "Rosemary Williams is on the front lines of the fight against foreclosures. We are organizing in our neighborhood and our neighbors are behind her. We will do everything in our power to prevent her eviction."
In the April 22 Court appearance, attorneys for Rosemary Williams will ask the judge to allow her to stay in her home, while the legal issues relating to her case are sorted out.
Specifically, the attorneys will argue that her eviction, which will lead to another vacant home, would create a public nuisance for the entire neighborhood. Low income neighborhoods with high concentrations of people of color have been the hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis. Hundreds of residents of the Central Neighborhood and other concerned people have signed legal requests to intervene in her legal case on these grounds.
Linden Gawboy, of the MN Coalition for a Peoples Bailout states, "Rosemary Williams is helping to build the movement against home foreclosures and we will fight with her every step of the way."
For more information contact:
Linden Gawboy / Minnesota Coalition for a People's Bailout @ 612-296-5649
Cheri Honkala / Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaign @ 267-439-8419
Friday, April 17, 2009
IMPORTANT UPDATE FROM MN PPEHRC: Rosemary Williams Receives courtdate!
The city has been cleaning up Rosemary Williams block in preperation
for Rosemarys eviction day. Rosemary Williams received a notice of
her courtdate last night. It was taped to her front door. She is scheduled to
appear in court next Wednesday April 22nd at 10:30 am. At that hearing
the Judge will give her an order to vacate her home. WE NEED YOUR HELP!
NEIGHBORS & FRIENDS GATHER TO SHOW SUPPORT & PREPARE FOR BATTLE
SATURDAY APRIL 18th 2pm
Please Come THIS Saturday at 2pm to the 2nd floor gym at Sabathani Community
Center 310-E. 38th street Mpls. MN. 55407 for a training and to talk about
the plan to save Rosemarys home. On Sat. the 18th people will be asked to make
a pledge by participating in non violent civil disobedience or by just being there
and serving as a witness. The training for CD will only take an hour. So come out
and show your support. We will also be filming on Saturday so that we can share our
efforts with folks around the country who are also trying to fight back and save their
ROSEMARY WILLIAMS GOES TO COURT April 22nd
Press Conference 9:30 am at Hennepin County Courthouse
300 South 6th street 55487
Eviction Summons court hearing Room A1700
GMAC Mortage LLC Vs. Rosemary Williams
People wanting to speak at the press conference in support of Rosemary Williams
should call and ask to be put on the list.
Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaign
310-E. 38th Street Room 126
Friday, April 10, 2009
New York Times: With Advocates’ Help, Squatters Call Foreclosures Home
April 10, 2009
With Advocates’ Help, Squatters Call Foreclosures Home
By JOHN LELAND
MIAMI — When the woman who calls herself Queen Omega moved into a three-bedroom house here last December, she introduced herself to the neighbors, signed contracts for electricity and water and ordered an Internet connection.
What she did not tell anyone was that she had no legal right to be in the home.
Ms. Omega, 48, is one of the beneficiaries of the foreclosure crisis. Through a small advocacy group of local volunteers called Take Back the Land, she moved from a friend’s couch into a newly empty house that sold just a few years ago for more than $400,000.
Michael Stoops, executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless, said about a dozen advocacy groups around the country were actively moving homeless people into vacant homes — some working in secret, others, like Take Back the Land, operating openly.
In addition to squatting, some advocacy groups have organized civil disobedience actions in which borrowers or renters refuse to leave homes after foreclosure.
The groups say that they have sometimes received support from neighbors and that beleaguered police departments have not aggressively gone after squatters.
“We’re seeing sheriffs’ departments who are reluctant to move fast on foreclosures or evictions,” said Bill Faith, director of the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio, which is not engaged in squatting. “They’re up to their eyeballs in this stuff. Everyone’s overwhelmed.”
On a recent afternoon, Ms. Omega sat on the tiled floor of her unfurnished living room and described plans to use the space to tie-dye clothing and sell it on the Internet, hoping to save some money before she is inevitably forced to leave.
“It’s a beautiful castle, and it’s temporary for me,” she said, “and if I can be here 24 hours, I’m thankful.” In the meantime, she said, she has instructed her adult son not to make noise, to be a good neighbor.
In Minnesota, a group called the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign recently moved families into 13 empty homes; in Philadelphia, the Kensington Welfare Rights Union maintains seven “human rights houses” shared by 13 families. Cheri Honkala, who is the national organizer for the Minnesota group and was homeless herself once, likened the group’s work to “a modern-day underground railroad,” and said squatters could last up to a year in a house before eviction.
Other groups, including Women in Transition in Louisville, Ky., are looking for properties to occupy, especially as they become frustrated with the lack of affordable housing and the oversupply of empty homes.
Anita Beaty, executive director of the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless, said her group had been looking into asking banks to give it abandoned buildings to renovate and occupy legally. Ms. Honkala, who was a squatter in the 1980s, said the biggest difference now was that the neighbors were often more supportive. “People who used to say, ‘That’s breaking the law,’ now that they’re living on a block with three or four empty houses, they’re very interested in helping out, bringing over mattresses or food for the families,” she said.
Ben Burton, executive director of the Miami Coalition for the Homeless, said squatting was still relatively rare in the city.
But Take Back the Land has had to compete with less organized squatters, said Max Rameau, the group’s director.
“We had a move-in that we were going to do one day at noon,” he said. “At 10 o’clock in the morning, I went over to the house just to make sure everything was O.K., and squatters took over our squat. Then we went to another place nearby, and squatters were in that place also.”
Mr. Rameau said his group differed from ad hoc squatters by operating openly, screening potential residents for mental illness and drug addiction, and requiring that they earn “sweat equity” by cleaning or doing repairs around the house and that they keep up with the utility bills.
“We change the locks,” he said. “We pull up with a truck and move in through the front door. The families get a key to the front door.” Most of the houses are in poor neighborhoods, where the neighbors are less likely to object.
Kelly Penton, director of communications for the City of Miami, said police officers needed a signed affidavit from a property’s owner — usually a bank — to evict squatters. Representatives from the city’s homeless assistance program then help the squatters find shelter.
To find properties, Mr. Rameau and his colleagues check foreclosure listings, then scout out the houses for damage. On a recent afternoon, Mr. Rameau walked around to the unlocked metal gate of an abandoned bungalow in the Liberty City neighborhood.
“Let the record reflect that there was no lock on the door,” Mr. Rameau said. “I’m not breaking in.”
Inside, the wiring and sinks had been stripped out, and there was a pile of ashes on the linoleum floor where someone had burned a telephone book — probably during a cold spell the previous week, Mr. Rameau said.
“Two or three weeks ago, this house was in good condition,” Mr. Rameau said. “Now we wouldn’t move a family in here.”
So far the group has moved 10 families into empty houses, and Mr. Rameau said the group could not afford to help any more people. “It costs us $200 per move-in,” he said.
Mary Trody hopes not to leave again. On Feb. 20, Ms. Trody and her family of 12 — including her mother, siblings and children — were evicted from their modest blue house northwest of the city, which the family had lived in for 22 years, because her mother had not paid the mortgage.
After a weekend of sleeping in a paneled truck, however, the family, with the help of Take Back the Land, moved back in.
“This home is what you call a real home,” Ms. Trody said. “We had all family events — Christmas parties, deaths, funerals, weddings — all in this house.”
On a splendid Florida afternoon, Ms. Trody’s dog played in the water from a hose on the front lawn. The house had mattresses on the floors, but most belongings were in storage, in case they had to leave again.
“I don’t think it’s fair living in a house and not paying,” Ms. Trody said.
She said the mortgage lender had offered the family $1,500 to leave but was unwilling to negotiate minimal payments that would allow them to stay. She said she and her husband had been looking for work since he lost his delivery job with The Miami Herald.
In the meantime, she said, “I still got knots in my stomach, because I don’t know when they’re going to come yank it back from me, when they’re going to put me back on the streets.”
The block was dotted with foreclosed homes.
Three of her neighbors said they knew she was squatting and supported her. One is Joanna Jean Pierre, 32, who affectionately refers to Ms. Trody as Momma.
Ms. Pierre said Ms. Trody was a good neighbor and should be let alone. “That’s her house,” Ms. Pierre said. “She should be here.”
Ms. Trody said that living here before, “I felt secure; I felt this is my home.”
“This is where I know I’m safe,” she added. “Now it’s like, this is a stranger. What’s going to happen?”
Even without furniture or homey touches, she talked about the house as if it were a member of her family.
“I know it’s not permanently, but we still have these couple days left,” she said. “It’s like a person that you’re losing, and you know you still have a few more days with them.”
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