Occupy Homes Wins Crucial Victories for Struggling Homeowners Against Big Banks
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At a time when the federal government and law enforcement has failed to provide solutions for homeowners in crisis—let alone their failure to prosecute bankers for stealing peoples’ homes—this organizing is critical. Policy makers have refused to confront the scale of the problem in our housing system, with 8 million homes already foreclosed and another 7-8 million foreclosures expected in the next few years. While regulators, legislators, law enforcement and the President aren’t being responsive to the pain and suffering the 99% are facing in this crisis, communities are coming together, fighting the banks, and organizing to save their homes.
As Nick said on the day his house had been scheduled for the auction block, "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.”
And so with that fresh lesson, Nick and the Occupy Homes crew have turned their attention back to the fight for the Cruz family home. Siblings David and Alejandra Cruz, themselves DREAM Act activists buoyed by their recent immigrant rights victory, will arrive at the Pittsburgh headquarters of PNC Bank today, to deliver their loan modification documents to CEO James Rohr. PNC has thus far refused to accept them. And while Occupy Homes MN supports the Cruz family, other #OccupyHomes activists, Occupy groups, and housing activists will rally at PNC locations or phone-bank in support. At least fifteen cities nationwide have confirmed participation in a National Day of Action in support of the Cruz family.
While there are no guarantees for the Cruzes or anyone else fighting foreclosure, we've seen time and again that when people fight back—and communities stand with them in solidarity—they can win.
How do I know? A few months ago, I traveled to Minneapolis and to Atlanta, two places among scores across the country where occupy groups have turned to housing justice and organizing in direct support of people on the front lines of the housing crisis, the result of greed and recklessness and straight-up fraud by Wall Street and the banks that created the housing bubble. I've been working with OccupyOur Homes, an organizing project that aims to strengthen the #OccupyHomes movement by sharing training, 'best practices,' resources, and support of various kinds across a burgeoning national network.
In Minneapolis, I met two foreclosure fighters, Bobby Hull and Monique White. A former marine who looks like it, Bobby is simultaneously gruff and gentle, and isn't easily stopped when he gets going about how veterans and working people all across this country have been screwed while the banks and the super-rich have rewritten the rules they don't feel obligated to follow anyway. Monique White, a hard-working single mom from North Minneapolis was perhaps the first homeowner to approach the Occupy movement for support. Initially shy and guarded, she becomes focused and powerfully eloquent when talking about the byzantine bureaucracy the banks forced her to navigate just to get simple answers about paperwork she filed repeatedly.
After sustained campaigns that included occupiers in tents on their lawns, block parties, bank protests, phone calls and emails, marches on bankers' homes, and in the case of Monique, a direct confrontation with US Bank's CEO at the company's shareholder meeting, they both fought their foreclosures and won. The banks renegotiated their mortgages. They kept their homes. And they have both become community leaders, helping others find and exercise their power.