ANOTHER GREAT STORY OF JP MORGAN CHASE, NOT KNOWING WHICH HAND IS STIRING WHAT POT. THIS IS GETTING OLD MR. DIAMON.. HOW ABOUT TRAINING YOUR EMPLOYEES.
Retired postal clerk Jaymie Kelly of Minneapolis, Minnesota, is
holding onto her home by a thread, despite having paid five times its
value in ballooning monthly payments. She received a letter from the
attorney general dated in May agreeing to delay eviction for 30 days
past her redemption period, which expired April 24. The next day Freddie
Mac filed an eviction summons, and shortly thereaftershe appeared in
court with representatives from activist group OccupyHomes Minneapolis
(OHM), which managed to convince Freddie Mac's attorney to back off temporarily.
"I've been on the block I'm living on for 58 of my 63 years," Kelly
told Truthout. "This is my neighborhood. It's my everything. I really
feel like I'm invested in this community. I have no plan B. Without
[OccupyHomes] I would be homeless. It seems to me that it makes more
sense for the bank to work with me."
With reports like these stockpiling under the OHM radar, activists
spearheaded an initiative called the Eviction Free Zone (EFZ),
encompassing the Powderhorn and Central neighborhoods in Minneapolis,
where there have been 835 evictions since 2007, not including renters.
According to EFZ project organizer Chris Gray, the runaround Kelly is
experiencing isn't unusual; homeowners frequently are served with
eviction notices while actively negotiating with banks.
Shortly after appearing in court, Kelly received a letter from Chase
Bank that said the bank could no longer work with her, because things
were in Freddie Mac's hands. Days later, she received another letter
from Chase, in which the bank wrote it was considering her request to
purchase her home again and that she would hear back by June 20.
On July 9, Kelly received a second eviction notice from JPMorgan
Chase & Co.’s lawyer. Meanwhile, she has a letter from the bank
agreeing to work with her this month. If JPMorgan Chase, refuses to
negotiate, she might end up like another EFZ citizen, Sergio Ceballos ,
who lives just three blocks from Kelly and could get a visit from the
sheriff at any time.
In preparation for Ceballos’ eleventh hour, OHM has attracted support
for him from Occupy groups in 10 cities. They will deliver petitions to
local Chase Bank branches. Back in Hennepin County, activists put
together a march on the sheriff’s office July 11.
EFZ activists - a mix of OccupyHomes veterans and neighbors - hunker
down in foreclosed properties, warding off attempts by police and banks
to change the locks. When banks do oust homeowners, activists peel the
boards off of windows and install an OHM representative to stay with the
homeowner 24 hours a day until the case is settled.
"We use a 1,000-pound barrel with a tube that someone can put their
arm into, which the fire department has to cut them out of with special
tool," Gray said. "They’re not used to this kind of resistance. If the
sheriff comes, we intend to build a rally and delay eviction in any way
that we can, and that’s a whole new ballgame. Jaymie will be in the same
situation in two weeks after eviction court."
EFV activists also refurbish vacant properties for those rendered
homeless through eviction. And between acts of civil disobedience, they
host barbecues and potlucks to foster the sense of community the group
says is essential to win bank concessions and empower citizens.
In a successful case last year, OHM drew 60 neighbors to defend a
home from eviction at 4 AM, largely through social media. Gray said that
in the afternoon they sometimes draw about 200 people. This is the sort
of community engagement OHM hopes will pervade eviction attempts all
over the country.
"We're looking to create a national model in Minnesota to win
large-scale concessions from the banks," OHM activist Becky Z. Dernbach
told Truthout. "Here and there banks will negotiate, give houses back,
but they don't change their policies."
She added that the average citizen facing foreclosure doesn't have
the tools to combat big banks, which is why the EFZ is built around the
notion that entire communities stand a better chance against banks than
"Homeowners are often ashamed to talk about their experience with
foreclosure," Dernbach told Truthout. "But when you bring foreclosed
homeowners together to share their stories, you begin to notice some
patterns: 'The bank lost my paperwork.' 'I provided all the paperwork
they asked me to and made all my trial payments, and they still denied
my modification.' 'They said they never received my paperwork, and I had
to send it again. Then they said I had missed the deadline.' You start
to wonder -where is all that paperwork? And how could it possibly be an
accident for the banks to lose everybody's paperwork?"
In June, Bank of America employees came
forward and admitted these practices actually were encouraged by the
bank to prolong the foreclosure and eviction process.
"This latest news from Bank of America confirms what we've been
seeing over the past year and a half: that the big banks would rather
profit off of throwing people in the streets than keep them in their
homes," Dernbach wrote in an email to Truthout. "Wall Street's greed has
no place in our homes."
The EFZ is an effort to harness community support, which, if
sustained long enough, may be an effective antidote to big banks'
exploitation of homeowners, Gray told Truthout in a phone interview.
"The basis of the Eviction Free Zone is that it's politically
impossible to carry out eviction for every family facing eviction," Gray
said "In our neighborhood [there have] been 835 since 2007, and it's
just three or four square miles. The vast majority have been invisible;
you'd think it's just people moving or renting. In our minds that's not
good for families facing foreclosure. They feel isolated and alone, and
they move out."
Kelly described this sense of isolation and impotence when she tried to grapple with the system on her own.
"We bought this house for $74,900 in 1983, and I've paid $425,000 for
it so far," Kelly said. "I wouldn't have gone into foreclosure if these
house payments weren't so high. I'm in one of the poorest neighborhoods
in Minneapolis. I was embarrassed to tell anyone what I was paying. Now
with OccupyHomes, I have hope."
Kelly found herself repeating her story to countless bank representatives over the phone, with nothing to show for it.
"I talked to a number of people, and they just kept shuttling me
around from different people," Kelly said. "Then [OccupyHomes] did a
march of the home mortgage modification center."
According to Dernbach, Kelly's experience is common. Most people
never speak to the same bank representative twice. They find themselves
explaining their stories over and over to different representatives
without making headway. Kelly said her struggles began with mistakes of
her own, with misplaced trust and perhaps a few too many assumptions.
"It started with a predatory lender after my husband died," Kelly
told Truthout. "I had insurance money and thought I was paying off my
house, but instead I was signing off on a loan at 5.5 percent interest.
It went up 13.5 percent, and it had a prepayment penalty. I had to buy
my way out of the deal. I was so ignorant. This was someone who I met in
church who basically took advantage of the situation. I was trying to
get out of that and refinanced several times."
OccupyHomes insists that no one actively attempting to negotiate with
their lender should be evicted and that vacant, bank-owned properties
should be given back to their communities and converted into affordable
housing, rather than left to rot. In Hennepin County, homelessness is at
a six-year high; meanwhile, hundreds of houses remain unoccupied.
While banks are profiting from this business of ousting homeowners,
it actually costs taxpayers more to keep homeless shelters open at
capacity than to make use of vacant homes or find ways to keep people in
their homes, according to Dernbach.
At the same time, communities around the United States are a
patchwork of vacant and occupied houses with a growing homeless
population. The EFZ has led to seven victories for OHM, and activists
hope to serve as an example to other communities and individuals
fighting to keep their homes.
OHM is winning small political victories, too; several cadndidtes are
campaigning on housing justice in Minneapois in local eleictions this
year, which gives Gray hope for real change for homeowners in the
"It’s not just about this big concrete thing in someone’s living
room; we’re changing the dialogue about what the city’s role should be
and what people can do," Gray said. "It’s abstract to think that this
huge bank in New York is trying to evict your neighbor, but the idea of
turning over vacant [properties] to community control offers the
potential for movement growth."
Last night OHM gathered neighbors to prepare for an act of civil
disobedience, and drew encouragement from some unlikely participants.
"There were a lot of people who wouldn’t typically consider being
involved who have been dragged in because they know Jaymie. And I think
if we can win and show that this is viable, that we can really turn a
corner and it will become more accepted," Gray said. "Most people we
meet know who we are but don’t want our help because they’re too
ashamed. Everyone in the community knows about a high-profile eviction,
so one that wins would be really important."