WW interviews victim of home foreclosure & eviction
Published Apr 10, 2008 1:24 AM
Every disaster has its victims. When tornados, floods and other natural
catastrophes occur, the media is filled with images of devastated neighborhoods
and grief-stricken people who have lost everything, whose homes and belongings
are gone and lives changed forever.
But absent in the portrayal of the foreclosure and eviction crisis caused
by the bankers is the human toll of being forced out of one’s home. The
media show no pictures of evictions, of belongings accumulated over a lifetime
being thrown to the curb like so much trash, of people with nowhere to go whose lives have been turned upside
The home foreclosure epidemic raging across the U.S. is staggering in
magnitude. In Detroit, a primarily African-American city suffering from plant
shutdowns, joblessness and poverty, the statistics are overwhelming.
In 2007, Detroit’s Wayne County had the highest number of new
foreclosure filings in the U.S.—almost 73,000 homes, a 68 percent
increase from a year earlier. The foreclosure rate in Detroit is 10 percent,
with some neighborhoods as high as 17 percent. In Michigan as a whole, lenders
filed 136,205 new foreclosures last year, representing almost 2 percent of all
homes in the state.
But numbers, rates and statistics alone do not begin to tell the story of
the human tragedy involved.
WW photo: Kris Hamel
Sandra Hines is 54 years old, a lifelong Detroit resident and social worker
who is currently unemployed. She is active in the Coalition to Stop Police
Brutality and ran for the Detroit Board of Education last year on a grassroots
platform advocating for students. Hines graciously told Workers World her
painful story of being foreclosed and evicted from the home her family owned
for 37 years.
WW: Tell us about the home you and your sister lost to
Hines: At the time my parents moved into that northwest
Detroit neighborhood, it was when poor people had begun to gather up money to
migrate to the better areas in the city. It was 1970 and white people were
leaving the city and Black people moving into neighborhoods that had once been
influential neighborhoods where white folks lived. It was like growing up
together, the families that eventually migrated into those communities.
The house had already been paid for when our mother passed three years ago. My
sister and her daughter and son were living with my mother at the time.
My sister, a worker at the General Motors Cadillac plant, was on disability
from GM, but continued to try to maintain the taxes and repairs. But GM reduced
her disability check in half. That’s when she refinanced, because her
income was cut and we needed money for family needs and home repairs. That was
the whole purpose of getting the house refinanced.
But she got caught up in one of those lending situations with an adjustable
rate mortgage and wasn’t fully aware of what was going on in terms of
having to pay that money back. When it comes down to how these loan contracts
are written, and you don’t know there’s a clause in it—do you
know how many pages some of these are? They’re inches thick and the
lender just says, “Sign here.”
Some of the repairs were made, a new furnace put in, electrical work was done,
but then things started getting away from us. We couldn’t continue to
maintain. We came together as a family and tried to get a lawyer to sue these
refinance people, but it was too late.
My sister received a letter from the finance company saying we had 56 days and
needed to vacate the premises. The 56 days passed with no word. No eviction
notice was sent to us or any of that. Finally the eviction notice did show up
in November last year. They didn’t evict us until the week before
WW: What happened that day?
Hines: The bailiff and his team showed up. We weren’t at
home, and they broke into the house. The neighbors called my sister and told
her they had brought a dumpster and were taking furniture out. The neighbor
said they took the stove and pulled it down the stairs by the cord. They took
the refrigerator out and just threw it over the dumpster.
My mother had a lot of antique furniture. They just scarred and scratched up my
mother’s wooden furniture, an antique bedroom set that was passed down
from another generation. They tore the furniture up. And it was the coldest day
of last year, the first snow that we had. That was the day they did it.
WW: How did you feel as this was taking place?
Hines: It’s hard to describe. It was kind of a surreal
state. I was numb. It’s almost like a death. You feel helpless.
You’re embarrassed, humiliated, angry, disgusted, all of those kinds of
feelings. And then there’s the neighborhood, the disconnect with all
those people you’ve been accustomed to over the years. We lost a lot of
stuff, lost the community that we knew. It causes depression, stress and
physical ailments, not to mention a lot of shame. You feel bad for people to
know you’ve been evicted.
It’s all my mother ever talked about, that the house would be paid for
and we would have a house to live in when she died. My mother worked hard. She
made sacrifices to keep that house. And then to lose the house like that.
WW: What did you do then?
Hines: We ended up moving into a home that one of our
relatives owned. Otherwise, we would have been homeless. We were fortunate that
we had some relatives who had real estate.
I think about that. I can’t imagine—I think about single mothers
with young children, whole families with nowhere to go.
A lot of people have ended up homeless because of this experience. Where are
they? Every neighborhood is ravaged by 10 or 15 abandoned homes. There’s
not a neighborhood you go to in the city of Detroit where there’s not
“for sale” signs all up and down the street. Where are those
WW: What do you have to tell people who are facing foreclosure
or who are worried about being laid off and losing their homes?
Hines: People are going to have to mobilize and organize
around the foreclosure issue and demand that the state and the federal
government do what’s necessary to fix the problem. It doesn’t
appear that anything is really in place now to truly help people. The only
thing I can see as a solution is a moratorium, that people band together as one
major force to call for a moratorium. That’s the only alternative.
WW: How can we press the government to enact a moratorium?
Hines: It’s going to have to be more real people
involved who have actually experienced what we have experienced. I think
you’re really going to have to bring those people together so the
government will really see the magnitude. We’re talking about it, but
we’re not seeing pictures of people who’ve been evicted. We
haven’t seen any pictures of where people have ended up, whether it be in
shelters or out on the streets.
We need to document and see people actually being put out of their homes.
People need to tell the stories of how they’ve been tricked out of their
home by these predatory lending companies. There needs to be a face put on
it—real people and the behind-the-scenes effects of what’s happened
to them and how people have been ravaged.
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