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Women lead foreclosure struggles

Published Mar 8, 2009 9:29 PM

The racist, sexist subprime mortgage industry and the crisis it created has especially affected women and their families, so it is no surprise that women are active in the forefront of struggles around the country to stop foreclosures and evictions.

Sharon Black speaking to the
Bail Out the People Movement
conference in New York.
WW photo: Gary Wilson

In Detroit, two such women are Sandra Hines, a foreclosure victim herself, and Vanessa Fluker, an attorney who fights the many illegal practices of the banks and mortgage companies on behalf of homeowners. Both are leaders in the Moratorium NOW! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures and Evictions.

In Los Angeles, Martha Rojas, a Colombian activist and union organizer for home-health-care workers, plays a leading role in the Labor-Community Coalition to Stop Foreclosures and Evictions. She and Rosie Martinez, chair of Service Employees Local 721’s Latino Caucus, are both outspoken advocates for a moratorium on foreclosures.

Another such woman is Sharon Black of Baltimore, an organizer with the Network to Stop Foreclosures and Evictions. She also works with the Bail Out the People Movement and is a leader of the campaign to pass Council Bill 09-0289, which would require a 365-day notice before any foreclosure eviction could occur in that city.

Black talked to Workers World about the dynamic struggle in Baltimore to win relief for homeowners facing foreclosure and eviction.

Black: On Feb. 23, after months of struggle to get them to take action, the Baltimore City Council introduced Council Bill 09-0289, which essentially would place a one-year moratorium on evictions. It would require that a 365-day notice of eviction be given to homeowners in foreclosure.

We launched a concerted campaign both within the progressive movement and in the community. For several months we had been pressuring the City Council and sheriff’s office to stop foreclosures. We wanted the sheriff to stop taking part in the foreclosure process just like Wayne County Sheriff Warren Evans did when he recently stopped doing sheriff’s sales in the Detroit area. We wanted the council and local government to take action to stop this crisis.

Activists put up 800 posters in neighborhoods across the city and distributed leaflets at emergency centers.We also launched an internet petition campaign that definitely resonated in Council as we got a lot of phone calls with complaints about clogged e-mail.

WW: What happened at the City Council meeting?

Black: Before the meeting we had a press conference and rally demanding the Council take action. At the meeting, things suddenly broke open. Council members spoke up and used the same language we’ve been using, calling this an emergency measure. The bill has 11 sponsors. Only three council members out of 14 did not sign on.

It was an unbelievable night and a big victory for the people! Now, by law, the bill has to go through a process that includes a public hearing set for March 24, before it’s voted up or down. The banks were there to oppose it, but we’ll be fighting bankers and lenders who want the bill defeated.

WW: What is the next step in this struggle?

Black: We’ve put out a call to the people of Baltimore and all community leaders to help pass Council Bill 09-0289 and to come to the March 24 Council hearing. It states:

“The Baltimore City Council has heeded the call of community activists who have been working day and night to halt the rising tide of foreclosures and the harm that it is inflicting on our communities.

“Council members Bill Henry and Mary Pat Clarke have courageously stepped up to the plate, along with others, and have introduced a groundbreaking bill that would act as a powerful incentive to banks and lenders to restructure loans and keep families in their homes.

“This bill would require 365 days notice after a foreclosure is placed on the docket before the sheriff can perform the odious job of putting families out of their homes.

“Why is such a bill needed? Because every economic prognosticator clearly indicates that the specter of joblessness and foreclosures will only grow worse. Because those who are losing their homes are not just statistics—they are hard-working families who are suffering through an economic period that some are saying is as bad as the Depression of the 1930s.

“They are Christina Sumpter, a mom who lost her job and fell behind in her mortgage payments after her interest rates went up. She lives in a modest row home in East Baltimore. She wonders what’s going to happen after she exhausts trying to negotiate with Wachovia, which is now owned by the billion-dollar bailed-out Citibank. Will she be in the street?

“Others are like Joe Bullock, who has waited over three months to get foreclosure counseling because the centers are clogged with people waiting to get appointments. He lives on the Westside. Mr. Bullock could lose his home because he became disabled and lost his job. He is now working but doesn’t know if tomorrow he’ll get the final notice.

“The banks and lenders who have received trillions in taxpayer bailout money are simply not doing what they are supposed to do: making mortgages affordable and keeping families in their homes. Those lenders who do the right thing have nothing to fear from this bill.

“Keeping people in their homes helps everyone. There is nothing worse for a community than boarded-up vacant homes. Vacant homes attract rats. They devalue the entire neighborhood. It becomes a tremendous burden on city tax revenues and services.

“The Baltimore City Council has an

opportunity to set a national precedent for cities and people throughout the country who are looking for solutions to this crisis.”

The Network to Stop Foreclosures and Evictions urges everyone in Baltimore and the surrounding area to attend the City Council hearing on March 24, 10:00 a.m. at City Hall, 100 Holliday St., to testify on behalf of Council Bill 09-0289. Call 410-218-4835 or email [email protected] to add your name to the growing list of supporters.