Tuesday, October 30, 2012

AFSC Hosts Foreclosure Fraud Workshop For Homeowners

Today AFSC lent it's space and hospitality for Occupy Our Homes ATL's workshop/info sharing session designed to help homeowners to identify fraud in their deed assignments. About a dozen homeowners where joined by supporters. They came ready to fight, and they brought their documents with then.

We're encouraged to see so many new faces coming forward to challenge an economic system that continues to give privileged to those who already have an over abundance at the expense of everyone else.

A Blitz of Housing Justice Action in Atlanta!

From multiple cookouts, to press conferences, call-in campaigns, and physical eviction defense Atlanta, has seen a flurry of housing justice activity.

Both Jacqueline Barber and Sherrye Calhoun hosted eviction free cookouts in their yards which not only built support for their struggle against the banks, it also brought out others facing housing struggles. Both cookouts became touchstones for folks in struggle that had seen Jacqueline and Sherrye's stories and were inspired to fight the financial institutions that would have them on the street with nowhere to go.

One of those people was JoSelf Freeman, who was facing an eviction today. JoSelf saw Jacqueline Barber's story on the news and was inspired to reach out. After scrambling to put together a phone/email blast to put pressure on Fannie Mae and Bank of America, putting pressure on local government, and filling his yard with home defenders this morning, JoSelf's eviction was put off for two and a half more weeks; hopefully enough time to pressure Bank of America and Fannie Mae to make a deal that keeps JoSelf in his home.

Sherrye Calhoun also had a press conference this morning to declare she would not be leaving her home despite being under threat of arrest for trespassing in the place she's called home for 30 years.

It's taken a lot of organizing work, crippling housing conditions, and a lot of courage from residents to break the code of silence and refuse to leave their homes, but there finally seems to be some real momentum toward changing the way our communities approach housing.

Everyday another resident reaches out with a willingness to stand up, speak out, and refuse to leave. It now feels within the realm of possibility that we could have the beginnings of a powerful housing justice movement. The shear math of the numbers those struggling to keep a roof over their heads versus the number of those who continue to build their fortunes on the shattered dreams of others is encouraging. Those struggling far outnumber those who profit off the housing crisis.

Please sign and share JoSelf's petition: http://start2.occupyourhomes.org/petitions/don-t-evict-joself-freeman-from-his-home

Tim Franzen
American Friends Service Committee

Monday, October 29, 2012

AFSC Facilitates Housing Justice Retreat

Keeping in line with AFSC rich history of providing resources, training, and capacity for emerging grassroots movements, the Georgia Peace and Conflict Resolution program organized a retreat for some of Atlanta's lead housing justice organizers.

It was an opportunity to reflect on the work, build community, strengthen analysis, and develop strategic plans.

Georgia is on of the hardest hit by the housing crisis, and it's been an epicenter for the housing justice. The retreat brought organizers and impacted communities together which was exciting. Renters, homeowners, and the shelterless all in one room as equals seeing through the framework of housing as a human right.

One thing that the weekend made clear is that today's impacted resident is tomorrows movement leader.

The AFSC Intern Experience

My name is Abiodun Henderson and was awarded a canvassing internship. When my father died in September last year, I was inspired by his previous activism with the Black Panthers to join the Occupy movement. For the last eight years, I've been a server in Atlanta making an average of $40,000 a year and when the restaurant I worked at closed, I decided to become an activist/organizer full-time with no pay. As someone that is new to community organizing, I'm drawn to the housing justice work AFSC is committed to. So when  the opportunity to canvass residents impacted by the housing crisis came around, I jumped at the chance to do what I love while receiving a stipend. 
My job was to inform homeowners going through foreclosure that there are a group of people willing to fight with them and empower them with the knowledge they needed to fight for themselves. With the help of Renika Wheeler, we talked to underwater homeowners in the hardest hit neighborhoods Atlanta has, like Pittsburgh and Vine City to name a few, about the issues they were facing, the mortgage crises and why there were so many vacant houses in our communities. The look on their faces showed how blessed they felt to not have to go through their trials alone. 
There was Mr. and Mrs. Hartsfield, who were about to lose their Habitat for Humanity home and were pleased to learn about the meetings we hold every Thursday and promised to come. We also talked to community members who weren't in crisis like Eva Nash who said she just wanted to learn more so that she could become empowered to help others.
I learned a lot about canvassing that I didn't realize before. For instance, eye contact is key, talking to an individual is sometimes a better bet than a pair, maintaining a positive attitude even when people don’t stop to talk with us and how to spot the people who will. I realized the consequences of inaction can be seen in our own communities. They are manifested in complacency and a disbelief that our voices even matter. Thanks to the AFSC for helping me use mine.
Abiodun Henderson 


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Steve Boudreaux Fights The Bank And Wins!

Back in June, Steve Boudreaux reached out to Occupy Our Homes ATL in total desperation, less than 24 hours before his home was set to be auctioned off on the Cobb county courthouse steps. Wells Fargo told him that they were working on a loan modification up to the very
last minute before the sale.

Now, four months later, we are overjoyed to announce that after organizing countless marches and sit-ins at bank branches, several bank call-in campaigns, an online petition, and an action at Fannie Mae (who actually owned the loan), Wells Fargo has rescinded Steve's foreclosure and granted a modification that will keep him in the home he loves for years to come!

In a matter of months Steve went from attending eviction court proceedings- fighting just to stay another week in his home- to getting a modification that he can live with, which leaves his community with one less boarded up crime magnet.

In a Statement from Steve, which he addressed to supporters, he stated, "I could not have done it without all of you! Everyone who signed my petition, called the bank on my behalf, everyone who organized and participated in direct actions, I owe you debt of gratitude, this is truly our victory! I don’t want this fight to stop with my home, I’m committed to pay it forward and help the next person."

While American Friends Service Committee is happy to celebrate Steve's victory, we also realize that millions continue to suffer at the hands of the financial institutions whose irresponsible behavior not only caused our economy to collapse, but continues to hold our communities hostage. We know that the key to real recovery is finding creative ways to keep struggling people in their homes, and it seems that that key is in the hand of the big banks.

Foreclosure Racket Exposed In Fayetteville

Today Fayette County Woman Jacqueline Barber, who's refused to leave her home despite battling cancer and being under threat of eviction fro US Bank and GMAC, got a visit from someone else who has experience fighting the big banks.

West Palm, FL resident Lynn Szymoniak is the reason "robo signing" is a nasty practice almost everybody has heard of. While Lynn was facing foreclosure she discovered serious problems with the assignments. Documents filled out wrong, missing or terribly incorrect information, and counterfeit signatures, all ways the big banks cut corners so they could foreclose and evict people faster. Lynn to them to task, and won!

Having exposed several serious problems with the assignments, and feeling a connection with Jacqueline, Lynn volunteered to fly to Atlanta to do a press junket at Jacqueline's home and spend the day with Jacqueline's supporters.

The settlement she helped the US government win cost the big banks over 25 billion dollars, which she admits should have been closure to two trillion. Lynn volunteered to take a look at Jacqueline's paperwork and guess what she founds, “I look at the assignments and said, ‘Oh no, this isn’t right.' Four different dates the trust acquired Jacqueline’s mortgage in 2007 and 2011. I know this is not correct,” Szymoniak said.
CBS Atlanta 46
Lynn was impressed with our work in Atlanta and stated on numerous occasions that the solutions to the housing crisis do not lie the courtroom, or on the steps of the capitol, in fact in many cases judges and politicians either don't care or are commiserating with the foreclosing entities in one way or another. Our power is in creative, bold direct action. Our power is in the spotlight we force on injustice. Our power is in refusing to play by their rules. 

Tim Franzen
American Friends Service Committee

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Famed Whistle Blower Lynn Szymoniak Exposes Major Fraud In Jacqueline Barber's Foreclosure

Lynn Szymoniak will join Jacqueline Barber at her home Wednesday 10/17 from 12:30pm-5pm for press junket
160 Stearman Road Fayetteville Georgia 30214(The street name was changed a few years ago so it may not show up on GPS, try using 160 Woodland Road)

Last week, former Atlanta Police officer and cancer fighter Jacqueline Barber joined forces with Occupy Our Homes Atlanta in a last ditch attempt to save her home and stop her impending eviction. The story struck a chord with millions of others around the country who were inspired by Ms. Barber's story and were outraged to hear about her battle with the bank. 
One of those people happened to be Lynn Szymoniak, the famed whistle blower who uncovered massive mortgage fraud, and served as an expert witness for the US government in the case brought against the nations five biggest mortgage servicers earlier this year. In March, she was awarded $18million for her part in the case that resulted in a $25billion settlement, an amount she acknowledges is not nearly enough to make up for what homeowners are going through. Lynn investigated and uncovered much of the fraud when she was faced with foreclosure herself, after her own battle with cancer wiped out her savings. "I can't imagine having to fight the banks for my home, while battling cancer at the same time," she says relating her experience to what Jacqueline is going through right now. 

Lynn examined Jacqueline's mortgage documents after hearing her story and revealed her opinion that fraud was prevalent, including assignments that appear to have forged signatures by well known "robo-signers", and sent a letter to Ms. Barber explaining what she had found. 

On Wednesday, October 17, Lynn Szymoniak will visit Jacqueline Barber at her Fayetteville home to offer her support.

On Wednesday we will have poster sized title assignments and expose the clear fraud is Ms. Barber's case. Supporters including former APD co-workers will be present as an eviction could still happen any day.

The American Friends Service Committee is excited to be one the ground providing resources and building capacity around Jacqueline Barber's campaign and the growing housing justice movement. More and more we are seeing folks that haven't been engaged in grassroots organizing get involved and longtime organizers and organizations take on housing campaign initiated by Occupy Our Homes ATL.

Link to 60 Minutes story on Lynn Szymoniakhttp://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7402093n

Friday, October 12, 2012

Jacqueline Barber's Home Occupation Day One

Today over 30 of Jacqueline Barbers Friends, former co-workers, and Occupy Our Homes Atlanta members stood with Jacqueline with one simple message; we will not be moved.

With eviction looming the decision was made to launch a full scale 24/7 occupation to ensure that US Bank and GMAC can't execute an eviction.

Each day it becomes more clear that there were serious problems with Jacqueline's loan. Not only was the loan predatory, there are some pretty tell tale signs of foreclosure fraud. While the plan is to file a wrongful foreclosure lawsuit on Monday, our focus over the weekend will be to organize creative, dynamic, national direct action next week.

Committing to a home occupation is a big deal, the pitching of tents and dropping of banners means one thing; we are not leaving until a solution if found that keeps this family in this house.

Sen. Fort Issues Statement Regarding Occupy Atlanta Protesters ATLANTA (October 12, 2012)

ATLANTA (October 12, 2012) – Sen. Vincent Fort has issued the following statement:
“After this morning’s hearing, it is apparent the city of Atlanta has not learned its lesson from the Atlanta Eagle and Katherine Johnson cases involving evidence destruction. The Atlanta Police Department had numerous cameras and recording devices present on October 25th and 26th, leading me to believe it would be impossible for all of the evidence to be destroyed or unavailable. A motion was filed today to dismiss this case based on APD’s destruction of evidence and refusal to comply with requests from our legal representation.
The public must ask themselves a question: Whose conduct is more egregious? The APD’s destruction of evidence or the peaceful protesters who were exercising their First Amendment right?”
A final Motion/Evidence hearing will take place on November 16, 2012. The trial is scheduled from December 17 – 21, 2012.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Jacqueline Barber’s Stay Struck Down By The Court, Jacqueline Vows To Resist Eviction

Today US Bank and GMAC lawyers fought to lift the stay on Jacqueline Barber’s home. Although we packed the courtroom with supporters, they were successful, which brings them one step closer to being able to evict Jacqueline and her four young grandchildren.

The case failed because Jacqueline’s chapter 13 bankruptcy (which was grounds for the stay) was filed after the home was sold on the court house steps.

It is clear that US Bank and GMAC intent to begin the eviction process immediately.
Jacqueline has made it clear that she will fight no matter what stating that, "If they come to put me out, I hope Occupy Our Homes will be carried out with me because they're going to have to have to physically remove me from the property. I refuse to roll over and play dead."

AFSC Atlanta plans to assist Occupy our Homes ATL in an effort to dual track the bank the same way they dual tracked Jacqueline and millions of other Americans. Jacqueline was dual tracked when America's Servicing Company claimed they were working on her modification while simultaneously foreclosing on her. Occupy our Homes ATL will dual track US Bank and GMAC by helping Jacqueline pursue legal action in state court and taking aggressive direct action to keep Jacqueline and her family in their home.

Tomorrow morning at 11am we will be launching a full scale 24/7 occupation of Jacqueline’s home(160 Stearman Road Fayeteville, GA 30296 or 160 Woodland Road Fayeteville, GA 30296). We will be joined by many of Jacqueline's former co-workers at the APD and other supporters, many of whom have committed to refuse to leave when the marshals come to evict. We invite the press for interviews at 11am.

Although US Bank continues to pass the buck when it comes to Jacqueline’s home, it’s very clear that they own the trust that controls the 3,000 mortgage bundle that her house is tied up in (RASC 2006-EMX2) and GMAC is simply the enforcer….or servicer.

Jacqueline's demands remain the same, stop the eviction process, and sell back the home to Jacqueline or her family.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Jaqueline Barber's Story Goes Global

    By last night we had a feeling that aspects of Jaqueline Barber's campaign was cause for serious curiosity by the mainstream media, but no one had any idea how far the story would go out and how many outlets would carry it.

    The Associated Press story has circled the globe, it was on the front page of yahho.com all day, it was the subject of three talk radio stations that we know of, it was an all day story on every tv station in Atlanta, and we've been getting all kinds of interesting press inquiries.

    The notable part of the narrative that seems to be drawing serious attention to the story is the fact that Jaqueline is a former APD detective and that there is a pretty large community of former co-workers(some active, some retired) who are down to stand in the yard with her during a press conference.

    The image that most conjure up of police and Occupy is a antagonistic clash, police in riot gear, protesters screaming, police brutalizing a crowd after being given orders to evict the movement.

    I've seem there's images myself, in real time. I was personally arrested five times by APD in last 2011, early 2012.

    I can tell you that as housing justice organizers, no one involved with Occupy Our Homes ATL, or AFSC hesitated to take on this campaign because of Jaquelines APD credentials. If anything it's an opportunity to have a real conversation, on a national level, about who our economic system is and isn't working for.

    I can also tell you that on the lawn of Jaqueline's home there is no animosity, in fact it's the last thing on anyone's mind(beside media covering the story). Today APD officers, neighbors  family members, and Occupy Our Homes ATL organizers had a single focus; how can we make sure this ill woman and these children don't have to experience the nightmare of eviction.

    I want to encourage folks in the Atlanta area to sign and share the online petition, and more importantly come stand with Jaqueline this Thursday at 9am!

Other articles:







Tim Franzen
American Friends Service Committee

Saturday, October 6, 2012

US Bank: Stop the Eviction Of Cancer Patient Jaqueline Barber

I had the opportunity to spend my Friday with Jaqueline Barber at her home with her daughter and four grandchildren. The AFSC Atlanta program will be working with Occupy Our Homes ATL and other community organizations to stop the needless eviction of Jaqueline Barber and pressure US Bank to make a deal that keeps the family in their home.

Below is a video of Jaqueline's story and a text version. I encourage everyone to share Jaqueline's petition and come out to the press conference this Monday. Links to both are below.

In Jaqueline's words,

"I spent 20 years working as an officer and detective for the Atlanta Police Department. In 1998, I was struck by a car while on the job, causing spinal injuries that left me unable to work. Forced into early retirement, I spent the next few years recovering and welcoming new grandchildren to my ever expanding family.
In 2005, while visiting a former co-worker with my daughter, I came across my dream home. A friend urged me to apply for a loan, which I did and then quickly forgot about. A few weeks later, I got a call from a loan officer telling me that I had been approved and asking me when we wanted to move. Reluctant at first, my family and I decided to purchase the home in Fayetteville, Ga. In 2009, shortly after the housing bubble burst causing our economy to crash, the adjustable rate on my mortgage reset, causing my payments to go up by almost $1500. Meanwhile, the value of my home began to plummet.

Then tragedy struck. I was diagnosed with multiple mylema, a form of bone marrow cancer. I began aggressive chemotherapy and radiation treatments, while my son helped me begin the long process of applying for a loan modification with Wells Fargo. After almost a year of treatment, including a bone marrow transplant, my disease went into remission. My mortgage troubles however were far from over. 

Over the next 2 years, I sent in document after document to the bank, attended countless seminars with housing counseling agencies, and tried everything I could to obtain a loan modification, all while still in a wheelchair from the pain I was suffering. My family and I even fell victim to so called “foreclosure rescue” groups, paying them over $3000 to assist us. Finally in early 2012, I received a letter from the executive VP of Wells Fargo assuring me that they were working on my case. I felt a sense of hope at the prospect of finally getting some relief. 

Much to my surprise, I received a letter a few weeks later from US Bank, claiming they had purchased my home at auction, and demanding that I vacate the property. Despite their assurances that they were working on my case, it seemed Wells Fargo had moved forward with the foreclosure. My family, including my four young grandchildren who now live with me, were faced with being put out of the home we love. 

This began my next battle with US Bank, who is demanding that my family vacate the property immediately, even refusing to sell it back to friends and family members who were more than willing to purchase the home back from them. Desperate to put off the eviction and find a way to stay in my home, I filed for bankruptcy in August which granted me a temporary stay from the eviction. The stress of all this has caused my cancer to come out of remission, and I am now having to resume aggressive treatment to fight it. Now US Bank is taking me to court to demand the judge lift the stay, allow them to evict my family, and to force us to pay their legal fees on top of it. 

Please sign my petition asking US Bank to stop their attempts to evict me, and to work out a deal that allows me to stay in my home."
Link to petition
Link to Monday's Press Conference Details

Friday, October 5, 2012

You Can Help Save My Home From Wells Fargo!

Since this June you've all helped keep me in my home and given a voice to the thousands struggling in the Atlanta metro area. As a result of the pressure all of you helped put onto Wells Fargo, they called me last month and said they were given authorization to work on a loan modification.  It was historic news considering the fact that they had already foreclosed on my home! When you’re as low as I was at the time, any good news is elating; I honestly thought I had won!

I didn't, and Wells Fargo has been dragging their feet in what feels like a waiting game. I was supposed to get word on my modification yesterday. It looks like my time is running out; while Wells Fargo takes their time on my modification I could be evicted any day now.

Can you help give Wells Fargo another push to make a deal that keeps me in my home? I’m not asking for a handout, I have money to pay, and the last thing my neighborhood needs is another empty house. One phone call can make a huge difference.

Can you help me win a victory for the 99%?
Here's how you can help today:

 Call Mike Heid: Please call Mike Heid, President of Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, at (515) 213-6117 and demand that he make a deal to keep me in my home. Here's what you can say:"Make the modificationt  to keep Edmond Steve Boudreaux (Loan #00006391834) in his home. Accept his payments instead of leaving another empty house in our communities."

In Gratitude,
Steve Boudreaux