Stopping Home Foreclosures in the Twin Ports

Frederick Douglas once said that “Power concedes nothing without a demand.” The validity of this statement was powerfully demonstrated by Project Save Our Home‘s recent, successful campaign to save the Dunbar’s family home from foreclosure.  

Project Save Our Homes is an activist group that was born from the Occupy Wall Street movement back in November of 2011.  We got our start trying to save Ann Lockwood of Duluth from getting her home foreclosed upon by State Farm Bank. Ann lost her leg in a workplace accident, and as a result of subsequent medical bills, fell behind on her mortgage payments.  But by raising a hue and cry, Project Save Our Homes was able to shame State Farm Bank into doing the right thing, and allowing Anne to stay in her home. 

Flush with excitement from our first victory, we next launched a campaign to save the Dunbar’s home from being foreclosed upon by U.S. Bank.  Chris & Krystal Dunbar, together with their three children, live in a South Superior home that has been in their family since the late 1800s.  Like millions of other Americans, they faithfully made their mortgage payments on time year after year, until Chris lost his job in the Recession.  Chris has since found work as an over the road trucker, but as a result of several missed payments, U.S. Bank notified the familyon Valentine’s Day that their house would be auctioned off in a sheriff sale at the end of March. 

For a while, things looked pretty grim.  The bank kept loosing the Dunbar’s paperwork, and repeatedly denied their request for a re-negotiated mortgage.  Tyler, Chris & Krystal’s nine year old son, said “I thought we might lose our house, and then we might have to move someplace else. I was sacred because I didn’t want to move away from my friends.”

But the community rallied together to keep the Dunbars in their home.  Project Save Our Homes mounted an ambitious petition drive that collected over 1500 signatures.  And a number of actions were held to put a spotlight on the Dunbar’s case to pressure the bank to cancel the foreclosure.  The most notable of which was a sit-in by children and their parents in the lobby of the downtown Duluth U.S. Bank office.  The kids, the Dunbar’s children among them, sat on the floor and drew pictures of houses under a banner that read “Kids Need Homes.”

The publicity that resulted from the campaign led U.S. Bank to make an initial offer to the Dunbars, but they initially refused to put it in writing.  With the assistance of Peter Greenlee, a local lawyer and activist who donated his services to the campaign, the Dunbars held out for a better deal.  A week later, on Krystal Dunbar’s birthday, the bank caved, and agreed to cancel the foreclosure, and offer them a deal in writing!  The breakthrough came just three days away from the date of the sheriff sale.

“I feel really good that I get to show my kids, the same things that I grew up with. Kicking over anthills and riding my bicycle up and down the ally here.” said Chris Dunbar at a victory celebration held on March 24 at the their home.  “If it weren’t for Project Save Our Homes, this wouldn’t have happened!” said Krystal Dunbar.

In Project Save Our Home’s view, what saved Ann Lockwood’s and the Dunbar’s homes was people power.  By mobilizing the whole community, everyday working people were able to put enough pressure on these big banks to get them to back down.  There is power in solidarity!While the Dunbar’s were thankful to PSOH, in actuality it was the whole community, working people coming together, that made it possible for the 99% to triumph over a “too big to fail” bank, that had steamrolled homeowners in the past.

But unfortunately the tidal wave of home foreclosures in continuing.  Project Save Our Homes has already hit the ground running with our third campaign, this one to save the home of MaryAnn Jones, and her special needs daughter Tracy.  MaryAnn fell behind her payments when she was faced with a mountain of medical bills resulting from her daughter getting cancer.  And like U.S. Bank, Wells Fargo has repeatedly messed up the paperwork, and refused to take MaryAnn and Tracy’s extenuating circumstances into account.  But unfortunately for Wells Fargo, MaryAnn is a fighter, and together with the growing network of Project Save Our Homes, justice will be done!

We humbly hope that our story provides people with the hope and inspiration to make a difference.  The big banks received hundreds of billions of dollars in tax payer money, while leaving working people and homeowners to bear the brunt of the economic crisis.  It’s not fair, and we believe that if we come together we can right this unjust situation.  With people power we can, and we will, consign home foreclosure to the dustbin of history!

> The article above was written by Jared Katzmark & Adam Ritscher of Project Save Our Homes.

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