Help JoSelf Freeman Deliver A Message to Bank of America!

Joself Freeman has been fighting to save his home from Bank of America for months. Frustrated by the lack of response he was receiving, he penned a heartfelt letter to the bank, and has yet to receive a reply. Occupy Our Homes Atlanta hopes that with the help of supporters around the country, they can get Bank of America’s attention, and get JoSelf the response he deserves. 

From OOHA:

 

A couple of weeks ago, Joself penned a heartfelt letter to an executive at the bank, pleading with them not to take his home. He sent the letter off, and has yet to hear a response back from the bank. We think he deserves a reply. Can you help us make sure they get the message? We’ve included the letter at the bottom of this post, but you can also download a version for easier printing by clicking here. You can choose to do one or all of the options below!

 1.) Print a copy of this letter and deliver it to your local Bank of America branch. Get a group of friends together, or go by yourself. Speak to a teller, or if you can, ask to speak to a branch manager. Tell them you’re concerned about the way they are treating Mr. Freeman, and that you want to make sure this letter gets to where it’s supposed to go. 

2.) Like Bank of America’s Facebook page (we know, it hurts, but you can unlike it later). https://www.facebook.com/BankofAmerica

Copy and paste the letter on their wall, or post it on your own timeline and tag Bank of America in the post. Post it in the comments of their posts. Let’s blow up their Facebook page with the letter. 

3.) Email the letter to the following addresses at Bank of America:

brian.t.moynihan@bankofamerica.com

janay.carswell@bankofamerica.com 

ron.d.sturzenegger@bankofamerica.com 

tj.crawford@bankofamerica.com 

diane.wagner@bankofamerica.com 

nicole.nastacie@bankofamerica.com 

britney.w.sheehan@bankofamerica.com 

colleen.haggerty@bankofamerica.com 

pressroom@bankofamerica.com 

dan.b.frahm@bankofamerica.com 

jumana.bauwens@bankofamerica.com 

rick.simon@bankofamerica.com 

patrick.donaldson@bankofamerica.com 

scott.silvestri@bankofamerica.com 

4.) Fax a copy of the letter to 1-866-449-4515. In the cover letter, explain your concern and that you want Bank of America to work out a deal that keeps Joself in his home.


 

 

Hernandez Family & Supporters Evicted on Day After Christmas

In the early morning hours of December 26, one day after Christmas, the sheriff and LAPD, accompanied by representatives from Bank of America, evicted the Hernandez family and their supporters from their home. The home, known as ‘Fort Hernandez’, had been occupied as part of an ongoing eviction defense for over 120 days. Below is a message that was put out a few days before the eviction took place:

Peace go with you brothers and sisters,

Today we received news that the sheriffs are coming to forcibly evict us from our home of seven years on Monday December 24, Christmas Eve, at 7 in the morning. This despite the fact that we have had our chapter 13 repayment plan approved by the bankruptcy trustee, and even made our first payment, men with guns are still coming to throw our family out. The sheriffs will not do this on their own volition, the Bank of New York Mellon, an investment bank that bought our loan from Bank of America, who themselves acquired it from Countrywide financial is ordering them to act as soon as possible, in order to do what they agreed to BOA they would do, hide the fraud BOA, as the owner of Countrywide is responsible for. (A summary of an audit of the loan is posted below.)

We were tricked into foreclosure by BOA, who told us that our loan modification would be given priority, if we were to fall into default. Desperate to keep our small piece of the American dream, as we could not sustain the newly increased monthly payments, we followed the banks advice. When we missed the first payment, BOA began the foreclosure process, and would no longer accept any payments from us, all the while pretending to work with us to modify our loan. Over 5 years, and 4 denied loan mods, they told us in no uncertain terms that, no matter what, they intended to take our family home. This is the terror our family has survived for 5 years.

119 days ago, on the last day of our 5 day notice of eviction, we invited our friends and family to help us construct a barricade around our property, as a symbolic defense against the armed men the bank was sending to enforce the theft of our house. We did this not only to defend our home, and our family, but to inspire you to defend your home, your family, and your basic human right to housing.

A holiday message from home occupier Marc Simon

Marc Simon and his mother Pearl have been fighting Fannie Mae and JP Morgan Chase to keep Pearl’s home of over 50 years. Marc created a campaign on Start2.OccupyOurHomes.org to build organizing power around their case. So far, they’ve been able to keep their home, but they’re not out of the woods yet.

Marc emailed us a holiday note and asked that it be shared with the Occupy Our Homes community of activists. It is copied below.

Hello, Housing Justice Advocates and Kind People,

Looking out the front windows in my home that I share with my elderly mother Pearl on the eve of Christmas, the scene looks unusually magical: a combination of snow and ice has gathered within nearby maple and evergreen trees, creating a scene that seems as it were pulled out of one of those family Christmas specials that have run for decades on TV. Add in the tinsel and lights on some of these trees, and it is especially enchanting. For five decades now, my mother and I have seen an attractive holiday-season spectacle out of our front windows, but this holiday season, the decorations, snow and ice seem to have come together to make it especially memorable for us.

For those following the OccupyOurHomes.com website, it is apparent that this holiday season, we nearly did not get treated to this sort of magical spectacle. An unmanageable mortgage loan solicited to my late father a few years before he died created an odyssey of difficulty for us that I would not wish for any of my neighbors to go through. Even last year’s spectacle of eagerly looking out the front window was nearly short-circuited for us: the big bank that pushed that mortgage loan – with the loan especially becoming unmanageable after my father died — gave us a December 25, 2011 evacuation date in a letter. It is a small miracle that we are able to see December 25, 2012, in all its frosty, magical glory, out of our front window this year.

If there is any God out there, it is perhaps due to him working a bit of magic on the fellow working from “the other team” who was given the highly unusual task of carrying out a summary eviction almost as soon as the judicial order to allow this was received. Evictions are quite rarely locally carried out this way, and the attorney who was asked to do this to us simply could not throw out an 86-year-old disabled woman, who had been in her home for 52 years, in this manner. My own attorney explained to me that both he and that other fellow are Rotarians – people in the business world who are held to an ethical code in how they conduct business and life. One doesn’t need to try to provide “product placement” to any fraternal nonprofit group out there to say that this action does speak well of the Rotary International in how its members have chosen to obey its ethical code, and put the community welfare at the top of the list in how they conduct themselves to others in their communities.

My Christmas/holiday wish out there is for more people in the financial and legal world to “be Rotarian in spirit” and to realize that leaving a bad taste in people’s mouths through the pushing of unmanageable financial products, which may well return robust quick profits, is probably not the best way for banks and other financial institutions to cultivate lifetime customers. After all, after the kind of experience that I and my mother went through, who would even want to have a basic checking account at one of these institutions? Maybe one day, these institutions will see that “a different way” is not only the right thing to do, but is actually good for business in the long term as well.

This is my wish, along with hoping that anyone facing foreclosure is able to keep their homes if they wish to do so, and that even people facing post-eviction trauma, such as the Vinjes who have graced this website with their sad saga, can find peace and hopefully even get their homes back if at all reasonably possible. In my previous personal comments written here, I indicated that I would rather take a proactive as opposed to a reactive stance in regards to housing justice. As a New Year’s resolution, keep posted here: I have something special, as a spinoff from my academic work as a student, that I think is innovative and can help in that regard, to be posted as a link to the “Start2” OccupyOurHomes website. It has tools and concepts that would be more valuable to all concerned – even to the financial and housing institutions out there – than my and my mother’s foreclosed house in their possession, I humbly feel. (And, by the way, I love feedback and suggestions!) Keep posted!

Again, best wishes to all…and for now, I and my mother still have that magical window scene to inspire us — and give us hope…. –Regards/Peace, Marc Simon

Occupy Fights Foreclosure Moves Family Back Into Home for the Holidays

Earlier this month, Soledad Corona and her teenage daugther were evicted from their Los Angeles home, despite Bank of America’s commitment to hold off on evictions until after the holidays. 

Yesterday, activists with Occupy Fights Foreclosure joined the Corona family and moved them back into their home. 

From the press release issued by OFF: 

On December 14, 2012 Bank of America breached their promise to our country that there would be no evictions during the holidays and evicted Soledad Corona, a single mother with a teenager, at gun point. In response, Occupy activists will help the mother to take back her house because Bank of America has failed to provide an explanation of this breach to their representative.

Soledad will then be joined by community members and barricade themselves to demand attention and justice to their case until the home is returned to the rightful owners: the Corona family.

Occupy Fights Foreclosures, a subcommittee of Occupy LA, is dedicated to end the bank abuse against home owners, the families, and the communities in which they live. “I have worked closely with dozens of home owners. I have seen widespread abuse by financial institutions that continue their financial terrorism against working families,” says Carlos Marroquin, “Unless we resist, abuses will continue.”

Read more and follow this story here. 

 

Evicted Family Moves into Vacant Home for the Holidays

This Christmas, there will be one less vacant home and one less family on the streets. In a season when home and family take priority over greed for Scrooge, the Grinch, and even major banks, Occupy Homes MN has moved a homeless family, evicted after US Bank refused to negotiate their mortgage, into a vacant home for the holidays.

They are asking Minneapolis-based US Bank, who also refused to modify the mortgage for the vacant home, to turn over the home to community control through a nonprofit to provide housing for families in need.

“Whatever happens, we’re just grateful not to be living out of our car and to have somewhere warm to spend our holidays with our 12-year-old son and two dogs,” said Carrie Martinez, whose family was evicted by 24 sheriffs in October after a 9-month campaign by her in-laws, veteran John Vinje and his wife Lucinda Adams, asking US Bank to negotiate a reasonable solution to keep them in their home. “We are asking US Bank to turn this home over so it can benefit the community instead of sitting vacant, attracting crime, and lowering the property values for the neighborhood.”

Riot Charges Dismissed, Occupy Homes MN Looks to Legal Action Against City

From Occupy Homes MN: 

After 50 supporters packed the courtroom, Hennepin County judges Monday dismissed riot charges against all four Occupy defendants. Each defendant accepted a plea deal to a misdemeanor that will not go on their record pending successful completion of community service and a year’s probation. 

On May 30, fifteen community supporters were arrested in a peaceful protest, many linking arms and sitting on the front stoop of the foreclosed Cruz family home. The Cruz family fell into foreclosure due to a bank error, and though their original lender was willing to work with them, Freddie Mac insisted on pursuing their eviction. Dozens of police came to evict the home, just one night after Mayor RT Rybak and City Attorney Susan Segal told Freddie Mac the city was not in the foreclosure business and they would have to secure the contested property themselves. Many of the protesters were then charged with third-degree riot, a violent crime.

 

 

M&T Eviction Leaves Another Vacant Home In Atlanta

On the D6, a national day of action for housing justice that took place on December 6, Occupy Our Homes Atlanta helped move a homeless family into a bank owned home in the Pittsburgh Community of Atlanta. Last week, M & T Bank, who now owns the home after foreclosing on it earlier this year, moved to evict the family from the home. 

From an email to supporters sent by Occupy Our Homes Atlanta: 

In Southwest Atlanta neighborhoods, vacant homes are a fact of life. These neighborhoods have been emptied by the foreclosure a crisis and banks now own about 25% of all property in the neighborhood, much of it sitting empty or unused. At the same time, our homeless population continues to grow. There are currently seven empty homes for every homeless person in Atlanta. On December 6, we took a step to correct that ratio. Occupy Our Homes Atlanta members, Reneka and Michelene, along with their two children, Dillon and Jahla, who have been without a home for the last six months, moved into a vacant home owned by M & T Bank and demanded that it be turned over to a non-profit. This home should be controlled by the community it’s in, not Wall Street. 

Our bold and exciting action asserted not only the rights of people to stay in their homes, but the rights of communities to take control of vacant homes that the bank has foreclosed on and put them to good use– like providing shelter to a homeless family. We occupied the house at 1043 Windsor Street for two reasons. 1)To provide shelter for a family that had none, 2)to keep yet another home in Pittsburgh from being stripped bare and being used for drugs, prostitution, or even rape. 

However, instead of responding to our numerous attempts at communication, M & T Bank flew representatives down from Buffalo, NY, to evict the family, board up the house, and ensure that their vacant home is not put to good use. 

 

 

 


 

D6 Day of Action Live Updates

Go below the fold for photos and videos from these updates. 

4:22am Update:

Occupy Our Homes Atlanta has posted a video and update of their action today:

On December 6th members of Occupy Our Homes ATL took from a bank something they’ve been stealing from people for decades: a home. In Atlanta’s Pittsburgh neighborhood, which stands at least 50% vacant, a displaced family moved themselves into a bank-owned home. The desired outcome is that M&T Bank give the home to Higher Ground Empowerment Center’s non-profit, and that the home then be taken off the market and be put into community control. (Higher Ground Empowerment Center is a church that activists saved from foreclosure and displacement in January of 2012)

 

2:08am Update:

Here’s a more detailed update from California about the successful eviction defense this morning of the Ponce family home by Occupy Sacramento, Occupy Woodland, Occupy Stockton, and Occupy Davis:

Occupy Sacramento, Occupy Woodland, Occupy Stockton, Occupy Davis passed the first hurdle (day 1) of defending the Ponce family from their D6 scheduled eviction.  The sheriff did not show up!  We’re not out of the woods yet, they still have 2 days to attempt to lock out the Ponces.

The Ponces qualified for a HAMP modification in 2011; they made all their payments during the temp mod, and were approved for a permanent mod.  Wells Fargo made a mistake during approval of the permanent mod paperwork–and instead of fixing the mistake, they insisted that the Ponces reapply! They were assured that they were in no danger of losing their home. Unfortunately, Wells Fargo was at the same time foreclosing on them (classic dual tracking).  Ultimately, their house was sold to an investment firm before the second HAMP could be finalized.

We believe that Wells Fargo should honor its agreement to modify their loan–especially since recent changes to Keep Your Home California have made it easier for the Ponces to get a prinicipal reduction and affordable payments.

 

 

12:24am Update:

On a day where the Michigan state legislature waged a major assault on the 99% and workers’ rights, we have some good news from Detroit, where a coalition of housing groups including Moratorium NOW! and Detroit Eviction Defense won a victory for the Cullors family.

After blocking the eviction, filling the dumpster with leaf bags, marching on the bank, and packing the courtroom, we have persuaded Fannie Mae to withdraw its eviction order against the Cullors family and sell the mortgage back to Bank of America. BOA will modify the mortgage to keep the Cullors in their home. We can’t know at this point what the modification will amount to, and we’ll pressure the bank to reduce principal. But even with these pending issues, it’s great news.

 

 

11:54pm Update:

Occupy Homes MN took a home in South Minneapolis! They have a long post up explaining the day’s actions, but here’s an excerpt of how the community gave the home to retired veteran John Vinje, who was made homeless by foreclosure:

200 community members successfully took over a vacant home in south Minneapolis Thursday night for a veteran made homeless by foreclosure, demanding that the house be turned over to community control through a nonprofit, as the Occupy Homes movement marked its first birthday. Internationally renowned hip-hop artists Brother Ali and Chuck D of Public Enemy led the anniversary celebration. 

Homelessness in Hennepin County is at a six-year-high, a near-crisis situation, and one in four people experiencing homelessness is a veteran. Nationwide, there are 3.5 million homeless people–and nearly 19 million vacant homes. “Why not put homeless people, or people who have gone through foreclosure like us, into these vacant homes?” asked John Vinje. “At least they’ve got somewhere safe and warm to live.”

Before he performed inside Bobby’s house, Brother Ali, who made headlines in June for his arrest defending the Cruz house, spoke movingly about the time he and his son spent homeless. “Anyone who’s lived in a house that the police have smashed through, where someone comes into your house with a gun, you know that traumatizes you for life. I still have to sleep away from the door when I stay in a hotel.”

The community then marched to a nearby home made vacant by the foreclosure crisis, where John Vinje told the story of how US Bank and Freddie Mac foreclosed on and then evicted him rather than modify his loan–in spite of theirprograms to help veterans. “Because of US Bank and Freddie Mac, my family is now split up in three different parts of the metro area,” he said. “It wasn’t my fault. It wasn’t your fault. It was their fault. This is not the country that I fought for.”

50 people were still in the house as of 9 pm. “Whose house?” they chanted. “Our house!”

11:46pm Update:

From Philadelphia, where the community groups PhARE and PUP took on Wells Fargo and got a meeting for a homeowner in crisis:

At noon PhARE was joined with PUP and a local homeowner to demand answers for Wells Fargo’s destructive banking and mortgage servicing policies.  

Meet John: a small construction business owner, father and homeowner struggling with a Wells Fargo mortgage over the last three years.  Today John got a chance to meet face to face with a Wells Fargo rep and demand real answers.

The power of numbers got John an appointment and contact information for a mortgage servicing agent at Wells Fargo.  But that’s not enough.  As the governator said best, we’ll be back.  If 5 people can get a meeting, imagine what 20 will yield.

 

6:24pm Update:

Possibly my favorite sign of the day, seen in Los Angeles at a protest with Occupy Fights Foreclosures and ACCE: “The time has come. The banks will fall. Stay tuned.”

6:16pm Update:

Here’s a live stream recorded of the action at the Castle Stawaiski Law firm in Denver by Occupy Denver and the Colorado Foreclosure Resistance Coalition. 

6:10pm Update:

Housing activists and MORE members in St. Louis protested at Wells Fargo. Here’s an update from the action:

“We got into a Wells Fargo lobby in St. Louis… the exact location is actually Missouri’s financial capital. We executed a “people’s foreclosure” and then started auctioning off their stuff to the highest bidder.”

5:27pm Update:

Over 60 activists turned out in San Francisco to protest at Wells Fargo, occupying a branch in the Bayview district with ACCE and the Home Defenders League.

5:18pm Update:

In Chicago, activists are inside with Pat Hill with a big banner for her court date to keep her home.

3:58pm Update:

Occupy Our Homes Atlanta has moved a homeless family into a vacant, bank-owned home. There’s one less homeless family on the streets and one less vacant home. The community is helping plant a new garden in front of the house.

2:53pm Update:

Here’s a recorded live stream from Occupy Sacramento’s action this morning at the Ponce residence, in Woodland, CA. Here’s some background info: 

 

Calling Wells Fargo Bank a “Grinch” trying to steal Christmas from the Ponce family (couple and 4 children),  Occupy anti-foreclosure activists from Sacramento, Davis, Woodland, Stockton and Marin began the defense of the home of Alma and Heriberto Ponce, THURSDAY, 6 a.m. at 1543 Paradise Valley Drive in Woodland. Yolo County Deputies are expected to enforce the eviction.

Last May, Occupy foreclosure action teams successfully defended the Ponce Family home after the bank foreclosed, even though the had been approved for a loan modification. Wells Fargo backed off from the eviction because of the publicity.

Wells Fargo made a mistake on the final modification paperwork for the Ponces and before it could be corrected, the house was sold in foreclosure, even though the bank assured the family everything was all right because they had successfully completed the trial modification period and received the final HAMP modification. This is an example of “dual tracking”, which will be illegal in California on January 1, 2013, when the Homeowner Bill of Rights takes effect.

Occupy Sacramento members have contacted Wells Fargo numerous times, suggesting a win/win/win solution which would benefit the bank and the investor who bought the house, as well as keeping the Ponces in their home. Wells Fargo refused; consequently the Ponces face eviction.

 

2:27pm Update

The Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign has set up a tent city in downtown Chicago. Visuals here, here and here

1:35pm Update

Occupy Our Homes Atlanta flash action today at Bank of America in support of Joself Freeman’s fight for his home. Sign and share Joself’s petition here

11:32am Update

One year after the Pittman family started occupying their home with Occupy Our Homes Atlanta, they can claim victory in their home!

Original post

Happy birthday, Occupy Our Homes! Today communities around the country are turning the spotlight on the crisis that continues to hold our neighborhoods and our economy hostage as part of the Occupy Our Homes movement’s national day of action to Reclaim Our Homes and Reclaim Our Future.

Actions are taking place in Atlanta, Minneapolis, Chicago, St. Louis, Denver, Baltimore, Detroit, San Francisco, Sacramento, Los Angeles, Oakland, San Diego, Richmond CA, Lake Worth FL, Greensboro NC, Mendham NJ, and other cities.

We will update this post throughout the day with details from actions taking place around the country.

Minneapolis: Evicted Veteran to Move into Vacant Home on #D6

After a year-long Occupy Homes campaign for a renegotiated loan, Vietnam veteran John Vinje and his wife Lucinda Adams chose to peacefully leave their home on their October eviction date. US Bank and Freddie Mac sent 24 sheriff’s deputies to make sure they didn’t change their minds. John, Lucinda, and their adult children are now living in unstable, uncertain circumstances.

But this experience has only strengthened their resolve to fight back. As Lucinda says, “This is not over yet.” On December 6, we will reclaim a vacant home and move in a family made homeless by the foreclosure crisis. Join us on Thursday to escalate our fight for housing justice.

D6: ‘Reclaim Our Homes, Reclaim Our Future’

On Thursday December 6th 2012, communities around the country are turning the spotlight on the crisis that continues to hold our neighborhoods and our economy hostage as part of the Occupy Our Homes movement’s national day of action to Reclaim Our Homes and Reclaim Our Future.

Tomorrow, Occupy activists and housing justice allies are taking action to mark the first anniversary of this movement to defend our homes, hold Wall Street accountable, and affirm the human right to housing.

Actions will be taking place in Atlanta, Minneapolis, Chicago, St. Louis, Denver, Baltimore, Detroit, San Francisco, Sacramento, Los Angeles, Oakland, San Diego, Richmond CA, Lake Worth FL, Greensboro NC, Mendham NJ, and other cities, to be announced.

“Occupy Our Homes began with the simple idea of bringing the bold energy of the Occupy movement into communities facing housing crisis to build power through victories for the 99%,” said Nick Espinosa, an organizer with Minneapolis-based Occupy Homes MN. “Over the last year, we’ve fought back against the banks, stopping evictions and winning homes, churches and community landmarks, while relieving debt and reclaiming land.”

(More below the fold)