By Sherry Hernandez, Member of Occupy San Pedro
On July 17, a group from Occupy Fight Foreclosures in Los Angeles met to attend the meeting of the County Board of Supervisors in hopes of addressing our hopes of getting a moratorium on foreclosures until the Homeowners Bill of Rights goes into effect.
Within the group were less than a handful of home buyers who wanted their grievances heard.
The meeting started with a clown. Yes, I mean a literal clown who dressed up to accuse the Board of Supervisors of being ineffective. He was an angry man who rambled through his 3-minutes jumping from one subject to another and redirecting back to his perceived ineptness of the Supervisors.
There were several agendas discussed at the meeting and those of us who wanted to address issues not on the regular agenda had to wait until the end, where customarily we would be given 3-minutes to address our concerns. However, July 17, the committee made a motion to reduce our time to one-minute each.
A group of more than 50 people were there to request that the money appropriated for building new prisons, instead be used for programs to help educate youth and get them into positive programs prior to becoming inmates in the prison facilities.
At long last, it was time for one from our group to go forward and address her grievances. Her name was Maricella, she had five children and a 92-year-old grandmother living with her. Her home was being foreclosed upon and she was asking for help. She was asking for an opportunity to save her home.
She did not speak English well, so she had an interpreter there to interpret her remarks. She wanted to save her home, she wanted a modification, no one was listening to her and she needed help.
The interpreter translated with an inflection in his tone that revealed his opinion that he thought this woman was less than worthy. It was somewhere within that moment and the ones that followed that I felt the imposition of hopelessness and distress that has been inflected on the home buyers in our country.
Maricella was dressed humbly in jeans and a t-shirt, she brought her five children with her. It was not difficult to decipher the opinion of the panel sitting with the board and they glanced impatiently around.
Gloria Molina, supervisor for the First District spoke to the woman impatiently, in Spanish, “Who told you to come here?” she demanded.
“I am with the Occupy movement,” Maricella looked back for support.
I was sitting next to Carlos Marroquin who is heading up the Occupy Fight Foreclosure action committee in Los Angeles. He is a hard working man with a genuine compassion for people. He has lost his own home to foreclosure and is determined to help others save theirs. He leaned over and whispered to me what was being said.
“Gloria Molina is not being very nice to this woman,” he said in hushed tones, “She is talking down to her.”
For the past 5 years I have seen the injustice of the propaganda perpetuated by Wall Street, “The home buyers got in over their heads, they got greedy.”
Then this myth is further exacerbated by the damage it causes. A woman, a mother, a hard worker, who believed that the lender was helping her to purchase a home, not setting her up to fail, begins to bend under the burden, she is offered a modification, and she sees hope only to be lured into foreclosure by the lenders that are still profiting from their fraud and because of their past reputations of trust and compliance. The lenders are still able to convince an uninformed public that the homebuyer is responsible for this mess.
This propaganda might even work when someone like Maricella, who cannot communicate in their language, stands before the Country Supervisors, struggling for the words to express her outrage and discouragement … but after Maricella came others, dressed in suits and ties, dressed like business personnel, asking for a moratorium on foreclosures, outlining the fraud by the lenders. Some had homes in distress, others did not, but all asked for a moratorium and were well-informed in their brief redress.
As we began to leave the auditorium of the Board meeting, a liaison for Gloria Molina came down the aisle and asked to speak to us. She told us Gloria wanted to set up a meeting with Maricella to see what she could do to help her. She sent her down to the Department of Consumer Affairs to make an appointment for counseling.
Too many home buyers are suffering in silence, like Maricella, they are afraid they will not be heard, and alone, they may not be, but if we stand together, we can make a difference, we can change the conversation from “deadbeat home buyers” to “Wall Street fraud.” We can change the course of history, or we can sit idly back until the thief comes to our door in the form of more lost equity in our homes or lost pension earnings as the lenders who are guilty of the fraud continue to grow richer.