Occupy Our Homes, a movement to protect families from foreclosures and evictions, has enjoyed a recent string of successes. In February, the group helped Helen Bailey, the 78-year-old former civil rights activist who was threatened with foreclosure by JPMorgan Chase while the company trumpeted its efforts to uphold Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy, to stay in her home following a successful campaign by Occupy Nashville.
The group also aided a Detroit husband and wife who spent months worrying they could be evicted from their home of twenty-two years. The couple received news they would be permitted to stay after an aggressive campaign that was led by members of Moratorium Now, Occupy Detroit and Homes Before Banks and included the family’s supporters blocking the contractor from placing a dumpster.
Additionally, Occupy Atlanta prevented the eviction of a family when two dozen protesters encamped on the family’s lawn, and Occupy Our Homes delayed another foreclosure in Rochester, as did Occupy Cleveland in November.
Most recently, Occupy Homes MN worked with a mother of one of the group’s organizers to keep her home.
Colleen McKee Espinosa is a nurse and a single mother of Nick Espinosa, an organizer working to prevent foreclosures in Minnesota. Espinosa said she was reluctant to ask the group for help because she felt “humiliated” by not being able to make the payments on her home.
McKee Espinosa says she overcame the shame when she realized it is the banks, and not homeowners, who should be ashamed for the mortgage foreclosure crisis.
McKee Espinosa was able to come up with money she owed the bank after falling behind on her payments, but Citibank refused to accept the money.
“My mother has struggled her whole life to keep our family afloat and give my siblings and I a better life than she had,” said Nick Espinosa at the time, “I’ve dedicated the last 8 months of my life to helping families fight against unjust foreclosures and the greedy banks that would rather leave homes vacant than work to keep families in their communities even after being bailed out with our tax dollars. CitiBank won’t be stealing the home I grew up in from my mom—it stops here.”
Following pressure from the group, Citibank has called off a sheriff’s auction on McKee Espinosa’s home and also agreed to reduce her monthly payments by one-third.
“I’m so relieved that my family’s home of 16 years will not be on the auction block tomorrow,” said McKee Espinosa in a press release from Occupy Homes MN. “We are grateful that Citibank has decided to accept my payments, and we look forward to signing the final paperwork.”
“I am deeply grateful to everyone from across the country who stood with our family as we fought our foreclosure,” said Nick Espinosa. “I’m inspired by the outpouring of community support, and it renews my commitment to stand with other families who are struggling to stay in their homes.”
Minnesota foreclosure activity was up 11 percent from March to April and 3 percent compared with last year, according to RealtyTrac.
McKee Espinosa admits she did not originally desire to be part of the Occupy movement.
“Nick tried to drag me to homeowners meetings,” McKee Espinosa told the Star Tribune. “I had heard their stories and thought they were naive idealists. I supported Nick, but thought that you couldn’t fight the banks.”
However, after seeing the movement’s success, she changed her mind.
“This negotiation represents a victory not just for our family, but for millions of families facing foreclosures across the country,” said Nick Espinosa. “Countless families could stay in their homes if banks simply modified their loans based on the actual market value and reduced their principal, instead of the price to which banks inflated them before they crashed our economy.… If they can fix it for our family, they can fix it for millions of others.”