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GADC hosts citywide foreclosure briefing

It was all about forging partnerships for the fight against foreclosures as more than 40 activist lawyers, mortgage counselors and community leaders gathered in Auburn Gresham on the Monday before Halloween to share tactics and strategies.

“It’s so good to see so many people in this room who really care,” said Pastor Glenola Lashley of Crusaders Ministry and an Auburn Gresham mainstay.

Photo: Ernest Sanders

The MacArthur Foundation and LISC-NCP have created a Foreclosure Response Fund that has made initial grants to seven NCP lead agencies.

Looking around the meeting room of the Levezzorio Community Center at SOS Village, 76th and Parnell streets, she expressed what was on the minds of many.

“Together we can reach out and touch the people. In this element, with all the foreclosures, people don’t trust,” Lashley said. “They don’t trust the lenders. They don’t trust the [debt consolidators] calling from out-of-state. They need someone they can trust.”

Following a “Taste of Auburn Gresham” soul buffet provided by local restaurants, discussion leader Deborah Moore, who directs the local office of Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago, introduced State Sen. Jacqueline Collins (D-16th), who gave a brief history of legislative efforts to fight predatory lending … and the foreclosures that result.

“Nobody cared about the problem when it only impacted communities of color,” said the lawmaker, who chairs the senate’s Financial Institutions Committee. “And now I’m not happy with the way they [in Congress] are bailing out the big banks.”

Photo: Ernest Sanders

GADC executive director Carlos Nelson chats with other attendees. 

Collins is sponsoring a bill in Springfield that would place a moratorium on new foreclosures until counseling and refinancing programs are put in place to help owners afford their homes … and keep renters in their apartments.

The October 27 session was part of a monthly series convened by LISC/Chicago and NCP. In response to the foreclosure crisis, the MacArthur Foundation and LISC-NCP have created a Foreclosure Response Fund that has made initial grants to seven NCP lead agencies, including NCP lead agency the Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corp. (GADC).

The idea is to reach out to homeowners—and renters—facing foreclosure and steer them to certified mortgage counselors who, depending on circumstances, will connect them with free legal assistance and affordable refinancing. If the root problem is lack of employment and income, folks are steered to a Center for Working Families for job counseling and referrals.

Photo: Ernest Sanders

Mike Tomas, NCP director at the Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance, makes a point. 

RealtyTrac, a national online foreclosure information service, recently counted 1,147 residences in Auburn Gresham’s 60620 ZIP code either in pre-foreclosure, up for sheriff’s auction, or already taken back by lenders.

“We’re trying to stop this plague that is occurring nationwide,” said Ernest Sanders, GADC’s NCP organizer, told the group. GADC has been reaching out with flyers, posters, T-shirts and, most effectively, a foreclosure information booth set up at more than 70 events this past summer … from small block club barbecues, to the 79th Street Renaissance Fair.

The Rev. Rodney Walker, executive director of neighboring NCP agency Teamwork Englewood, said a consortium of 24 churches are is delivering the anti-foreclosure message there, both at Sunday services and at special events such as a recent major rally at Kennedy-King College.

Photo: Ernest Sanders

The October 27 session was part of a monthly series convened by LISC/Chicago.

Michelle Winding, an organizer with NCP lead agency Lawndale Christian Development Corp., said 80 percent of those impacted foreclosures in her West Side neighborhood are renters in 2- to 6-unit apartment buildings.

Lawyers such as Mark Swartz of Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing and Jim Brady of the Legal Assistance Foundation urged mortgage counselors to steer folks in their direction when they encounter legal barriers.

Laws governing foreclosure and evictions are changing amid the crisis and it often takes a lawyer to keep up. Brady, however, urged local counselors to handle the financial and job counseling necessary if clients are to qualify for an affordable, fixed-rate mortgage.

“The financial part is the hardest for us,” he said. “We’re lawyers, not social workers.” For more information:
Ernest Sanders, GADC 773-483-3696
Deborah Moore, NHS, 773-488-2004 

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