After a public pressure campaign through Occupy Homes MN’s Foreclosure and Eviction Free Zone, Gayle Lindsey, a nursing assistant and grandmother in South Minneapolis who was facing imminent eviction, has won a modification of her mortgage from M&T Bank. Gayle’s victory came marks the seventh for Occupy Homes MN and the first in the Foreclosure and Eviction Free Zone, a project that brings neighbors in the Central and Powderhorn neighborhoods together to refuse to leave their homes without a fair negotiation.
Gayle, whose renegotiation came a month after her redemption period ended, is the first victory in “the Zone.” With the help of Occupy Homes MN, she organized a series of actions, community potlucks, and press appearances. Gayle got a call sitting at her kitchen table from an executive at M&T Bank, who offered to write Gayle a new affordable mortgage. “It shows that Occupy Homes MN works,” says Gayle. “I want to move on to more victories for the community.”
Since residents last month signed a Declaration of the Foreclosure and Eviction Free Zone, Gayle has won an eleventh-hour loan modification; Jessica English, a homeless mother living in a Wells Fargo-owned vacant property, has garnered stunning media coverage; and a series of actions demanding a renegotiation for Jaymie Kelly, a retired postal worker who has been paying her mortgage for 30 years, have received the attention of JP Morgan Chase executives. Three more residents are refusing to leave their homes as well. This marks a new chapter in the struggle to address the ongoing housing crisis.
Residents are now orienting around Jaymie Kelly, who could face eviction in late April. She has also publicly pledged not to move out of her home until her lender, JP Morgan Chase, agrees to work with her. Jaymie is a retired postal worker who has owned her current home for over 30 years. Last fall Chase sold the home to themselves for $81,000 at a sheriff sale--about a fifth of what Jaymie has paid for it over the years. “I want the same deal Chase gave to themselves,” Jaymie says.
Jaymie's campaign is already ramping up. Two weeks ago, she and over 60 supporters demanded a meeting with JP Morgan Chase corporate executives in downtown Minneapolis. Instead of agreeing to meet, Chase called the police. Last Wednesday, Jaymie gathered a handful of family members and staged a sit-in at JP Morgan Chase Home Mortgage Center. This time, the group intended to stay if the police came, and after two hours of waiting, the manager agreed to phone executives and discuss the case. In the end, JP Morgan Chase refused to offer Jaymie a new mortgage, even after acknowledging the gross predatory lending in her case.
Jaymie is not alone. She is supported by neighbors, residents, family members, and Occupy Homes. "That's the whole idea of the Foreclosure and Eviction Free Zone," says Occupy Homes organizer Chris Gray. "It's like a union. Our power is in each other. We want the banks to bargain with our neighborhood as equals."