‘Occupy Homes’ Anti-Foreclosure Activist Fights to Save Mom’s Home

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Citibank Refuses to Accept Minneapolis Mom’s Mortgage Payments; Home to be Auctioned Wednesday Sign and Share Petition: http://www.change.org/petitions/citibank-negotiate-with-our-family-to-stop-our-foreclosure-and-eviction 

Minneapolis—For months, Colleen McKee Espinosa, a single mother of three—including Nick Espinosa, a volunteer organizer who has helped other homeowners fight foreclosure—has repeatedly asked Citibank officials to allow her to catch up on her mortgage and keep her home. But Citibank still has the home scheduled to be auctioned off at a sheriff’s foreclosure sale this Wednesday, June 13th, at 9am.
McKee Espinosa, a registered nurse, has been in her home for 16 years. Last year, she attempted to pay her Citibank mortgage to catch up on two past-due payments on the indicated due date. The bank told her the home had already been sent into foreclosure.
“I’ve come up with the money I owe them but they refuse to take it,” McKee Espinosa said.Colleen’s son Nick Espinosa is a volunteer organizer for the group Occupy Homes Minnesota, a group that has waged successful campaigns that saved the homes of Monique White and US Marine veteran Bobby Hull. Despite her son’s activism, Colleen McKee Espinosa was initially reluctant to speak publicly about her case. But as she faced the impending loss of her home, McKee Espinosa joined forces with other homeowners and Occupy Homes activists to begin a community campaign to ask Citibank to negotiate a fair settlement that would let her keep her home and finish paying a mortgage that, until recently, had only six years of payments left.
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The Mckee Espinosa family kicks off their campaign to save their home

After media coverage in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the blog Crooks and Liars, and other outlets, Citibank officials contacted the family, and assured them they were doing everything they could to resolve the case, assigning them a contact in the “executive response unit.” Despite this, the bank is moving to auction the home at a sheriff’s sale this Wednesday at City Hall, after which time the bank would have no legal obligation to work with the family. “My mother has struggled her whole life to keep our family afloat, while teaching my siblings and me about hard work, fairness, and giving back,” said Nick Espinosa. “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.” The family has seen a huge outpouring of support from the community since the campaign started. McKee Espinosa’s union of 20,000 nurses statewide, The Minnesota Nurses Association, St. Anthony East Neighborhood Association, and hundreds of neighbors have called for Citibank to negotiate with the family, signing an online petition asking Citibank to work out an agreement with the family. Most neighbors on the block have sent letters to Citibank and display yard signs in support of the family.

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Cruz Home “Reoccupied” by Mpls Police, Supporters Pray for Justice

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(More photos below)
This afternoon the Cruz family, neighbors and supporters held hands and surrounded 30 police in the front yard of their home while Pastor Todd Mathison of Ebenezer Lutheran Church led a prayer for justice for the Cruz family and a swift return to their home.
They then held a barbecue in the parking lot of the Ebenezer Lutheran Church, located directly across the street from the home, to celebrate the one-month anniversary of the occupation of their foreclosed home. As the occupation began, supporters declared they would not leave until PNC Bank and Freddie Mac negotiated with the family to keep them in their home.
“We have continued to negotiate with PNC Bank and Freddie Mac to find a solution to keep our family in the home, but until we see action we are not giving up this struggle for our family and for the millions of families all over the country losing their homes because greedy banks would rather throw people out than work with them,” said David Cruz.
Supporters of the Cruz family were disturbed to find their home under occupation by a massive police force of over 30 Minneapolis police officers with batons, bicycles, over two dozen marked and undercover squad cars and a paddy wagon which blocked two alleys, preventing one neighbor from leaving his home. A mobile spy camera was also posted on the corner of 41st and Cedar.
“The ongoing waste of thousands of public dollars by Mayor Rybak and his police to serve as taxpayer-funded private security for Freddie Mac shows that our city is more concerned with protecting banks than keeping families in their homes,” said Martha Ockenfels-Martinez, an organizer with Occupy Homes MN.

“If you look at the people protecting the Cruz home, it’s average everyday people. It’s regular folks who share a common interest in doing the right thing. The house has been occupied for weeks and they were quiet and respectful. It wasn’t until the police arrived en masse that the problems started,” said neighbor Sasha Lindquist. “Everybody knows somebody who’s going through this foreclosure mess, it’s an epidemic.”

Twenty-three have been arrested during five eviction attempts in the last week as part of an ongoing defense of the Cruz family’s home that has garnered national attention. Fourteen were arrested defending 4044 Cedar Avenue Wednesday night amid a sea of Minneapolis police officers, only 24 hours after Mayor Rybak’s office, facing mounting public pressure, issued a news release declaring “the City is not in the foreclosure business.” In the statement, City Attorney Susan Segal is quoted saying “The City plays a limited role to protect public safety. The property is the responsibility of its owner… In this case, the City has fulfilled its legal obligation to secure the property.”
“If PNC Bank and Freddie Mac have not come up with a solution for the Cruz family by Monday, June 11th at 12pm we will take back the home again,” said Nick Espinosa, who was arrested along with 13 others linking arms and sitting outside the home Wednesday night.
Occupy Homes MN is calling for national escalation of pressure on local PNC Bank and Freddie Mac offices. Protests are planned on behalf of the Cruz family Monday in Washington, D.C. at Freddie Mac’s headquarters and in Pittsburgh at PNC Bank headquarters. Last week supporters led protests at Freddie Mac’s regional headquarters in Chicago and PNC Bank’s national headquarters in Pittsburgh, leading to one citation.
Freddie Mac, the current holder of the Cruz family’s mortgage, has hired 24-hour private security who were not present today.

As of 8pm over a dozen Minneapolis police officers continued to guard the home.
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Protesters “Foreclose” on Local Freddie Mac Conference

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Protesters demanded that Freddie Mac and PNC return the embattled Cedar Avenue home to the Cruz family.

Thursday, June 07, 2012, Bloomington, MN– Before the plates were cleared from the luncheon, Freddie Mac trainers and dozens of conference attendees were startled by a group of Occupy Homes protesters who taped off the entrance and plywooded the doors to their scheduled “Default Servicing Workshop.”

A dozen protesters chanted in call-and-response: “This is a crime scene, and Freddie Mac is the criminal. They have been conspiring with PNC Bank and countless others to profit off of families getting thrown out of their homes.” Yellow caution tape reading “occupy” was unrolled, emulating the pitched confrontations Minneapolis police have had at the Cruz family home on Cedar Ave in recent weeks.

“We demand that you work with PNC Bank to get the Cruz family in their home,” protesters cheered. As Marriott hotel security escorted the protesters out, they chanted “Eviction stops here!”

The Cruz family fell behind on payments during tough economic times. According to Occupy activist Nick Espinosa, the bank failed to withdraw an online payment due to a glitch in its own system. Instead it demanded a multiple-month payment, and when the Cruz family was unable to oblige, the home went into foreclosure. Recently, the family and protesters have grabbed headlines by repeatedly blocking the sheriff’s eviction, resulting in 23 arrests and massive MPD force to secure the modest home.

Freddie Mac, which owns the title to scores of foreclosed homes like the Cruz home, visited the Twin Cities region to host a week-long training for its servicers to help them manage through the housing recession and, according to the event’s web site, “avoid preventable foreclosure.”

“If Freddie Mac is committed to avoiding preventable foreclosure, they need to work with families like the Cruzes who can afford to pay their mortgage,” said Cat Salonek, an organizer with Occupy Homes MN. “Freddie Mac and PNC have the power to return the Cruz family home today.”

Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9-u2KN9kKEs

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