VICTORY! St. Paul Lawyer Saves Own Home from Foreclosure with Occupy Homes MN

St. Paul, MN – Paul Lelii, a single father, attorney for his private law firm, and St. Paul homeowner, has been offered a principal reduction loan modification by Bank of America.

The news came after a targeted campaign Occupy Homes MN led against Bank of America, urging them to renegotiate with Paul and four other homeowners. So far four of the five have won renegotiations, including Ruby Brown of north Minneapolis and Frank Clark and Kristina Darrington of Coon Rapids.

“Paul has shown courage, strength and passion for eliminating foreclosures throughout St. Paul,” said Lauren Siegel, an organizer with Occupy Homes MN. “His victory shows that banks can and will stop foreclosure when they face enough pressure to do so.”

Paul bought his home in 2006 and spent countless hours making beautiful renovations to the home. But soon family health concerns and the challenges of running a private law practice in a tough economy made finances difficult. In February 2011, Paul suffered a heart attack and missed a mortgage payment. He immediately reached out to the bank to discuss a modification, but was unable to get a straight answer from Bank of America and US Bank.

Between the two banks, Paul submitted form after form and made countless calls to no avail. He was frustrated by their lack of response. “If I’m a lawyer and if I can’t fight them,” he wondered, “how can anybody else?”

Paul took the Occupy Homes pledge to remain in his home until he was offered a good faith negotiation. He has built support from friends, family, neighbors, city officials, Occupy St. Paul, and the Frogtown group Arts Resisting Foreclosure. “I’m doing this for my daughter Olivia,” said Paul. “I can’t disrupt her life with a move and I want to leave this house to her.”

Paul hopes to use his experience and legal skills to set up a Dispute Resolution Center to facilitate better communication between banks and foreclosed homeowners. “This is just one victory, but I’m not stopping here,” said Paul. “We need to set a precedent in St. Paul: no more foreclosures!”

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Brother Ali Celebrates Three Foreclosure Victories and National Housing Justice Activists with Backyard Concert and Tree Planting

Photos credit Daniel Yang

Housing justice activists from around the country joined community members, urban gardeners, and hip hop artists for a tree-planting ceremony and concert at Monique White’s north Minneapolis home Wednesday night. White was one of the first homeowners in the country to work with the Occupy movement to fight a foreclosure and pending eviction. Monique won her home after a seven-month campaign of community pressure against US Bank and Freddie Mac.

Forty-five housing justice activists in Minneapolis for a national Occupy Homes conference were excited to meet Monique, who has become a folk hero of the Occupy movement. “Monique White’s story has inspired people, certainly Occupy Wall Street in New York, and frankly all across the country,” said Han Shan, an organizer with Occupy Wall Street. “This work exemplifies the very best of Occupy Homes organizing.”

Fellow Northside foreclosure fighter Ruby Brown, who won her house two weeks ago, joined Monique in a ceremony planting a plum tree behind her garden. “The plum tree symbolizes hope and a commitment to stay rooted in our communities,” said Jillia Pessenda, an organizer with Occupy Homes MN and urban farmer. “It reminds us what is possible when we stand together to manifest the change we believe in. It is also a testament to Monique and her courage and grace that helped inspire the Occupy movement into neighborhoods across the country.”

The crowd of 200 raised fists in celebration when Frank Clark, a member of Monique’s union who helped build the 35W bridge, and his wife Kristina announced their own victory: Bank of America and Freddie Mac had agreed to renegotiate their mortgage after a four-month campaign with Occupy Homes, one day after their redemption period ended. “I’m proud to stand with my fellow laborer Monique,” said Frank, “and know we will both be in our homes for the rest of our lives.”

Internationally renowned hip hop artist Brother Ali, who was arrested in June in part of an ongoing Occupy Homes effort to save the Cruz home in south Minneapolis, hosted the event and gave a surprise performance at the end of a lineup that featured Toki Wright and I Self Devine. 

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VICTORY! Formerly Homeless Suburban Couple Wins Loan Modification to Stay in Home

Coon Rapids, MN — After a three-year foreclosure fight, a campaign with Occupy Homes MN, and an investigation by the Minnesota Attorney General, Bank of America and Freddie Mac have offered an affordable loan modification for Frank Clark and Kristina Darrington.
The official offer came one day after the end of Frank and Kristina’s redemption period, which put them at risk for imminent eviction at any time.

“Frank and Kristina have overcome great odds, including a history of homelessness. This victory allows them to sleep soundly in their home, and to continue to help others in their community,” said Ryan Stopera, an organizer with Occupy Homes MN.

Frank overcame a difficult childhood and nine years of homelessness to build a life for himself and his wife Kristina.  He became a union laborer and worked 12 hour days, 7 days a week to build the new 35W bridge. After the economic crisis and recession, labor jobs declined dramatically across the state, and Frank’s hours were cut, making mortgage payments difficult. Despite their hardship, Frank and Kristina were denied a loan modification, and were forced into foreclosure.  At a sheriff sale, Bank of America bought the home back from themselves for nearly $100,000 less than the original price; while they were unwilling to modify the mortgage for Frank and Kristina, they were more than happy to do so for themselves.

Frank and Kristina took the pledge to remain in their home until they were offered a good faith negotiation. They have built tremendous support from friends, family, neighbors, Laborers’ Union 563, CrossPoint Church, Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson, and the local media. “This problem is not only in the cities. It affects everyone,” said Frank.

Frank and Kristina are part of the “Minnesota Five,” a group of homeowners fighting Bank of America foreclosure with Occupy Homes MN.  After a mass public pressure campaign, so far three of the five have received modifications, including Ruby Brown, who won her home two weeks ago.

Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, which received the largest government bailouts, have been a consistent roadblock for homeowners struggling with foreclosure. Despite FHFA’s own studies showing that principal reduction could save taxpayers up to $1 billion, acting director Ed DeMarco, a federal appointee, has refused to allow it, defying both economists and the Obama administration.

Frank and Kristina’s victory gives hope to homeowners fighting Freddie Mac foreclosure across the country. “Freddie Mac has shown they don’t want to work with struggling homeowners. But this shows that they can, and with enough pressure, they will. If they can help us, they can help everyone. Now we will move on to help others in the same situation,” said Kristina.

Frank and Kristina will celebrate their victory at an Occupy Homes block party hosted by Brother Ali Wednesday night from 6-9 pm. The celebration will be at the home of Monique White, a member of Frank’s union who won her home from US Bank in May, at 3310 N. 6th Street, Minneapolis.

Correction: A previous version of this story stated that Frank and Kristina’s new loan includes principal reduction. Instead, it includes principal forbearance.

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