Shaking as she stepped before the crowd, Marie Bain spoke of facing foreclosure while taking care of her terminally ill son.
At age 25, Bain's son, Patrick, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. "I got my house in 2006," Bain said of her Boston home. "In June 2011, my son suffered from a brain tumor and I had to leave my job to take care of him."
While initially the single mother said she was able to make mortgage payments, her savings account was quickly dwindling and she fell behind on her bills.
"I was foreclosed upon before my son died," Bain said to the crowd. "He was in a wheelchair when they kicked us out of my house." Holding up a photo of her son taken before he became ill, Bain said she's speaking out in hopes that policies become "more human."
Bain was one of a dozen people who shared their foreclosure stories at the Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in downtown Providence Thursday afternoon.
Over 100 activists from across Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island gathered at the office of Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) in Providence and outside of the home of one of its board members to protest current foreclosure policies.
Thirteen members of Springfield No One Leaves, a local housing and economic justice organization, attended the protest.
After marching outside of the office for an hour, a faction of the protesters headed to the home of Freddie Mac Board Member Nicolas P. Retsinas in Providence.
Issac Simon Hodes, of the anti-foreclosure organization Lynn United for Change, spoke to protesters outside of Retsinas' home. "We're here today to demonstrate that these folks keep coming to our homes and evicting our neighbors – our friends and families – and we're not afraid to bring the message to their door."
The group had gathered letters written by residents facing foreclosure to put outside of Retsinas' home.
Springfield resident Jeffery Solivan and 16-year-old Kalimah Dunwell, also of Springfield, placed an envelope containing the letters against Retsinas's door. Dunwell's family faced foreclosure in recent years. They were able to stay in their Forest Park home following mediation with their mortgage lender. Solivan currently faces eviction on his Pine Point home.
“We intend to pressure anyone we can, at their homes, events, and offices across the country, until (Federal Housing Finance Agency) Director (Mel) Watt changes these insufferable policies and stops evicting families, said Providence organizer Christopher Samih-Rotondo. "Because Director Watt has called our proposals ‘too demanding,’ and cited the alleged difficulty of changing policies at FHFA, we intend to bring the fight from our homes to theirs, hoping to infuse a bit of urgency to their ‘study’ of these changes.”
Rotondo said the demonstration is part of a national campaign to pressure the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) to modify the foreclosure and eviction policies of the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac) and Fannie Mae.
The group made several demands: reduced mortgages for borrowers whose loans are underwater, meaning the loans have gone under book value; an end to no-fault evictions of homeowners who are able to rent or buy back their homes; for FHFA to sell foreclosed homes to non-profit organizations in the community to become permanent, affordable housing.
Members of Springfield No One Leaves said foreclosures are a still a serious issue for Springfield residents, five years after the subprime mortgage crisis.
"When you walk through our neighborhoods in Springfield you see vacant homes and those vacant homes are owned by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac," said Roberto Ceballos-Garcia, a community organizer with No One Leaves. "That doesn't help our community, that actually affects the living conditions of anyone around it."
Ceballos-Garcia said they want FHFA-owned properties to be turned into a housing trust fund, for the land to be permanently owned by the government and housing on the land available for rent. "It would create more affordable housing for people who need it," Ceballos-Garcia said. "We believe that everyone deserves a home."