Baltimore takes on foreclosures

Ben Dalbey reports on a meeting of Baltimore ACORN activists organizing against foreclosures.

Michigan ACORN members rally at a lobby day to protest foreclosures (ACORN)Michigan ACORN members rally at a lobby day to protest foreclosures (ACORN)

BALTIMORE--Some 80 ACORN members and supporters turned out to a town-hall meeting on January 29 to discuss how to address the city's foreclosure crisis and organize ACORN's new "Homesteading Campaign."

The meeting was one of several events being held in cities across the country by ACORN to begin to take on the foreclosures.

As part of the Homesteading Campaign, ACORN members who face foreclosure are planning to stay in their homes and risk arrest rather than comply with eviction orders. One such homeowner, Louis Beverly, faces an eviction order next month. At the meeting, he announced that he will not willingly leave his home, and is asking for help and support from the community.

ACORN, as well as other activist groups, have already asked the Baltimore sheriff's office not to enforce eviction orders. The sheriff's office sent a representative to the ACORN town-hall meeting, where he reported that the police are "seeking guidance" from the state's attorney general, and that he had been sent to the meeting in order to listen to their concerns.

Robert Strupp, an attorney working for the Community Law Center, warned struggling homeowners to be wary of predatory lenders who are now seeking to cash in on the crisis by offering sham mortgage refinancing. He urged people to seek help from community organizations like ACORN, who provide assistance to homeowners free of charge.

Strupp reported that, based on figures from the end of 2008, Baltimore city will likely see 6,000 foreclosures this year--which would mean foreclosure for about one out every 45 homes in the city. To deal with the crisis, Strupp called on Congress to immediately pass a foreclosure moratorium and mandatory loan modification laws to enable people to stay in their homes.

Baltimore City Councilman Bill Henry was one of three city council members who attended the event. Henry began his remarks by saying that after "hoping for change" for the better part of a year, now is the time to start seeing some real change.

Referring to the billions of dollars already spent to bailout failing financial institutions, Henry said, "They cannot be bailing out the people at the top of the pyramid before they take care of those at the bottom."

"This has to be a movement," he continued. "This has to get to the point it was 70 years ago, when 10,000 people mobilized to stop someone from being evicted from their home," referring to the mass anti-evictions struggles of the 1930s. As the crowd cheered, Henry said that while what is needed is a movement of thousands, "it might start with 25."

The next weeks will be important ones in ACORN's effort to build a struggle to save some of the thousands of families in Baltimore who will face eviction this year.