Portland home defenders win

Kari Koch reports on a victory for activists organizing for housing justice in Multnomah County, Ore., in an article written for We Are Oregon.

Home defenders speak out following a sit-in at the Multnomah County Sheriff’s officeHome defenders speak out following a sit-in at the Multnomah County Sheriff’s office

ACTIVISTS AND residents opposed to foreclosures and evictions ended a 20-hour sit-in at the Multnomah County Sheriff's office in Portland, Ore., on Friday, January 25, after officials agreed to their demands. Their victory clears the way for a moratorium on foreclosure evictions.

When the home defenders met with Sheriff Dan Staton and County Commissioner Jeff Cogen regarding bank-induced foreclosures and evictions, they came away with the officials agreeing to their three demands. This is the first time Commissioner Cogen and Sheriff Staton have gone on record supporting the idea that a moratorium on evictions is a solution to the foreclosure crisis.

Home defenders consider this a significant victory in the fight to keep families in their homes and hold banks accountable--though this is only the beginning, because as long as there are evictions, the community vows to continue the fight.

For the past year, those carrying out evictions have passed the buck of responsibility for addressing unfair and fraudulent foreclosures handed down by the banks. In the meantime, homeowners have been thrown out on the street and have had little recourse to challenge the legality of their foreclosures. What's worse, the sheriff's office has carried out these evictions by storming homes with dozens of armed deputies and police officers.

Home defenders took the step of directly confronting the sheriff after a year of fruitless conversations and public appeals. Once the group took direct action, the conversation quickly shifted from pointing fingers toward solutions to keep families in their homes, specifically a moratorium.

Sheriff Staton and Commissioner Cogen agreed to work with Judge Nan Waller to develop a legal path to a moratorium. During the press conference, Sheriff Staton was on his way to a meeting with Judge Waller to discuss next steps.

Sheriff Staton has further committed to be personally present at each foreclosure eviction to make sure there is no excessive use of force against our communities. The sheriff also committed to direct the county's scarce resources toward pursuing foreclosure fraud and other irregularities in forceful foreclosure evictions.

The housing justice community will continue to defend homes and work with more families to publicly fight their evictions. Home defenders include community organizations, families fighting evictions and other housing-justice activists. These families are in various stages of foreclosure, and six of the families are publicly resisting standing orders to leave their homes by order of a court, the city or the sheriff.