Speculators kick out grandmother in SF
SAN FRANCISCO--About 40 supporters turned out for a December 1 press conference to publicize the struggle of 75-year-old cancer survivor, Josephine Tolbert, who was evicted from her home of 38 years on November 30. Though activists had hoped to help Tolbert reoccupy her home, the police presence was too significant to be overcome.
The day before, Tolbert returned home midday with three children to find the county sheriff and three representatives of True Compass LLC--the property management company that bought Josephine's property on short sale--putting new locks on her door. "They wouldn't even let me go back into the home for the babies' bottles and diapers," said Tolbert.
This eviction has been a devastating blow in a variety of ways. Not only is she losing her home, but as a small business owner who provides in-home child care for five children, she is losing her only source of income.
Tolbert bought her home decades ago and paid it off back in 2002. But she had to take out a new mortgage to deal with financial difficulties she encountered when spurious allegations led to the temporary revocation of her day care license. Around the same time, Tolbert was diagnosed with cancer.
Picking up low-wage jobs whenever she could, Tolbert barely got by and fell behind on her payments. But by 2009, she was back on track. Her day care license was reinstated, her business was moving again, and she was making good on her payments.
The only problem was that the bank refused to take her payments--and also repeatedly claimed to have lost the paperwork recording them. Again and again, the bank threatened foreclosure, and they even put her house up for short sale in July. By August, the bank sent her a letter saying that it was willing to work with her, but then one month later, it sold her house to True Compass. True Compass called her the next day, demanding that she move out of "their" house.
When protesters arrived December 1, four cops guarded Tolbert's front door and several others surrounded the premises. Getting Tolbert back into her home didn't seem possible, but the press conference was held as scheduled.
Vivian Richardson, a housing rights advocate and fellow Bayview resident who also faces foreclosure, kicked the event off. "This is indicative of what senior citizens are going through, and what the 1 percent is doing to us," said Richardson.
Antonio Mims, a City College of San Francisco student and Bayview resident who helped organize the press conference, read an open letter he wrote to city officials. "We implore city officials to place a moratorium on foreclosures," said Mims. "The media, controlled by the 1 percent, is trying to make this and other stories like this about individuals who fail to be financially responsible. The real story is that a man worth $10 million is denying a cancer survivor who provides childcare to low-income families the right to a home."
Tolbert concluded the rally with words of defiance: "I am fighting this fight because this is all I've got, child care is all I know, and this foreclosure and others like it don't affect just me. They affect my family, they affect my community."
Twenty supporters then took the action to True Compass' property management office to demand that True Compass allow Tolbert to stay in her home while negotiations with the bank continue. Though they refused to grant our demand, we were galvanized to continue the fight for Tolbert and to include her right to return to her home as a key demand at the upcoming December 10 march for tenants rights in San Francisco.
As one protester said, "The movement continues, and we will get Josephine back into her home."