The Foreclosees Protest An American Dream Turned Nightmare

Donna Hanks brought a photo of the padlock she found on her door.
Donna Hanks brought a photo of the padlock she found on her door. (By Marvin Joseph -- The Washington Post)
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By David Montgomery
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 2, 2008

BALTIMORE, Oct. 1 -- On Capitol Hill, on television, everywhere, everyone is talking about them, or people like them all over America: the members of this posse of pain and reality marching into the Baltimore office of the Department of Housing and Urban Development on Wednesday.

They are the Foreclosees. The people who lost their houses. The ones who are about to lose their houses. Yeah, them.

Is this their fault? Are they rubes, or victims? Give them this much: By snapping up all those too-good-to-be-true mortgages touted by ruthless greedheads, and then being unable to pay them off, they are on the verge of b ringing the global economy to its knees. Or so it is said. That's power, baby.

Now it's time to hear from them. They are sick of all the gossip, the tsk-tsking, the sanctimonious moralizing.

They are going down to see the Man in his marble-lobbied building. They want to make a federal case out of it. In person. They want some justice.

There is Veronica Peterson, who bought her house on Fox Grape Terrace in Columbia for $545,000 in November 2006, and eventually lost it. The monthly payments were $4,450, even though her previous year's income was $50,000 plus child support from her ex-husband. Only later, when housing counselors brought it to her attention, did she notice that on the loan application the broker had inflated her income and listed assets she didn't own.

"These loans were weapons of mass destruction," she says, getting ready for the Man with her son Ryan, 3, who is holding a copy of "David and Goliath." "They destroyed our credit, our lives, and they blew up in our face."

There is Donna Hanks, who shows pictures on her cellphone of the padlock the bankers just slapped on her $87,000 Baltimore rowhouse. She was kicked out the day before, failing after several years to meet the $1,600 monthly payments on her salary as a banquet server, which lately has dwindled to $1,200 a month in an ailing economy.

"You don't know your work is going to slide down and cut back," she says.

There are Monica Lee, who is on the brink of losing her home in Frederick, and Helen Smith, who fears she won't be able to keep up with payments on her Baltimore home since her husband recently died.

They are nearly a dozen from around Maryland, organized by the Baltimore office of ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now), the community action group that provides housing counseling.

The procession enters an office lobby downtown. The Man is upstairs.

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