Today, thousands of people are crowding around Wells Fargo's shareholders meeting in San Francisco demanding, among other things, that Wells Fargo start helping out the homeowners it is foreclosing on the same way taxpayers helped Wells Fargo out when they needed help from us.
If you don't know by now, Wells Fargo got one of the biggest bailouts from taxpayers out of any bank and paid a negative percent in taxes (between 2008-2010). Did I mention that it is the country's largest mortgage servicer and lender, meaning it is one of the main banks that helps foreclose on American homeowners? In Florida, some of us call Wells Fargo one of "Florida's foreclosure kings " because it forecloses on more Florida families than almost any other bank. Just last week, a national organization filed a complaint against Wells Fargo saying that it took better care of foreclosed properties in white neighborhoods than it did in black and Latino neighborhoods.
A lot of this gets to me, because I think that the people who run Wells Fargo just don't get the struggle that foreclosed families go through. They probably assume that we are lazy or made bad business decisions. Well I know a few things about foreclosure, I am fighting to keep my family home right now. And I'll tell you one thing, I never got a billion dollar bail-out.
Even though Wells Fargo never owned my home, my story is not much different from the thousands of Miami folks trying to hold on to their homes. I lived in my home for 40 years. My father was a Pentecostal minister in Miami's Liberty City, and my family never thought of the place we lived as a home, but as a community institution. If you were put out of your home, you knew to come to ours. If you had no food, you were welcome to our kitchen. If you were having problems at home, you could always talk them over in our living room.
After my parents died and the housing market crashed, my family has been fighting to preserve my home and the community's institution. First, we were the victim of mortgage fraud. Then, my house was put on the auction block and sold to Joseph Dahan, a director of Greatest Enterprise LLC, for $27,000. That person thought that he would do me a "favor" and sell our own home back to us for three times that amount! We spent virtually every holiday, including Thanksgiving and New Year's wondering whether or not we were going to be put out on the street. And we almost did too, until the community came together to defend our right to be in our home.
My family never turned our back on the community we live in, and we asked the people who stood up for me to use our home as a meeting space to help fight other foreclosures. We have also never been one to just ask for handouts. Even though the economy is rough, I try to make ends meet selling food out of my house to my neighbors.
There are probably going to be a hundred stories told at that shareholder meeting in San Franscisco, but I want people to remember one specifically. For every home that's foreclosed on, it doesn't just represent a vacant piece of property. It represents a family's history, and for some neighborhoods, an institution. While people have fancy conversations about vacant homes, foreclosures and mortgage processing, stop picturing the homes that are vacant and start imagining the community institutions that have been foreclosed on.
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