By laurie love
It’s five thirty in the morning on my day off. Through my window I can feel the gentle cool breeze that only seems to come to Florida with the rain. The thunder is distant and safe and I’ve just made my morning report to my brother about our critically ill mother. I would love to go back to sleep but there is another matter weighing on my mind.
In 90 days my two kids and I might well be living in our car. Not an easy predicament to sleep through. Not unlike many US families caught in the foreclosure crisis we are in the process of losing our home. Unlike most US families we have no way out.
Let me explain. No there is too much, let me sum up.
A few years back many people went to the bank and found out they could afford to pay $30 a year for a mortgage. They also found out that even though they could only afford $30 a year the bank was willing to loan them enough to pay $70 a year. Being the upwardly thinking Americans that they are they took the $70 offer, bought a ginormous house, more furniture, the extra stereo and cable equipment ‘needed’ for a larger house and moved in. Never mind the cost; they were investing in their future!
A couple of years down the road the recession was looming (though not ‘officially’ declared as having arrived) and those same people started to panic. Their investments were no longer worth what they wanted them to be worth (apparently no one ever told them that investments were *NOT* a sure thing) and they began to bail.
Being upside-down in a mortgage began to get the kind of sympathy that a cancer diagnosis used to bring. The weird thing is, with precious few exceptions, being upside-down meant practically nothing. Those with worthless mortgages still took grand, stress relieving vacations, they still bought all the latest electronic gadgets and their children still went on to college in brand new cars. So what was the big deal? No idea. No really, outside of being a tool to earn sympathy at social gatherings and a deterrent for buying and selling houses the world didn’t need to alter its spin even a fraction of one second.
But then those sympathy deserving people (insert huge sarcasm sign here) stopped paying their mortgages. Which makes perfect sense really. Who wants to be stuck with an investment that isn’t going to pay off? And when nobody is buying houses because the banks have stopped that assinine habit of over lending and your house is no longer the beauty queen of the real estate market what choice do you have? You quit paying your mortgage and wait for the bank come kick you out of your home.
This maneuver is actually beneficial on two levels. One, you get out of your dumb-ass investment and two, you get huge amounts of sympathy because people think the recession is causing you to lose your home.
And in steps the US government! All those brave, brave politicians came so touchingly to our aid. First, they rescued the banks; the ones that so unscrupulously screwed the people into taking all those supersized mortgages entirely against their wills and who are, quite frankly, just too big to fail without further screwing the American populace; then, they rescued the people; so that all of those poor desperate people who went kicking and screaming into loans that they couldn’t afford are now fully equipped with enough credit to go back out and do it all over again! (or, should they so choose, remain in the house that they should have never purchased to begin with. Rescuee’s choice)
And the whole country breathes a sigh of relief. Whew!
Well maybe not the whole country.
See, the other group of people affected by the foreclosure crisis have a different story. In fact, they have my story. This group of people fall into what is known amongst the untouchable factions as ‘the working poor’.
Now I must admit that for sympathy purposes most Americans not making as much money as Donald Trump consider themselves ‘working poor’. That’s not who I’m talking about. The ‘working poor’ that I’m talking about are the actually working poor. And unfortunately they make up a very foundational group within our countries’ society.
The actually working poor families work at least one full time worth of job per household but still don’t make enough to pay for all of the genuine necessities required to live. Please note that the satellite sports package is *NOT* a genuine necessity. On the other hand, as public schools are on the move to only have internet text books, the internet is. So we’re not talking tents, sleeping bags and mess kits as ‘genuine’ necessities; we’re talking reality here Greg. And reality is a much bigger picture coming in at a much bigger price.
For instance, I work full time in a hospital intensive care unit. I’ve worked for my hospital for nearly four years but I haven’t been able to make enough money to go back to school so I’m stuck in the job of nursing assistant which pays around $10 an hour or for my last year’s taxes a little over $19,000 annually. I have the advantage of having a phenomenal son who is willing to work for family money rather than his own personal money. He works almost fulltime in a labor position (because he doesn’t have a degree yet) that he’s held since he was in high school. Together our household income is right around $30,000 annual. The trick is that in our community a household of three requires no less than $60,000 annual to pay for basic necessities.
We are very hardworking and in all ways, including fiscally, responsible. Both of my kids and I volunteer weekly in areas of our community that serve other individuals with needs that can’t be met without physical human assistance. We are goal oriented and planning for the future; including college educations that will allow us to eventually find jobs that pay a gainful wage. We even have a plan for helping the working poor community once we have the ability. We are the American Dream; with, of course, the one small exception of income.
About eight years ago we moved into an apartment over our landlord’s garage. It’s only one bedroom for the three of us but we live in the land of the brave and we’ve made it work. A few years ago when our landlord started dropping the phrase ‘upside-down’ I began putting out feelers just in case he jumped ship. My stress level increased as I found out what I had already suspected; we can’t afford to live anywhere else; so we stayed.
A couple of years later said landlord met me in the drive and gave me the news that he was ‘letting the property go’ and would be moving out. I asked if we could rent the main house and thus save the property. He told me he’d think about it. The next week he was gone. And not gone in the sense that he moved back to Ohio, I mean gone as in he liberated all of the appliances from his part of the building, trashed the house so it was uninhabitable and disappeared. Turns out he was already deep in the foreclosure process when he had spoken to me the week before and we were unjust and truly, screwed.
In the next few weeks I did a lot of networking, enough in fact to find out that there was a new federal law that gives renters an extra 90 days to move out once they’re served with eviction papers. This process is nice but not much more comforting than having a rescue unit transport your non-breathing family member to the hospital rather than you driving them yourself; it is a reprieve of sorts but doesn’t do much for the underlying problem.
Now a couple of years later (what with the bank screw ups in processing the foreclosures and the sheer number of people bailing on their investment screw-ups) our property has finally been foreclosed on and we’re 90 days away from being homeless.
When networking, I’m finding those ‘upside-down getting sympathy people’ have only one suggestion; homeless shelters. Nice right? Even so, I might have considered that as a last chance back up if it weren’t for one small problem. My son is over eighteen and as such he would be thrown into the barracks with the homeless male gen-pop rather than into a family room with his sister and me; needless to say shelters are no longer even a remote consideration.
About the only people in our physical reality of any help, or source of sympathy, are working poor themselves (or just outside it) and are limited in the help they can give; but they’re looking.
Which brought me round to the wonders of the internet and all its glorious search engines. Surely in the global age I can find something that will aid us in our quest to remain housed, right? Wrong. I’m sure that part of the problem is that as much as 40% of those affected by foreclosure are reported to be renters, like me, adding up to at least 100,000 US families. This daunting number would give rise to the notion that private agencies (churches, charities and the like) cannot rescue us all. Which means that the problem needs to be addresses by our beloved government.
Yes, I realize that the government has rescued a lot of people over the last few years but let’s take a quick look at that. First the banks. Wells Fargo was bailed out with multimillions of tax payer dollars and legally responsible for our property once our landlord bailed but could not even be contacted for comment when the large tree on the front of the property was knocked over in a tornado and blocked the drive so completely that it was days before we could dig our own way out to be able to get to work. Or Fanny Mae, also a multimillion dollar bailout bank who has now engaged a real estate agent to bully me into accepting a cash-for-keys deal that would get us off the property in the shortest time possible and with very little effort on their part. And of course let us not forget that my wonderful slumlord who over extended his greedy little self to begin with was still offered any number of possibilities to save his house and his credit in spite of the fact that he made a bad investment all of his very own little accord.
So what do I do now? I write an article that I will turn over to as many people as possible hoping that one of them will somehow reach a government official who will care enough to take some kind of action allowing for the rescue of my family in the next 90 days. I just as desperately cross my fingers that said action will not only rescue my family but all of the families across this country, that I so dearly love, who through no fault of their own have fallen victim to a crisis created entirely by greed.
Please, God. Bless America.