Protestors with Occupy Our Homes ATL conducted a press conference Monday at the foreclosed home where Steve Boudreaux and two housemates live, promising to help keep an eye on the house in case anyone tries to repossess it.
The home occupation was the first one of its kind in Cobb, but Occupy organizer Tim Franzen said it won’t be the last.
“What we’re seeing in Cobb County is that these neighborhoods are just starting to get where some of the harder hit areas of Atlanta are,” Franzen said. “Steve is the first to really step up, and we’re looking for others to do the same thing.”
Boudreaux, 56, said he bought the house on Rubes Landing five years ago and fell behind his payments with Wells Fargo Bank last year when he lost his job and his girlfriend, whom he shared house payments with, moved out.
Boudreaux said the bank began foreclosure proceedings when he fell 90 days behind in his payments. Now working at a job in building restoration, Boudreaux said he’d worked out an emergency loan modification with Wells Fargo, but that fell through when tax transcripts from the IRS arrived late, and the bank went ahead with trying to sell the house at the June 5 foreclosure sale. But Boudreaux called Franzen a day earlier, and Occupy protesters showed up on the Courthouse steps in Marietta with signs reading “1525 Rubes Landing Comes with Protesters.”
No one bought the house that day, but Boudreaux said he still worries that he will be forced out. So Occupy protesters will help make sure somebody is on site at all times in case someone tries to repossess it while he is away.
Boudreaux has even placed a symbolic tent inside the picket fence around his front yard, though he plans to let anyone staying there sleep inside the house.
“What I want is simple,” Boudreaux said. “I want Wells Fargo to approve my loan modification so I can stay in my home. I’m open to negotiating or communicating on almost any facet of it.”
But Wells Fargo southeast spokesman Jay Lawrence said it’s not that simple. He said the home is actually owned by a mortgage financing company, which he declined to identify. While the bank originated and wrote the loan for the house and then serviced it, Wells Fargo stopped being involved when it went to foreclosure.
“At this point we have nothing to do with the property,” he said. “We worked for more than two years to help Mr. Boudreaux avoid foreclosure, and unfortunately, we were not successful.”
Lawrence said Wells Fargo has successfully worked with 35,000 homeowners in the Atlanta area to help avoid foreclosure.
Boudreaux said he owes between $7,000 and $8,000 on his house. But he said there are at least 10 other homes in the Jamerson Forest neighborhood to go through foreclosure.
“I love this area, I love this neighborhood,” he said. “My neighborhood is being decimated. If something doesn’t happen, it may be the next to fall.”
Neighbor Diana House, 66, said she lives with her daughter and is working three part-time jobs to get by.
“We just want to stay in our homes,” she said.
Franzen said Occupy’s goal is to help homeowners facing foreclosure stay in their houses. Occupy is now working with Rich Pellegrino of the Cobb United for Change Coalition, who said his organization plans to have a workshop to help homeowners learn how to stand up to the banks.
“The tipping point will come when homeowners, inspired by other homeowners, will open the toolkit and do it on their own,” Franzen said. “Occupy is not an owned brand or a trademark. It’s everyone’s and anyone’s.”