Monique White May Win Back Foreclosed Home With Occupy's Help

Woman May Get To Stay In Home -- Thanks To Occupy

NEW YORK -- For more than a year after January 2011 when the bank foreclosed on Monique White's North Minneapolis home, she has been fighting to stay.

Last week, she received word of a reprieve: On Wednesday, a representative of US Bank called to let her know the bank was willing to modify her mortgage. If the tentative agreement holds up, the 46-year-old single mother of two will get to stay, and a motley coalition of activists and neighbors, including an Occupy Wall Street group, will chalk up a victory in its quest to stop evictions.

White was in a training room for a union job on Thursday when she got the news. "I had to step outside and scream to the top of my lungs and thank God, because without God, this never would have been possible," she told HuffPost.

A long list of organizations and people also helped: her lawyers and neighbors, Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, and Occupy Homes Minnesota. "All of this would have been impossible without all of them," White said.

For months, those groups have stuck with her as US Bank, which serviced White's loan before the foreclosure, maintained it could do nothing for her. The matter was in government-backed lender Freddie Mac's hands, according to the bank, because the mortgage giant technically now owned the home.

And for months, White has stayed in what she feels is still her home. She introduced herself to Occupy Minneapolis and invited dozens of activists protesting corporate greed to her home. She spoke to reporters to publicize her case. The activists started camping out at White's home in November, as part of a broader national effort called Occupy Our Homes, which is aimed at stopping foreclosures and evictions by bringing greater attention to banks' practices.

All White wanted, she said, was a chance to modify the loan to pay as much as she could. Originally worth $123,000, the home's value in her depressed North Minneapolis neighborhood is now only $30,000, according to an independent appraiser who looked into its value at the behest of White's coalition.

The turning point, activists said, may have been at US Bank's annual shareholder meeting in April when, in front of 2,000 onlookers, White stood up and asked US Bank's CEO Richard Davis, to help her stay in her home.

Thousands stared at her, but White said she wasn't intimidated. She said she told herself, "'Yeah, they have more money than me, but they're no different and no better than me.'"

"It was really this incredible, speak truth to power moment -- she was up there all alone," said Anthony Newby, an organizer with Neighborhoods Organizing for Change. "To his credit, he agreed to meet with her."

White said Davis was initially brusque, but after she told her story, "his whole tone of voice, his whole demeanor, his whole body language -- everything changed."

It took US Bank a matter of days to come up with a principal reduction that allowed White to pay $686.36 a month to stay in her home. White, who works two part-time jobs and is in training for a full-time union position, said it was a little steep, but she could make it work.

Ironically, on the same day she received her call about the modification, White's lawyers were in housing court fighting an eviction attempt by Freddie Mac.

"This shows the disconnect between these two major entities," said Newby. "Oftentimes, instead of working collaboratively to keep homeowners in their homes, they're often working at odds."

Neither Freddie nor US Bank responded to requests for comment from HuffPost Monday. On Thursday, a US Bank representative told the Star Tribune that the decision was ultimately in Freddie Mac's hands.

If the modification is finalized -- White believes she will know within days -- Occupy Homes Minnesota activist Nick Espinosa said it will be a milestone.

"It does show that when we shine a light on these cases and bring them to the public eye, that the bank is more than capable of negotiating -- even though they've said all along that that is not their responsibility," he said.

"It's a huge victory, and it represents exactly the kind of deal that every homeowner in America should be getting from the banks."

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