WAUKEGAN — With controversy circling around foreclosures nationwide, community activist Margaret Carrasco called on Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran this week to impose a moratorium on evictions enforced by his office.
“Winter’s coming up, and all the seasonal workers are going to be out of work,” Carrasco said Tuesday. “We’re asking him for just one year — hold off (on evictions) for a year, or just until springtime.”
But Curran said Tuesday that his office is bound by court order to enforce an eviction, and he stressed that his deputies “never literally put anyone on the street.”
“I believe (Carrasco) is empathetic toward the poor, and her motives are pure,” Curran said. “But we’re basically enforcing a lawful order with an eviction, and we would be (in contempt) if we didn’t … The property owner has the same rights that the tenant would have.”
The focus on moratoriums comes after Bank of America announced Oct. 8 that it would suspend foreclosures in all 50 states after learning that thousands had been approved — sometimes by automated “robo-signers” — without proper documentation.
While BoA reported Monday that it would start re-filing for foreclosures on Oct. 25, Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart said Tuesday that his office would not enforce evictions from foreclosures filed by not only Bank of America, but also JPMorgan Chase and Co. and GMAC Mortgage/Ally Financial.
Dart said in a statement that evictions will stop on Oct. 25 until lenders “can provide complete assurance that the foreclosure was done properly and legally.”
“I can’t possibly be expected to evict people from their homes when the banks themselves can’t say for sure everything was done properly,” Dart said. “I need some kind of assurance that we aren’t evicting families based on fraudulent behavior by the banks. Until that happens, I can’t in good conscience keep carrying out evictions involving these banks.”
Carrasco and Chris Poulos from the Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign went before the Waukegan City Council Monday to ask Mayor Robert Sabonjian and aldermen to support their call for a Lake County moratorium.
“It would be a noble step in the right direction to recognize housing as a human right,” Poulos said. “Throwing people out on the street doesn’t solve the economic recession, it exacerbates it.”
Curran said his office works with area social agencies and a tenant’s extended family to ensure that evicted individuals have shelter.
“We’re very cognizant of not putting anybody out on the street. We’ve worked with Catholic Charities and (Public Action to Deliver Shelter) to make sure they have a place to stay,” Curran said. “We’ve never literally put anyone out in the cold … Most of the time, they’re gone before we get there.”
According to figures supplied by Curran’s office, Lake County deputies have enforced around 25 to 30 foreclosure notices per week over the past four years, including 1,450 total in 2007, 1,550 in 2008, 1,396 in 2009 and 1,183 so far in 2010.
Lt. Mike Gregory said deputies “only follow the judge’s order,” and will not enforce an order of possession if tenants are in the residence and a forcible entry and detainer action isn’t included in the action.
Carrasco said that in cases when people are evicted, she believes the entire community suffers from the sight of “empty homes with all the furniture out on the lawn.”
“Every homeowner in Waukegan is impacted, whether you’re the (resident) being evicted or not,” Carrasco said to the council, asking officials to think about “the emotional damage to our children — they know what’s going on, and the damage is irreparable.”