Today, the Rochester chapter of the national Take Back the Land movement (TBTL) is not only helping one family, the Lennons, move back into their home from which they were forcibly evicted, they are also directly challenging the morality of our current U.S. foreclosure system
and, more broadly, our ever-increasingly inequitable federal economic and housing policies.
In response to the recent housing crisis faced by millions of Americans, the Obama Administration’s stop-gap stimulus and mortgage modification programs have provided us with no new regulatory frameworks of merit nor — in particular with regard to the latest budget cuts — any true support to alleviate the suffering of the poorly housed and the newly homeless and jobless.
The Lennon family home is currently being warehoused (vacant) by Fannie Mae, while the Lennon family has had to face homelessness. This is not an uncommon truth. In fact, currently, there are three times as many bank-owned vacant homes as there are homeless people! This is a staggering fact that highlights ours is a system not based in human rights, where corporate profits and speculative interests trump the needs and stability of family and community.
TBTL is calling the Lennon family takeover of their Rochester home a "live in" in honor of the Civil Rights’ historic sit-ins. Notably, in a Huffington Post piece on the family’s week-long eviction defense effort last month, Van Jones referred to Ms. Lennon as "a modern day Rosa Parks."
By helping bring national and international attention back to the ongoing tragedy — thousands of U.S. families continue to lose their homes each day! – the Lennon family’s courageous act is a reminder to us all of the continuing need to unite in the fight for recognition of a basic human right to housing in the United States and a paradigm shift in U.S. policy.
Please read the following press release issued by Take Back the Land Rochester today and check in with TBTL online as they stream live today from the Lennon’s home in Rochester at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/ryanelliotis:
Catherine Lennon Returned to Rochester Home
Grandmother was evicted by police on March 28
Now occupying home with help from Take Back the Land- Rochester
Rochester, NY- Monday May 9, at 11:30am Catherine Lennon will publicly announce at a press conference that she has returned to her Rochester, NY home from which she and her family were evicted on March 28. Lennon did not repurchase the home, instead she was moved back in with help from Take Back the Land- Rochester, the organization which initially helped her defend against the eviction. Lennon, Take Back the Land- Rochester and neighbors are preparing to defend the home against a possible second eviction. The home is located a 9 Ravenwood Avenue.
After attempts to renegotiate the mortgage were stonewalled by Fannie Mae, Catherine Lennon made local and national news by defending her home from eviction for two weeks with help from neighbors and Take Back the Land- Rochester. On March 28, 2011, Rochester police executed the eviction with 2 dozen or so police and by arresting seven people, including a 70 year old neighbor still in her pajamas. Charges against those arrested are being dropped in exchange for 8 hours of community service. The Lennon-Griffin family of 11 has been dispersed with grandchildren living with friends and family and Catherine living in a local Motel 6.
After the eviction, Lennon’s story went national as she was called the ‘Rosa Parks of the foreclosure crisis‘ for her heroic stand against the bank. Offers of assistance came from US Representative Louise Slaughter (NY-28), Senator Kirsten Gillabrand and Senator Chuck Schumer. Negotiations began with Fannie Mae, but broke down after they demanded Lennon pay almost $50,000 for a house the family bought for $30,000 in 2006. According to New York State Supreme Court records Fannie Mae bought the house for $500 and are now try to sell the house back to family for a 10,000% profit. Fannie Mae received over $90 billion in taxpayer money as part of the federal government bailout of the financial system in 2008. The stated purpose of the bailout was for institutions like Fannie Mae to keep families like the Lennon-Griffin family in their home. On Friday May 6, Fannie Mae announced it was seeking and receiving another $8.5 billion bailout from the federal government.
Irregularities, and possible fraud, have also been uncovered in the foreclosure crisis. The foreclosure process was handled by the same law firm of Steven J. Baum currently under investigation by the New York State attorney general for massive fraud in processing foreclosures. Steven J. Baum is also being sued under the same federal racketeering laws—the RICO laws—used to bring down the Mafia and other criminal organizations. Some of the same irregularities which served as the basis to throw out foreclosure filings in the state of New York have been identified in the Lennon foreclosure process. It is also possible that the assignment of Lennon’s mortgage was executed by a ‘robo-signer,’ an act of fraud which was reported in detail in a recent report by 60 Minutes.
“We believe it is immoral for Fannie Mae to leave another home vacant in our community,” argued Ryan Acuff of Take Back the Land- Rochester, “while Catherine Lennon depletes her life savings staying in a motel. We must show at least as much mercy towards Catherine Lennon as we have towards Bank of America, Citibank and Fannie Mae.”
For it’s part, Take Back the Land- Rochester is planning on defending the Lennon-Griffin family from another eviction. Take Back the Land- Rochester is part of a national network of organizations dedicated to elevating housing to the level of a human right through civil disobedience.
Katherine Denison, Take Back the Land Rochester 585-703-6211
Ryan Acuff, Take Back the Land- Rochester 585-455-0961