October 28th, 2008
09:36 AM ET

Faith-based groups fight foreclosures

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/10/28/art.antioch.jpg]
Chuck Afflerbach
CNN San Francisco Producer

On stage at the parish hall, Rosario Frisse told the assembly to close their eyes and count to ten. The five hundred people packed into the auditorium—working class men and women, mothers holding babies, school kids doing homework—all did as she asked.

“In the time it took us to count to ten,” Frisse said, “another family in America has lost their home.”

Their concern showed on their faces, their demands were printed on the paper pennants they waved. Families First. 34% for Housing. Salve Su Casa, Spanish for Save Your Home.

The Monday night meeting had been organized by PICO National Network, a collection of religious congregations across the country tackling the foreclosure crisis on behalf of homeowners caught in the collapse. They came to Holy Rosary Parish in Antioch, California, a blue-collar suburb midway between San Francisco and Sacramento. This town has been hit hard; almost 8% of the homes here have been foreclosed…so far.

One by one the speakers came to the podium to tell their stories. Serefino Leon lost his Antioch home, only to see it sold at auction for half of what he had paid, at a price he could have afforded. Marian Youngblood was a loan officer in Kansas City, trained to falsify income amounts on applications. The borrowers would fall behind by the second loan payment. “As a Christian, it broke my heart,” she said. So she quit.

Their demands were simple. A freeze on foreclosures. Rewrite loan agreements so families can stay in their homes. No mortgage should be more than 34% of the homeowner’s income. Arlonda Pirtle, a real estate agent from Stockton, California, who lost her own home, had a message for the banks. “Now you have your bailout, so share the wealth.”

On stage, representatives from county and state government listened to the testimony and pledged their support. The FDIC sent an emissary with a statement from Chairwoman Sheila Bair. Michael Gross from Bank of America stood up and said, “I think it was good for us to be here tonight, to see the faces of the families affected.”

Also on stage were two empty chairs. The representative from Wells Fargo Bank cancelled at the last minute. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson sent his regrets that he couldn’t attend.

Raul DeAnda announced that this rally was just the beginning.

“Secretary Paulson, if you are watching,” he declared, “PICO is coming to Washington!”

That gave the standing-room-only crowd something to cheer.

“Si, se puede!” they chanted. “Yes we can!”

Filed under: Economy • Faith
soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. Mary V., Salt Lake City, UT

    Sad, very sad.

    October 28, 2008 at 7:31 pm |
  2. sharon from Indy

    It is ironic that once again the faith-based organizations are helping the working man or woman in this country. Like the Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts, faith-based organizations stepped up to the duty of caring for citizens no matter what income, creed or race.

    Yet, $700,000 can go to Wall Street. Is there something wrong here?

    Faith-based organizations are losing funding because many Americans are keeping their wallets and purses closed because of threatening economic times.

    Remember, when giving this holiday season that some of these organizations depend upon the holiday funding. These organizations are the first responders and are dedicated to the long term solutions for people.

    October 28, 2008 at 3:16 pm |
  3. GF, Los Angeles

    People like Arlonda don't realize that the banks had to be bailed out because people like her defaulted on their loans creating this huge credit mess. I say foreclose on all the houses and let the markets correct itself. With the lenders falsifying income amounts and consumers going along with it thereby creating these outrageous overinflated housing prices since "everybody" could now purchase one has now finally ended. I'm glad to see housing prices drop at least 40%. Now those who were smart and saved up for a house instead of joining into this feeding frenzy can now buy a house for a reasonable price.

    October 28, 2008 at 1:58 pm |
  4. John from Syracuse

    Hmm sounds like everyone should buy a house then immediately let it go into forclosure so they can buy it cheaper. Why don't they sell the houses cheaper to begin with?

    October 28, 2008 at 1:20 pm |
  5. Tom Slatton

    I will tell you how absurb this system is. I used to build houses before I became a school teacher. I went to the bank to get a construction loan to build a house (creating myself a summer job) the banks would not make me a construction loan because I was part time, so i build the house using my credit cards. The I went to the bank to get a mortage loan to pay off the credit cards. The banks would not make be a loan because my income to credit card debt was two high. This is a screwed up system, you are punishing the people that are willing to take risk, work hard and produce.

    October 28, 2008 at 12:24 pm |