Family of Fallen Soldier Fights Foreclosure with Help from Activists

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With additional reporting by Matthew Cardinale.

(APN) LITHONIA — When activists in the peace movement learned the family of Spc. Jamaal Addison–the first Georgian killed in the US Occupation of Iraq–was facing foreclosure, they allied with the local anti-foreclosure movement to prevent the family from becoming homeless.

As previously reported by Atlanta Progressive News, Addison’s mother, Patricia Roberts, had been active in local anti-war rallies after Addison’s death. This included speaking out against the occupation at an April 01, 2006, peace rally at Piedmont Park in Midtown Atlanta; speaking at a 2006 Drive Out the Bush Regime rally at Woodruff Park in Downtown Atlanta; and speaking at the 2006 Women’s Action for New Directions Atlanta’s Mothers Day for Peace event.

Roberts was also recently diagnosed with lung cancer, and lives with her ailing mother Constance Walcott and Addison’s 9 year old son, Jamaal Addison II in Lithonia.

Suntrust had foreclosed on their condo, which was owned by Constance Walcott, on June 01.

Ironically, Roberts’s family was given seven days to vacate their Lithonia condo by the date of August 02, which is the day DeKalb County set aside as Jamall Addison Day to honor her son.

In 2008, US Congress approved a bill by US Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) to name a post office at 3035 Stone Mountain Street in Lithonia, Georgia, the Jamaal Addison Post Office.

Roberts became an anti-war protester after her 22 year old son was killed in Iraq on March 23, 2003. It was the many friends and connections Roberts made in the peace community who stepped forward to help in her time of need.

Currently the most active organizations helping Roberts save her home are the Atlanta Fighting Foreclosure Coalition; National Association of Black Veterans (NABVETS); Atlanta Grandmothers for Peace; and Democratic Socialists of America, Atlanta Chapter.

Doris Benit, a member of Atlanta Grandmothers for Peace, has initiated a Jamall Addison Fund to help with finding another home for Roberts and little Jamaal.

“I plan to contact the Army Times, the Airforce Times, and the Navy Times which goes to all the bases all over the world. The military forces are good at helping their own,” Benit told APN.

“Karen Brown, the attorney for Walcott, has ask SunTrust for more time and they have agreed to suspend the entire legal proceeding temporarily,” Bill Brennan with Atlanta Legal Aid’s Home Defense Program told APN.

“They are trying to work things out to either keep the family living in the condo with a loan modification or find another place for the family to live,” Brennan said.

Walcott had a 513 dollar per month mortgage payment to Suntrust on the condo, plus a 150 dollar per month homeowners association fee.

Unlike many other foreclosure cases recently taken on by the Fighting Foreclosures Coalition, there is no indication that Sun Trust’s mortgage loan to the family was predatory.

When Roberts become sick, they fell behind not on the mortgage payments, but the homeowners association payments, Roberts told APN.

“Our problems started last August 2009 when the condo Homeowners Association froze all the family’s assets,” Roberts said.

Roberts’s mother, Constance Walcott, who is the owner of the condo, had her name on checking accounts belonging to Roberts and also Roberts’s nephew, James Smith. The Association seized almost 8,000 dollars from Roberts and Smith’s accounts, even though Walcott only owed around 2,000 dollars, Roberts said.

“We were told the remainder [about 6,000 dollars] of the money went to late fees and attorney fees. That they should keep so much more than was owed does not make sense to me,” Roberts said.

According to the Dekalb County Online Judicial System, there is an open continuing garnishment case filed in 2008, Fairington Park Condominium Association v. Constance Walcott.

The original garnishment amount was 6,889.70, according to court records, and one of the garnishees included the Jamaal Addison Motivational Foundation, Inc.

After the Association appropriated all the family’s money, they could not pay the mortgage or other bills, Roberts said. 19 year old Smith was unable to continue his enrollment at Valdosta State College where he would have been a sophomore this year.

Activists believe all the publicity around the Roberts’s foreclosure has encouraged SunTrust’s cooperation. The final decision on where the Roberts family will live depends on how much money is raised in the Jamall Addison Fund.

Donations for the family are being accepted at any branch of Delta Community Credit Union via the Jamaal Addison Fund. There are 21 Atlanta locations. For additional information call 404-715-4725 or 1-800-544-3328.

The Fund has so far received 6,128 dollars and 54 cents, with promises of an additional 16,000 dollars not yet deposited as of this writing.

Ft. McPherson has agreed to move the family free of charge when they find a new home.

“In Atlanta, it is estimated that 40 percent of homeless men are veterans. Many are homeless because of an estrangeness in family, community, and government. Joblessness is also a factor in veteran homelessness. Veterans and their families should never have to experience foreclosures,” Balewa Alimayu with NABVETS told APN.

Althought the US government made a payment to Addison’s family after his death, it went to his wife, even though the wife was not taking care of his son, Roberts said.

The Atlanta Fighting Foreclosure Coalition has been holding protests at banks around Metro Atlanta and on the courthouse steps for the last couple of years, as previously reported by APN.

Five activists were arrested August 31, 2009, at the office of a Wells Fargo bank in East Point for demonstrating against foreclosures.

The Foreclosure Five, as they have become known, had previously sent a letter to Wachovia [later purchased by Wells Fargo] asking them to meet concerning foreclosures, predatory lending practices and loan restructuring. Bank officials refused to accept the letter and to speak with the protest leaders.

The Five–State Sen. Vincent Fort; former Fire and Police Commissioner A. Reginald Eaves; Charlie Flemming, President of the AFL-CIO North GA Labor Council; Milton Tambor, President of the Democratic Socialists of America, Atlanta Chapter; and Dianne Mathiowetz of the International Action Center, Atlanta–were arrested for refusing to leave the bank after Wells Fargo officials refused to meet with them.

Their attorney, Brian Spears, said that “following our October 14 appearance before the Court in East Point, the authority over the criminal charges was transferred to the Fulton County solicitor’s office, who is responsible for the prosecution of misdemeanor cases. Neither I nor my clients have received any notification of action taken on the criminal charges since that time.”

The Coalition originally had about 10 cases of Atlanta-area families facing foreclosure who they believe were victims of predatory lending involving Wells Fargo or Wachovia.

“All have been settled but two or three. They were trying to work out loan modifications,” Tambor told APN. “We did make progress as a result of that, no doubt about it.”

“Legal aid was not getting anywhere with reasonable loan modifications until pressure was brought to bear,” Tambor said.

Wells Fargo had designated a single representative to handle all of the Foreclosure Coalition/Legal Aid cases. “It’s changed, having that person as a representative has made a difference.”

The AFL-CIO held a community hearing on foreclosures on July 22, 2010, in Atlanta, and activists marched to a Wachovia branch in Midtown Atlanta on 17th Street, Tambor said.

This time, instead of being arrested, activists met with bank representatives. Activists were seeking a process to help all families facing foreclosures, Tambor said, not just the 10 cases they had already identified.

“We asked for more information about how they are dealing with loan modifications and they said would provide the information,” Tambor said.

Tambor also said, despite over a year of implementation, the federal legislation enacted to help keep people in the homes under the Obama Administration has not been very successful, with only a small number of loans being modified through the program.

The Mortgage Bankers Association says delinquencies and home repossessions have hit a new high. Blaming job losses for most of the pain, it sees a continued surge in foreclosures through all the next year, the Los Angeles Times newspaper reported.

The national unemployment rate has been hovering between 9.5 and 10 percent for the past year. Georgia’s unemployment rate has hit an all time record high of 10.3 percent.

(END/2010)

About the author:

Gloria Tatum is a Staff Writer for The Atlanta Progressive News and is reachable at gloria@atlantaprogressivenews.com.

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