Tuesday, February 24, 2009

ACORN Digs in to Keep Owners in Their Homes by Eun Young Chough - NY Daily News

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They call themselves the "Home Defenders," and they're here to make sure struggling homeowners don't get kicked out without a fight.

As part of a coordinated nationwide civil disobedience campaign, dozens of housing advocates, elected officials and clergy members converged Thursday on the Laurelton home of Myrna Millington, who went through foreclosure in September.

"I have been living in my home for 38 years," said Millington, 73. "I am staying here, and I am not leaving my home."

Millington, a widow, paid off her mortgage. But the trouble began when she refinanced her house to pay for repairs in 2000 after her husband died.

She didn't realize it was a sub-prime loan until she got her first statement.

To help people like Millington, members of the advocacy group ACORN created teams of Home Defenders, who assemble at foreclosed homes to prevent evictions by using tactics such as human chains.

Now a nationwide movement, the campaign will enable homeowners who are facing eviction to use peaceful strategies to stay in their homes.

It will continue, advocates said, until the Obama administration finds a solution to the foreclosure crisis.

"Millington is a victim of predatory lenders, and this is what the current economic crisis has created," said City Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing). "Let's fix the system before throwing people out into the streets."

The civil disobedience campaign occurred on the same day that Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Queens), chairman of the House subcommittee on international monetary policy, launched a free foreclosure intervention program for southeastern Queens, the epicenter of the city's mortgage foreclosure meltdown.

According to a recent report by PropertyShark.com, 13 of the city's top 15 zip codes with the highest number of foreclosures were in Queens. Last year, 5,482 properties in the borough received foreclosure notices.

"We have the largest foreclosure among the five boroughs," said Adrienne Hayes, 44, a member of ACORN who lives in St. Albans.

"What we want is a [foreclosure] moratorium for just one year," said Hayes.