About 20 rowdy people bearing "Save Our Homes" signs descended on the Multnomah County Courthouse this morning, interrupting the foreclosed home auctions that take place on the courthouse steps every morning at 10AM.
I tagged along with a house auctioneer two month ago and found that the auctions are usually swift affairs where the story of the families actually occupying the homes is buried beneath jargon and paperwork. But today as a man in a white hat and dapper brown coat read off the list of addresses to a small knot of home buyers, the crowd of protesters and homeowners organized by housing rights group ACORN swept in the front doors, shouting "Hey hey! Ho ho! Foreclosure sales have got to go!" The courthouse sheriffs pushed the crowd outside, where they continued the chanting and I heard a new phrase: "foreclosure resistance."
Jose Hernandez is afraid his house will soon wind up on the auction block. He stood outside the courthouse, carrying his five year old son, and explained how difficult it has been to get his bank to discuss lowering his mortgage payment after he was injured during a construction job. "You cannot talk to the banks, they lie all the time. They say they will call, but they never call," says Hernandez. Several weeks ago Hernandez testified in Salem for the passage of Senate Bill 628, which would force lenders and homeowners to sit down and talk to each other face to face about their mortgage. "I hope the law they're doing in Salem passes so the bank will talk to us."
The auction continued inside despite the protest, though one particularly agitated man stood right on the steps and shouted at departing homebuyers, "Shame on you! Stop throwing people out of their homes!" In ninety percent of Multnomah's foreclosed home auctions, the houses are so swamped with debt that no one wants them and they revert to the bank, who usually evict the occupants and leave the house empty.