Every day, a group of entrepreneurs holding tiny laptops show up on the Multnomah County Courthouse steps, eager to pick up homes on the cheap. The foreclosed home auctions are the end of a long, terrible financial episode for many local homeowners.
Today, one day before Christmas Eve, the house of 49-year-old Southeast Portland resident Angela Hill was slated for the auction block. Occupy Portland sent out an email and Facebook alert about the auction last night and just over a dozen activists rallied this morning at the courthouse to try and save Hill's home. They were in luck: No one bid on the property, so Hill gets to stick around for at least a little while longer. (EDIT: While Occupy sent out the alerts, the action was actually organized by We Are Oregon and Unsettle Portland)
Hill was running an adult caretaking business out of the seven-bedroom home, but the business was rocky and Wells Fargo began threatening her with foreclosure in 2008. "Every time I called in to consult with someone, I was going in circles," says Hill. "They would only give me people who were not decision makers, it was like a circle every time I called them and yet they were continuously harassing me with the language, 'This is an attempt to collect a debt.'"
Postal carrier union organizer Jamie Partridge was at the protest and told the crowd he had spoken with County Chair Jeff Cogen earlier about backing a county moratorium on foreclosure auctions.
"They think it's illegal to declare a moratorium. BUt the sheriff can decide not to evict people. The sheriff said he was open to it," says Partidge. "It's up to us to bring that to the county commission and sheriff and make it happen."
Update 12:12pm Jeff Cogen sends this brief note about the issue:
I am open to looking at any legal option that would help ease the pain in this tough economy of foreclosures and evictions. I will continue to have conversations with the rest of the board and community members to see what alternatives, if any, could develop to help the situation.