Thursday, December 11, 2008

Moratorium Now! For Lorene Parker: Detroit Protest Against Bank of America

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Protesters ask Bank of America to help Metro Detroit residents keep homes

Santiago Esparza
The Detroit News

DETROIT -- Lorene Parker said she chose life over her mortgage and now is in danger of losing the house she has called home for the past 10 years.

With a medication list two pages long, the 52-year-old Parker said she has little money available other than for health care costs. She contracted a viral heart infection in 1998 which worsened until doctors simultaneously transplanted a heart and a liver two years ago.

She has been on permanent disability since then and has gone from making $60,000 annually as a cardiology nurse in Metro Detroit to less than one-third that amount annually while on disability. Her medical bills have put her behind on mortgage payments and her home is in danger of being sold by Bank of America, she said. Before she fell behind, she said she made payments on time for 10 years.

"I cannot work in my same position," she said Wednesday as the Moratorium Now Coalition protested outside of the Bank of America branch in downtown Detroit. "I did not plan for this to happen."

About two dozen protestors from the coalition led a picket line in front of the bank branch about noon today , chanting "Bail out the people, not the banks." Bank of America recently received $25 billion in federal bailout money and the protestors want to see the money used to help people like Parker.

"Why not keep people in their homes," asked Carolyn Apsey, a retired nurse who lives in Royal Oak. "It helps to keep neighborhoods stable."

Parker's mortgage has a 30-year, fixed interest rate that requires a monthly $1,030 payment, Parker said. Under the terms of the restructured mortgage offered by the bank on Wednesday morning, her payment would go up $300 monthly and she would have to make a $2,000 payment by Dec. 20. This would put off a sale of her Detroit home until some time in January, she said.

"I could not afford the mortgage now and they want to go up $300?" Parker said. "How is that fair? What kind of modification is that?"

Bank of America officials could not be reached for comment via phone or e-mail.

Parker said she is unsure how she contracted the infection, but said it was possible she got it through work. She said she travels to the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio every few weeks for checkups. . "Now I have to have priorities," she said. "The amount of money I make in a month has decreased tremendously."

Parker has hired Detroit attorney Vanessa Fluker to help her keep her home. Fluker said the bank can do better than upping Parker's mortgage payment as a way of helping her client.

"Not only does it leave her potentially homeless, but (an empty house) brings down property values," Fluker said.

Parker said she does not want the bank to let her live in the home for free. She is asking for more time to make her payments.

"It is not like I am asking for a handout," she said. "What if they were in my shoes? Then they would look at it differently."

The coalition can be reached at (313) 319-0870.

You can reach Santiago Esparza at (313) 222-2127 or sesparza@detnews.com.


Housing foreclosures draw protesters to Bank of America

Group objects to bank's handling of Detroiter's late payments

BY MARY FRANCIS MASSON
FREE PRESS BUSINESS WRITER
December 11, 2008

Lorene Parker's lucky to be able to walk around downtown Detroit.

Parker is alive today only because someone else's heart and liver keep her going -- she received a rare heart and liver transplant in 2006. But it was that operation that brought her outside the Guardian Building on Wednesday, making a last-ditch effort to save her Detroit home, which she said was scheduled to be sold in a foreclosure sale today.

After the transplant at the Cleveland Clinic, and the big medical bills that came with it, Parker fell behind on her mortgage with Bank of America. As a cardiac nurse, she was unable to go back to work because of the extensive recovery from a multi-organ transplant.

The protest Wednesday centered on Parker's plight, calling on Bank of America officials to halt the foreclosure. About 20 people carried signs and chanted phrases like "Bail out the people, not the banks," outside the building at Griswold and Congress where Bank of America has offices.

Bank of America has received $15 billion from the U.S. Treasury as part of its effort to boost capital, while Merrill Lynch & Co., the securities brokerage it is buying, received $10 billion.

Parker, 52, said she has contacted the bank, but it has been reluctant to work with her. She said she received a call Wednesday morning from a bank official who offered to cancel the foreclosure, but only if Parker could come up with $2,000 by Dec. 20 and make a $1,300 monthly payment -- $300 more a month than she was paying.

"I'm not asking for a free ride. I just want them to be fair," Parker said, adding she could handle a $1,000 monthly payment, but the bank wants more because she is in arrears.

"When you get to a choice between paying my mortgage or taking my medicine, it's wrong."

A Bank of America spokesman, in a statement, said that the bank makes every effort to reach a solution when a homeowner demonstrates the financial ability to resume reasonable and regular payments.

"We will continue to work with Ms. Parker and her representative in an attempt to find an affordable solution to her situation," the statement said.

Parker filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection in 2008, attempting to find a way to pay some of her bills. But she said she soon found she couldn't keep up with the mortgage payment set up by the court.

She said she was responsible when she first got her mortgage 10 years ago for the newly-built home on Prince Hall Drive, getting a 30-year, 7.5% fixed-rate deal even though she was offered an adjustable rate mortgage.

"I did everything right," said Parker, who is on disability from her last nursing job at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.

The protest was organized by the Detroit-based Moratorium NOW! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures & Evictions. Protesters also carried signs indicating support for Republic Windows & Doors workers, who have staged a sit-in at their Chicago factory to protest the plant's closing.

Republic Windows workers have occupied the plant since Friday and blamed Bank of America Corp. for forcing the closure by canceling the manufacturer's credit lines.

On Tuesday, Bank of America said it will provide a "limited amount of additional loans" to the Chicago company to pay employees occupying a building after the bank ended the company's line of credit.

"I felt for those workers," Parker said. "This is something I feel is owed to them ... they have severance pay. They deserve that."

Parker said she planned to go Wayne County offices today to see if her home ended up on the sheriff's foreclosure sale list. Bidding would begin directly after that announcement, she said.

She said if the house is sold she expects that she will have at least 90 days to find another place.

Contact MARY FRANCIS MASSON at 313-222-6159 or mmasson@freepress.com. Free Press news services contributed to this report.

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