NLMH combats city foreclosures

A home up for foreclosure in Poughkeepsie has been a sight that is very common for many years. The Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson movement hopes to eliminate this by helping homeowners keep their homes. Photo By: Emily Lavieri-Scull
A home up for foreclosure in Poughkeepsie has been a sight that is very common for many years. The Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson movement hopes to eliminate this by helping homeowners keep their homes. Photo By:  Emily Lavieri-Scull
A home up for foreclosure in Poughkeepsie has been a sight that is very common for many years. The Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson movement hopes to eliminate this by helping homeowners keep their homes. Photo By: Emily Lavieri-Scull

When a residents are evicted and a home is foreclosed, a family become homeless, and a home becomes empty. A Poughkeepsie based organization, Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson (NLMH), is trying to change this.

Sarah Slichter ’15 is an Africana studies major who has also been volunteering as an organizer with NLMH for quite some time. She feels passionately about the issues that NLMH tackles, and has been working hard to help out.

“Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson is…an anti-foreclosure and eviction, largely anti-displacement organization group based in Poughkeepsie,” said Slichter.

The group has been able to grow through their volunteers, becoming a member-led organization which calls upon collective action as the solution to the growing problem of foreclosure. They seek action, both on the smaller scale through individual families and on the large scale through city legislature.

“Our organizing model is one that frames foreclosure as a collective problem that needs a collective solution,” Slichter said.

This collective solution appears to be beginning to show signs that it is working.

“For the first time in the history of the foreclosure crisis in the Hudson Valley, public pressure has not only reversed a foreclosure, but has won a permanent loan modification on our terms,” reads the NLMH website.

This statement is in reference to the case of Flavia Perry, a woman whose home was set to be foreclosed. Through petition signing, letter writing and public protest, NLMH helped Perry negotiate with Bank of America to keep her home. A family keeps their home. A home keeps their family.

The NLMH advocates a method of collective action which calls together community members going through similar experiences as well as other volunteers. “It’s about coming together in solidarity to support each other and condemn the banks together,” said Slichter.

Continuing, she noted that the banks are at the focus of NLMH. “We believe that the big banks should be held accountable for the massive discharge of communities they are causing through foreclosure and eviction, which result in homelessness and vacant properties: homes without people and people without homes,” she added.

There are a number of ways in which a homeowner can find themselves facing foreclosure, but Slichter believe they all trace back to the bank. Through predatory loaning practices, the banks target the most vulnerable people of our society and set them up for eviction from the get-go, Slichter explained.

Jonathan Bix ’14, who has continued to work with the organization after graduating, echoed this sentiment. “I think it’s important to point to the root cause for foreclosure, homelessness, blight, and all housing issues as that our housing system is based on producing massive profits for banks and other huge corporations rather than on meeting all people’s need for a home,” he explained in a written statement.

Because homeowners are already at a disadvantage, the foreclosure crisis is hitting especially hard. The City of Poughkeepsie has around 700 vacant houses, yet homelessness is still a problem.

“The main issue is that housing is treated within our economic and political system as a vehicle for corporate profit rather than a human right,” said Slichter.

Similarly, Bix noted that corporate ideology is at odds with the rights for which NLMH fights. “The biggest obstacles to winning affordable housing are from the banks and other corporations that profit immensely from the status quo of housing being a commodity and not a right, he noted. “I use the word winning because we have to fight them to make affordable housing a reality, their interests of massive profits are directly opposed to the vast majority of people’s interest in making housing affordable to all,” he wrote.

NLMH is dedicated to eradicating this issue though their public action and through raising awareness of the issue of foreclosure. In addition, the group pursues legal action, proposing legislature which, if passed, will help the homeowners retain their homes and regulate banks.

This legal action has spawned a bond ordinance, the first of its kind in New York and one of only seven in the country. It will require banks to give the City of Poughkeepsie a $10,000 bond for each home they foreclose.

“The bond ordinance will save the city millions and bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue through administrative fees and fines.” Slichter said. “It will help prevent anticipated cuts to jobs and public transportation in the city.”

She went on to add: “With the foreclosure bond, we were able to say that at the very least, the banks should be responsible for what they’re doing to these communities, and that the city should not be supporting private profit with public money.”

The ordinance will simultaneously penalize the banks for evicting a homeowner while also providing the city of Poughkeepsie with compensation for the empty home, the responsibility for which is placed on its shoulders.

One of the major issues addressed by the ordinance is the cost of keeping up a foreclosed home, a cost placed upon the city of Poughkeepsie. The city must pay for upkeep, maintenance, inspections and any other costs associated with maintaining the property.

“According to one study,” claims Slichter, “Foreclosures and vacant properties can cost municipalities up to $34,000.”

At the end of the day, this is what lies at the heart of the argument: people’s lives are uprooted by foreclosed homes. “One of the things we try to do at Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson is flip the script that causes people a lot of pain and suffering: that they just weren’t good enough to make the cut of the American Dream,” Slichter said.

NLMH also raises money to help as many residents as possible. Bix explained, “We need the money in order to be able to reach thousands more Poughkeepsie residents who don’t have affordable housing and are either at risk of losing their home or giving up other basic necessities they need like food or child care in order to keep their home.”

Beyond the monetary boundaries of the issue is the emotional trauma caused by being denied access to shelter.

“It is vital to reframe foreclosure as not an individual problem. It is a collective problem, it is a problem that is the symptom of a system that devalues human life and human rights in the interest the name of corporate profit for the few,” said Slichter.

Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson is trying to change this. By volunteering with the organization, Vassar students can help a growing organizations as it grows into an entire movement. A movement that hope to improve the well-being of thousands of people.

“We are fighting for a society in which housing is treated as a human right,” Slichter concluded.

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