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California Protestors Rally Against Banks Over Housing Crisis

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Just a few months ago, Peggy Mears stood a good chance of becoming another foreclosure statistic. She was behind on her payments on her San Bernardino home and was afraid she would lose her home. “I was really depressed and ashamed,” she said. Nearly out of options, she happened to hear about a community organization, Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, and went to their offices seeking help. “The next day I went out on an action (event) and I’ve been hooked ever since,” she says.

Now a community activist, Mears doesn’t sound depressed anymore. She’s too busy fielding calls from others in similar situations, and working with community groups and their volunteers. Despite a commute of 50 miles each way, six days a week, to the ACCE offices where she recently landed a job after months of volunteer work, she’s energized and loaded for bear. When I commented that she sounded like she had been doing this kind of work for years, she just laughed. “I’m passionate,” she says.

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Thursday, October 6th, the group is planning a mass rally in Los Angeles as part of its Week of Action. Explains Mears, “Every week in October across the country, we are actively going after the banks. (We’re holding) teach-ins where teachers in the community take over a bank and teach the community how the financial crisis has affected education. We are going to CEOs’ homes. We’re letting people know how this is affecting their communities.” ACCE has also protested at a foreclosure auction, blocking the auction from going forward.

The Week of Action kicked off on Monday with a press conference held by Rose Gudiel, whose family is scheduled to receive an eviction notice this week on their home, but refuse to leave. The Gudiels say they are losing their home because they were only two weeks late with a mortgage payment after having to pay for funeral expenses when Gudiel’s brother was murdered.

ACCE works in low to mid-income neighborhoods to help them stabilize their neighborhoods. Their efforts focus on issues such as neighborhood safety, the environment and blight. The group started a project called the Home Defenders League at the beginning of this year to help bring attention to the impact of the housing crisis on communities across California. “So many members are homeowners in foreclosure, facing foreclosure,” explains Mears. “We meet and we discuss ways we can all save our homes.”

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The group published a report, Wall Street Wrecking Ball, describing the impact of the foreclosure crisis at the neighborhood level. The report, released September 15, found that the foreclosure crisis is costing almost $80 billion in the city of Los Angeles alone. It details how far-reaching the effect of the housing crisis has been on those communities, impacting not just home values but increasing the cost of government services while simultaneously eroding the tax base.

Mears has been able to get a loan modification, and is cautiously optimistic she will be able to keep her home. She also realizes things could still fall apart. She’s seen it happen to so many others. But in the meantime, she’s fighting as hard as she can for herself, and others.

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