Community, bank help foreclosure victims

July 8, 2009 (CHICAGO) On Wednesday, they met with officials from Bank of America and ironed out three ways to help communities ravaged by foreclosure.

A consortium of neighborhoods got organized and brought Bank of America to the table to hear their proposals.

Bank of America took over Countrywide which was the nation's largest mortgage lender.

On Wednesday, Bank of America executives went to Chicago Lawn discuss ways to help families stay in their homes and ultimately help the economy.

Prayers were offered to help families save their homes from foreclosure. The prayers come from members of the Southwest Organizing Project as a team negotiates with executives from Bank of America at St. Rita's Church.

The negotiations come after months of concern about neighborhoods impacted by foreclosure.

"It's difficult to walk out there and not know who's out there. A vacant home is something that's a target for just recklessness," said Irene Villafuerte, Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP).

"We are seeing, you know, children who are afraid to walk down blocks because you have three or four boarded up houses on a particular block," said Rami Nashasibi, SWOP.

Elia Santana was on the team. She lives in Chicago Lawn with her family. A series of recent tragedies put them behind on mortgage payments, including layoffs for her and her husband and the sudden death of her sister-in-law and brother in Mexico which left her nephews orphaned.

"It's like a nightmare," said Santana.

Santana says the executives heard her plea for help and more importantly agreed to three suggestions from SWOP to help all homeowners: more aggressive loan modifications, work toward ways to manage vacant properties and help foreclosed families find housing.

"What I'm hoping is if we come up with some solutions that are workable," said Robert Grossinger, Bank of America.

"The health of the communities is very much connected to the health of our company. So it is not only the right thing to do, it is very important to work on strategies to stabilize families, to stabilize neighborhoods," said Andrew Plepler, Bank of America.

The Santanas are uncertain of their future, but after today's meeting have some hope.

Elia Santana is adopting her brother's sons and bringing them to Chicago from Mexico. That's one more reason she wants to stay in her home to provide stability for the family.

Bank of America has doubled its loan servicing staff. The executives say they will meet with swop again in the coming weeks to work out details. Some of their objectives will require help from the local and federal government.

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