Franken visits Northside homeowners facing foreclosure


Veronica Ezeka has lived at her North Minneapolis home for almost 15 years. However, unless something changes, this week she and her family will become another casualty of the current housing crisis.

A native of West Africa, Ezeka says her home will be foreclosed August 6.

Unfortunately, her circumstances are not all that uncommon these days.

She didn’t have a bad mortgage or get overextended in her lifestyle. “Something in my life happened that I needed money,” Ezeka said, explaining how she fell behind in her mortgage payments as she cared for her then-ailing father back in her native country.

“My father unfortunately has died, but I was traveling back and forth, and that [caused] me [to] fall behind in my mortgage,” she pointed out. “When you are paying $2,000 a month, it is hard to catch up when you have five children to feed and other bills to pay.

“They [her mortgage company] asked me to come up with $10,000 and I don’t have it,” Ezeka continued sadly. “I wrote letters to them, [but] they already started foreclosure proceedings.”

“Veronica is a nursing assistant,” said U.S. Congressman Keith Ellison, who knows both her and her husband, Jim Jackson. “She puts in a tremendous number of shifts just to make the payments on her house, but it is just too much.”

Ellison and Minnesota U.S. senatorial candidate Al Franken both visited Ezeka and Jackson last Saturday at their home, following an appearance at the Urban League Family Day Celebration. Before addressing reporters waiting outside, Franken learned that Ezeka once tended to his mother while she was hospitalized.

“Veronica works very hard and [has] lived in this home for a long time,” said Franken. Added Ezeka, “We have been here since 1994.”

Ezeka and Jackson are just two more names on a growing list of working- and middle-class homeowners hit hard by the current housing crisis.

Franken pointed out, “Not only people losing their homes are affected — the rising tide of foreclosures is driving down the value of virtually every home in Minnesota. This doesn’t [just] affect Jim and Veronica or just North Minneapolis. It is affecting every area of the state and everyone who owns a house, not just the people whose homes are foreclosed.”

Ezeka’s home will become the sixth foreclosed property on her block, she claimed. “I am afraid that we haven’t hit bottom yet,” Ellison said.
“This isn’t about politics, but real life,” noted ACORN Chairperson Sunday Alabi. “People need to be secure in their own homes.”

“Minnesota is in the midst of a housing emergency,” said Franken as he briefly unveiled a housing plan that includes a 120-day moratorium on foreclosures, providing more funding to distressed cities and localities for redeveloping abandoned and foreclosed homes, and cracking down on predatory lenders. “What we are seeing is a downward spiral that I want to stop,” he said.

Franken and Ellison also took part in last Saturday’s Minneapolis Urban League’s annual Family Day Celebration at North Commons Park and made stops at two small shopping malls in South Minneapolis. Franken said he’s proud to be on the Democratic ticket headed by U.S. Senator Barack Obama and including Ellison, who is seeking his second congressional term.

“He [Obama] is going to need as many Democratic U.S. senators as possible to make sure that his agenda gets through,” candidate Franken said of Obama’s potential presidency. “I know that Keith has worked hard to get bills passed for addressing and alleviating the housing crisis. When I get to Washington, I look forward to standing beside Keith as we take the next step.”

Having two Senate Democrats in Congress will be helpful to push forward needed housing and anti-predatory mortgage lending legislation, said Ellison. “We need both houses [of Congress] working together and an administration working for us. Al isn’t just another Democrat, but a dynamic, energetic, charismatic voice that can help rally the public will to real solutions.”

Franken lauded Congress for recently passing a housing bill over President George Bush’s objections to help address the housing crisis. “Congress has taken an important first step in putting programs in place to help struggling borrowers in communities like this one, [but] we need to do more.”

Admittedly, this help may come too late for such people as Ezeka. “It is never too late to do the right thing,” said Franken, “but it will be too late for some people.”

“I don’t know where to go,” Ezeka said last Saturday. “I work two jobs and I am still in school [studying nursing]. I’ll just have to rent.”

Nonetheless, Ezeka thanked both Ellison and Franken “from the bottom of my heart. Even if I stay here or not, I am so grateful and honored,” she told them tearfully.

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