Occupy MN Prompts Clergy to Oppose Home Foreclosures

Are the Occupy MN protestors making a difference by defending foreclosed homes?

They are with clergy in North Minneapolis. David Snyder of Jewish Community Action — and an organizer of the interfaith Northside Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) press conference at Shiloh Temple today that called on banks to work with homeowners in foreclosure — said that the Occupy movement has given NCRC and religious leaders a shot in the arm to speak out against the crisis.

“Occupy MN has pushed us to think broader and to think of new tactics,” said Snyder. “It has opened up political space to make broader demands. It’s a critical movement. We’re grateful that they’re putting their bodies on the line to make the space for us to articulate these demands.”

Five prominent religious leaders, and one North Minneapolis homeowner who narrowly avoided foreclosure, shared the podium at Shiloh Temple on Tuesday. They were Bishop Richard Howell, Revs. Jerry McAfee, Dwight Seawood and Paul Slack, Vic Rosenthal of Jewish Community Action and homeowner Cathy Spann. Shiloh Temple is on Broadway in the heart of North Minneapolis, a neighborhood decimated by poverty, more than 5,000 foreclosures since the housing crisis began in 2007, and a tornado on May 22.

“We’re about the poor, the needy, we’re about anybody here,” said Bishop Howell of Shiloh Temple. “Anybody who comes through these doors from the north side. That’s what we do, and we do it best.”

Churches and Occupy MN — different approaches, same goal

“We try to minister to the whole person — spirit, soul and body,” said Rev. McAfee, who connected Cathy Spann with NCRC, and helped her keep her home. “But it’s hard for me to speak to your spirit when your mind is on where you’ll be sleeping the next few days.” McAfee said that church attendance and donations have decreased on account of the foreclosure crisis.

With respect to Occupy MN, David Snyder added that community reinvestment coalitions like NCRC and the Occupy movement can compliment each other, though one may be more radical and one more traditional. “A movement like (Occupy) can push the whole dialogue around income equality, around equity, around financial discrimination. We get a lot more power at the negotiating table if stuff like this is happening at the street level.”

“They’re very different approaches,” agreed Anthony Newby of MN Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, which has been at the forefront of the local Occupy Your Home movement. “The organization model typically works through proper legal channels, has detailed discussions about the minutea of the loan documents and timelines and gets the banks to honor their commitments on paper.”

“Our approach is more radical, it’s a moral argument. The most important thing is keeping people in their homes across the board.”

Snyder adds that moral pressure is not the only lever religious leaders have with the banks. “If they go to their pulpits and testify to that message, that’s when people en masse start moving their money (out of the bank).”

Jacob Wheeler

In addition to shooting videos for The UpTake, Jacob Wheeler is a contributing editor at the progressive political magazine In These Times, publishes the Glen Arbor Sun in his native Michigan, and authored "Between Light and Shadow," a recent book about the Guatemalan adoption industry. Wheeler's stories have appeared in such magazines as the Utne Reader, Earth Island Journal, Rotarian and Teaching Tolerance magazine, and newspapers including the San Francisco Chronicle and Christian Science Monitor. He speaks fluent Spanish, German and Danish.

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