Dozens of housing rights activists and residents gathered in front of a U.S. Bank branch on 16th and Mission streets to protest the foreclosure and possible eviction of three single mothers and their children.
Causa Justa, Just Cause, a multi-racial, grassroots leadership building organization, and the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco, an advocacy group that supports tenants and owners going through foreclosures and evictions, organized the Thursday afternoon press conference.
They protested against the foreclosure of a three-unit house at 490 Athens St. in the Excelsior District and the possible eviction of its tenants.
Dora Martinez, Alma Sierra and Maria Mendoza, the three mothers in danger of being expelled, spoke on megaphones to describe their situation.
Their homes have been foreclosed by U.S. Bank and though they are tenants and have not stopped paying rent, they are on the verge of being evicted, family members said. The families want the bank to act as a landlord by allowing them to stay, collecting the rent and carrying out repairs to their homes.
“We have nowhere to go,” said Maria Mendoza. “We do not have the resources to relocate.” She claims she never heard from the bank directly and only found out that she was being expelled through her neighbors.
“It’s not our fault,” said Sierra, speaking of the dealings between her landlord and the bank. “My son is not doing well at school; he keeps thinking of the eviction.”
Later, the children of the evicted families spoke to the gathered crowd. Kevin, 9, said “Please don’t evict us. If we had to miss out on our education it would very hard to catch up.”
The crowd chanted in support as housing activists detailed their demands and concerns, denouncing both the fate of these families and foreclosures in general.
“This is absurd, this is ridiculous,” shouted Lucia Kimble, one of the organizers. “Tenants’ rights are not respected.”
Kimble demanded that a moratorium be placed on evictions “until banks are regulated and stop their predatory lending”.
Tommi Avicolli Mecca of the Housing Rights Committee pointed to a report by the city assessor’s office that found one or more irregularity in 99 percent of mortgage loans and clear violations of the law in 84 percent of mortgage loans. This would make it legally impossible to undertake either foreclosures or evictions, Mecca claimed.
“The government should not allow these foreclosures; the banks are criminals,” he said.
Mecca said that “all public officials should refuse these evictions,” calling on interim sheriff Vicki Hennessy to stop carrying out the orders. “The eyes of the world are on you, sheriff,” Mecca said.
Susan Fahey of the Sheriff’s Department declined to comment on Thursday’s protest. “Our role is to carry out eviction orders; we are legally bound to do it,” she said. “It’s not something we do wholeheartedly.”
Mecca then quoted a statement by Excelsior District Supervisor John Avalos, who could not join the protesters. “I urge U.S. Bank to stop their eviction and keep [these families] as tenants,” read the statement.
U.S. Bank did not immediately respond to a request for comment.