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Fred Shrum & Occupy Detroit stand up to Wells Fargo

February 15, 2012

Occupy Detroit has joined with Fred Shrum of Dearborn Heights, Michigan to stand up to Wells Fargo and fight to stop his eviction. Their post on yesterday's action is below:

In July, Wells Fargo foreclosed on Fred Shrum’s Dearborn Heights house after he missed three mortgage payments. At the sheriff’s auction afterward, Wells Fargo bought it back for $72,000, nearly $40,000 less than the $110,000 Shrum paid for it in 2007. Shrum says he could have afforded payments on the reduced principal — but Wells Fargo never gave him a chance.

So on Valentine’s Day, Shrum vowed to stay in his house with his family and fight the eviction that could come at any time. He recently received a writ of eviction and a court date for Thursday. That’s when he’ll know for sure whether Wells Fargo chooses to kick him out or negotiate. Shrum is prepared. Backed by groups including Occupy Our Homes, Occupy Detroit, People Before Banks, Moratorium Now, and UAW local 600, Shrum will stand up to any attempt to evict him, his family, and their possessions.

At a rally and press conference themed “Home is where the heart is” in front of Shrum’s house, he said: “I have friends and relatives who’ve been evicted, and they say they’ve never seen it happen so fast. Maybe I shouldn’t have drawn attention to myself. I feel like I’m being punished for trying to work with them.”

Shrum said he tried to negotiate with someone at Wells Fargo, but all he got was the run-around. Someone at the bank sent him paperwork and told him to fill it out and fax it back. The fax number didn’t work, he said, and when he called back to find out what to do, he got a much colder reception. He was told that he didn’t qualify for a principal reduction and not to bother trying.

How did Shrum reach foreclosure and pending eviction? Like so many other homeowners, he was injured and piled up medical bills. Like so many others, he saw his employer cut his work hours, so his paychecks shrank.

As often happens, he didn’t know when his foreclosed house was sold at a sheriff’s sale. Despite taxpayer-funded bailouts, banks take but do not give — except when it comes to the bonuses they pay to themselves. The banks are supposed to use the bailouts to loan money and work with recession-crushed homeowners. They don’t.

Living with Shrum are Brendan, a roommate and full-time student, Shrum’s nephew Robert, who is unemployed, and Robert’s six-year-old daughter Paige. Shrum’s sister also faces foreclosure. If activist groups like Occupy Our Homes, which Occupy Detroit assists, don’t help save their homes, where will these people live?

Already, people in a phone bank have been calling Wells Fargo, pushing the bank to help. Others are planning vigils to protect Shrum’s home from the dump trucks used to cart off the possessions of people like him.

With his income cut in half, Fred Shrum used up his savings making mortgage payments until his savings ran out. He believed Wells Fargo when someone there told him he didn’t qualify for principal reduction.

But the 52-year-old former Marine probably is eligible for several government programs. Unfortunately, banks still get to decide whether to participate in them, so they don’t work as intended. Wells Fargo likely doesn’t participate.

Fred Shrum bought his house in 2007 and began working on it. “I had hoped to lay down some roots and become part of this community,” he said. “I’ve been fixing up the house since then, installing new windows and insulation. I think I’ve put about $20,000 into it in renovations, altogether.”

Shrum isn’t ready to let go. As he said at the press conference, he and his family are prepared to stay in the house as an act of civil disobedience and in protest of how bailed-out banks treat U.S. homeowners. With the help of Occupy Our Homes and groups including Occupy Detroit, People Before Banks, Moratorium Now, and UAW Local 600, they will fight the eviction.

“I don’t expect anyone to give me the house,” Shrum said. “I just want to be treated fairly. I want Wells Fargo to come back to the table and see if we can find an arrangement that works in both our interests.”

See Fred's full speech here: