Take Back the Land Rochester has planned another eviction defense, this time for U.S. military veteran Joe Martinez, to keep Martinez and his children from being evicted from their home before Christmas, organization officials said.
According to Take Back the Land representative Julie Gelfand, although Martinez has been renting, but does not own the home; Wells Fargo has violated the terms of his lease, which began in April of this year.
“It’s a different case, because he is not the owner, he is a renter,” Gelfand stated. “However, if there is a foreclosure; they have to honor the terms of the lease. And, Wells Fargo has chosen not to.”
As a result, Gelfand said Take Back the Land, as well as other community members, will be willing to risk arrest as an act of civil disobedience in order to keep Martinez in his home.
“On April 1, 2014, I signed a year lease for 189 Alameda St.,” Martinez stated. “As a veteran, I would expect Wells Fargo to be understanding, and support me in my wish to stay at least to the end of the lease. I chose Alameda Street because of the proximity to an excellent school with a great sports program where my son, Phillip, can thrive. One month ago I was given sole custody of Phillip, and being able to provide a stable environment for him was one of the deciding factors for the judge. It would be unfair to my son to have to pack up three weeks before Christmas with no home to move into. I am asking Wells Fargo to call off the eviction, and negotiate with me so my family has a place to live for Christmas and beyond.”
The organization also recently held a nonviolent community eviction blockade to keep city resident George Douglass in his home, which has held off another eviction from Wells Fargo for the time being.
“It’s still pending, but at least for now, the eviction seems to have been called off,” Gelfand stated. “Wells Fargo called the day after our blockade last week.”
She said about 35 people showed up to the event, but the city marshal never showed up to escort Douglass from the premises, and she expects a similar outcome in the Martinez case.
“We think Wells Fargo will rescind that eviction,” Gelfand stated.
Ultimately, she said Martinez, and Take Back the Land, would like to find a better use for the property rather than letting it sit vacant, and they hope he may be able to stay in the home permanently, even though his lease ends next year.
“We’re hoping Wells Fargo calls it off,” she stated. “That would be the victory we would like in the case. Take Back the Land, and Joe, want to continue to go to court and figure out a much better use for the property.”
In addition, Gelfand said, so far, every eviction defense the organization has fought has ended with those residents continuing to live in their homes.
She said the residents may not always remain in ownership of the homes, but, ultimately, the banks kind of give up in the end.
“I’d say the biggest success story we’ve ever had, was the very first resident we ever helped, Cathy Lennon,” Gelfand stated. “The city marshal showed up with a school bus to arrest 16 or so people who were willing to be arrested during the defense, and it got a lot of national attention. Cathy ended up being able to stay in her home, and about two years later, Bank of America turned around and sold her the home for one dollar. No mortgage payment, no anything. That would be the victory we would like to see in every case.”
Wells Fargo was not immediately available for comment on the matter.
For additional information on the eviction blockade, or to attend, go to https://www.facebook.com/TakeBackRoc