Monday, June 16, 2008

Families and Foreclosure

By Christy Rogers, Research Associate at the Kirwan Institute

Recently I bought a parenting book called Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting by Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn. It’s a parenting book informed by Buddhist practice. Having little exposure to Buddhism, I expected a lot of advice to meditate on the gifts of the universe in hippie-flowery language (something I was partly up for, given my hippie-flowery background, and partly skeptical of, given same). I was stunned to discover practical advice in plain language. One of my favorite paragraphs is this one:

People who choose to become parents take on this hardest of jobs for no salary, often unexpectedly, at a relatively young and inexperienced age, and often under conditions of economic strain and insecurity. Typically, the journey of parenting is embarked upon without a clear strategy or overarching view of the terrain...We learn on the job, as we go. There is, in fact, no other way (page 15).

This is true for parents in all circumstances. But imagine the harrowing beginning for this expectant parent, noted in an extraordinary series on foreclosures in The Columbus Dispatch:

The woman, eight months pregnant, cowered in the back of the house and sent a friend out to talk with the deputy sheriff. This family wasn’t responsible for the mortgage [they were renters] but was about to lose its home to foreclosure. “The toughest part of this job as far as I’m concerned is the renters,” [Deputy] Capehart said. “They have no idea I’m coming. I always hear: ‘I just paid my rent.’”…The pregnant woman wouldn’t talk to the deputy or a reporter…

Would you talk to the deputy or the reporter?

In October, the Kirwan Institute will be convening an initiative to hammer out long-term, sustainable solutions to the foreclosure crisis. Yes, some folks bought over their heads. But most didn’t. The Dispatch series noted that about 70% of people being evicted in Franklin County were renters. More than half of the high-rate mortgages in Ohio signed from 2004 to 2006 went to homeowners refinancing their loans. And the bulk of central Ohio’s subprime loans were funneled to working-class communities of color, meaning that these communities, long struggling for basic homeownership rights, are taking the hardest hit from the fallout. A foreclosure epidemic that causes the meltdown of a major financial institution and causes stock-market shivers around the world isn’t the result of a handful of folks trying to keep up with the Jones’. We’ll be discussing in detail what it is the result of, and how to intervene successfully into it, on October 2-3, and we hope you’ll join us. Bear Stearns got some help. Now how about those pregnant women?

For more on how the mortgage crisis is affecting children please see

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