PORTLAND, Ore. - A local woman involved in a long fight against eviction faced a deadline on Thursday and demonstrators gathered outside her home in a show of support.
"I'm not moving," said Alicia Jackson, who lost her home to foreclosure last year. "I don't see why anyone should move out of their homes."
Jackson claims she was the victim of a bad loan and that the home is rightfully hers. She did leave her house last year after failing to make the mortgage payments but protesters 'reclaimed' it for her this past May and handed back her keys. At the time, police let the events unfold but said they would eventually take action to remove her from the home.
A formal eviction was scheduled for Thursday and once again, Jackson's supporters gathered outside the woman's home to fight for her. The effort was spearheaded by We Are Oregon and folks from Occupy Portland, the Blazing Arrow Organization and other groups.
Early Thursday morning, demonstrators held a press conference to explain Jackson's situation and rally supporters. The main objective, according to Alejandro Juarez with We Are Oregon, is to get the water turned back on at the house.
The city plans to remove Jackson because the house lacks water service (it was turned off months ago) and is considered unfit for habitation. Jackson has offered to pay the overdue bill, but the city won't take her money because she doesn't own the house anymore. Portland Water Bureau administrator David Shaff says the company that does own it is trying to evict Jackson and doesn't want water service restored.
Juarez said Jackson (pictured at right) has been making an effort to work with the city on the water situation.
"We don't think it's fair that they (the city) are refusing to turn it on," Juarez said. "They should do that (turn the water on) while she's fighting the courts. Alicia has offered to pay the water bill and give the city revenue until this is over."
- Eviction document (pdf)
Jackson's supporters have been bringing jugs of water to the house to help her out. The electricity is on and Jackson said she has no intention of going anywhere.
"If you feel content with what's going on then shame on you because this could very well be you," she said. "It's time that we take a stand for housing justice in Portland. I will not let them take my home."
City Commissioner Randy Leonard, who is in charge of the Portland Water Bureau, said he is frustrated with the situation and that he has personally tried to find Alicia Jackson another place to live. He said the city has no choice but to keep the water off because the bank that owns the property does not want it turned back on.
As far as the bigger picture goes, Juarez said his group is trying to educate people about foreclosure and what their options are. He said they want people to understand that they can fight back against the banks and should not give up easily when it comes to keeping a roof over their head.
"We're telling them not to move out of their homes and not to self evict," he said.
So what's next for Jackson and her fight to stay in the home?
The city's Bureau of Development Services will eventually post a warning on the home and about a week later they will have sheriff's deputies serve a warrant to remove anyone in the structure. Finally, contractors will board up the home.
At this point there is no indication when the city plans to post the notice to get the ball rolling.
In the meantime, demonstrators plan to stay at Jackson's home overnight into Friday.
Alameda couple says they aren't moving either
At the rally outside Jackson's home early Thursday morning, another local family took the stage to talk about their eviction notice. They say they are not moving out of their home either.
Will and Heather Sirotak made a home for themselves eight years ago in the Alameda neighborhood. At that time, their grandson, Aidan (who they adopted as a baby) was in a fragile state of health and in a wheelchair. So Will, who is an architect, made changes to the house to accommodate him.
"We started to make hardwood floors so he could go through and not go through little doors," he said.
But in 2008 when the economy crashed, Will lost his job. That was around the same time that Aidan passed away and Heather, who was Aidan's full-time caregiver, lost her income from the state. She was also diagnosed with cancer.
The couple tried to sell the home they love. It went on short sale but Will said the bank would not accept low offers from potential buyers. Then came the eviction notice but the couple says they are not packing.
They know they can't fight forever and they do have a 'Plan B.' Will has been building a mini house on wheels while looking for full-time work. It may be their new residence someday. They are just not ready to hand their current home over to the bank so easily.
The Sirotaks are working with We Are Oregon and Occupy Portland. They told us that demonstrators may camp outside their home this weekend, just like what is being done at Jackson's house.
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Should you take a stand if facing the same situation?
In one sense, Jackson's stand to stay in her home with the help of We Are Oregon makes strategic sense. Attorney Clarke Balcom handles foreclosures all the time and said anyone who is facing it should not just pack up and walk away. He said staying put is a pretty good strategy.
"One of the reasons is that you have more rights if you are still living there, in some respects, depending on what the legal response would be from the homeowner," he said.
If you are facing foreclosure and don't know what to do, call 1-800-SAFENET or visit ForeclosureHelp.org.
But you also have to get help the minute you realize your home is in jeopardy. Most people wait way too long.
"They've cashed out all their money from their 401k, IRA, savings or money borrowed from family and all they've done is tread water," Balcom said. "Which is unfortunate because that limits what can be done with the house, as well as their own personal financial well being."
Balcom said by the time a homeowner ends up in Jackson's situation, it's almost always too late.
"If you can address it early on, there are many mitigation issues that can be taken," he said. "They vary depending on the situation of the homeowner."
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.