Though the snowy weather was somewhat challenging, Dec. 16, it didn’t stop Austin residents from listening to Congressman Danny Davis (7th District) and his coalition talk about the growing crisis in home foreclosures.

The issue of foreclosures is a subject being addressed daily in Chicago as well as around the country. The previous day, Attorney General Lisa Madigan held a press conference with Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. to announce that her office would be going after many mortgage lenders.

Political and community leaders have been holding forums addressing the problem of foreclosures. Madigan, Davis, Ald. Ed Smith, state Rep. LaShawn Ford, state Rep. Deborah Graham, state Sen. Don Harmon, South Austin Coalition’s Bob Vondrasak, Rev. Ira Acree, Deshana Forney, executive director of Illinois Housing & Development Authority, and realtor Phyllis Logan are just some of the individuals focusing on this growing issue.

“Foreclosure Sunday” was held at Greater St. John Bible Church, 1256 N. Waller, where Davis, Smith, Pastor Acree and Forney all addressed the audience. Forney talked about state and local agencies, faith-based organizations and elected officials. She leads the state’s efforts to finance creation and preservation of affordable housing for low income residents.

Ald. Smith said, “I don’t want anyone to take this lightly. This is a very serious issue. Three weeks ago, I was in New Orleans, La. Let me tell you, houses are boarded up every week, and it’s the same thing basically in Chicago. Now some people are a bit trepidatious about stepping up and indicating they need help. This is no time to hide and think people are going to talk about you because you got a problem with your house. We don’t have all the answers, but at least we are trying to come up with something that will help. So when these opportunities come up, show up because you may not get another chance.”

Logan told the audience, “Homeownership is a passion of mind and the part that has failed us the most is the lack of knowledge. Since 2001 we have been doing outreach with ownership wealth. The education part comes with letting the community know the process of being a homeowner-obstacles that are in the way and not keeping you on the right path. There is a path of not only getting into a home, but correcting a situation to keep you in a home and that is what the outreach does, including the churches. We’re here to make you knowledgeable, aware of what it takes to live and be happy as a individual.”

A press conference followed:

AWN: Cong. Davis, will you conduct these Sunday Foreclosures every Sunday?

Davis: We have a number of churches that are doing the same thing today. We met with all of the bishops of the Church of God in Christ last Monday, and those churches are doing it. So we won’t necessarily be doing Foreclosure Sunday every Sunday, but the churches have agreed that they are going to keep providing people information and get in the forefront of this issue because so many of their parishioners are losing their homes. We expect it to be going on for a long time.

AWN: Ald. Smith, there was a press conference held at Rainbow PUSH with Atty. General Madigan stating she will be going after some of these lenders. Do you support that?

Smith: I think she is absolutely correct because we got the payday loan people involved in this also. And we want to make sure everybody who is involved at least gives up something. We’re not talking about prosecuting. We’re talking about being lenient. Allow people to stay in a home, extrapolate the payments, having 30 years stretch to 40 years, to try to find some way to let people have their homes because this is all they have. Once they take the house, it exacerbates the situation because you got families living there, and they are distributed among other people and some move out of state. We want the financial institutions to find a way to work with the homeowner, allow them to keep their home and stay there. That is the goal.

AWN: Rev. Acree, one part that has been discussed is reconstructing home loans. What role will your church have?

Rev. Acree: Our role is to embrace the congressman and give him access to our pulpit. In addition to that, the churches in the leadership network-I spoke with the executive council, Rev. Hatch, Rev. Fields and Rev. Thurman and they gave us permission to reach out to all the churches in our group. We can have a liaison to the congressman’s office and the churches so we can turn people on to all the resources that are available. People have a trustworthy person inside of these various churches. Sometimes people don’t know where to go. My wife [Margaret] is one of those persons people can trust, and people come to her. She will be actively involved in helping to get the information out.

Responding to a TV reporter’s question about the best place for people to go, Davis replied, “The state has counselors and housing programs, the City of Chicago has its help line, the Chicago Dept. of Housing. The county has a program. Many of the housing groups like neighborhood housing service have their program. Government is really stepping up and attempting to help.

Smith added that people need to ask the institutions for help. “They will not respond if you don’t ask,” he said.

Davis said, “President Bush has a program that we think is going to help about 15 percent of the people. What his program does is hold the mortgage rate steady for people who bought their home at a specified period of time. But if you didn’t purchase during that period, then it doesn’t help.”

There will be a homeowner outreach day on Saturday, Jan. 12, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Malcolm X College, 1900 W. Van Buren. The Illinois Housing Development Authority and The Illinois Dept. of Financial and Professional Regulation are bringing mortgage loan providers, local housing assistance groups and state agencies together in one place to help homeowners who are struggling to pay their mortgage. For more information, call 800/532-8785 or