If you don’t want them, give ’em back to the community-that was the message of activists at last Wednesday’s press conference and walking tour of foreclosed properties belonging to Bank of American.

The South Austin Coalition Community Council and National Peoples Action hosted the press briefing, condemning Bank of America as one of the banks with the largest number of foreclosed properties in Chicago. The meeting took place at the Austin Senior Satellite Center, 5701 W. Congress.

Juanita Rutues, a vice president with SACCC, said Bank of America is not the only culprit.

“I know we’re saying Bank of America today, but we need to say all the major banks-it is not just one. We’re here to see what we can do to resolve the issue with Bank of America, Chase, City Financial and all of those who are not doing what they are suppose to do, in reference to foreclosures.

“I am also a longtime retired employee of the bank we’re talking about today,” Rutues added. “Bank of America is the originators of these loans…We need to, at this time, deal with Bank of America in the way that we have been dealing with other banks.

“We need those foreclosures here, back; give it back to the community if you can’t do anything with them. We’re not playing with Bank of America; we are not scared. We are going take back our homes and our culture.”

Rev. Sirchester Jackson, a pastor of Mandel United Methodist Church added: “We are here today to release the report that condemns the Bank of America, but we are also talking about all of the big banking institutions. But Bank of American is one of the banks with the largest number of foreclosed properties in Chicago. They placed over 4000 in the last three years.”

Theresa Welch-Davis, SACCC’s housing coordinator, spoke on behalf of several homeowners she’s worked with. She said she’s been working with these homeowners in the last few years to get their loans modified.

“Approximately two years ago I started working with Ms. (Dorothy) Daniels, trying to save her home. She was not behind, she was struggling. Struggling to make everyday necessities-food, pay her bills and to pay her mortgage. She never fell behind. Before she would do anything she would pay her mortgage,” Welch-Davis said of Daniels, who didn’t attend the meeting because of an illness.

“We reached out to Bank of America two years ago and told them she needs help. Soon as she tried to get her mortgage re-modified she lost a leg …It should not take two years to send paperwork in to have her loan re-modified.

“We have sent Ms. Daniels paperwork in approximately seven times,” Welch-Davis said. “Each time we send it in they would say ‘you didn’t sign this.’ We resign it, send it in UPS, then it’s ‘oh, you forgot to send this or you need another bank statement…This is ridiculous. Bank of America is one the largest services that we have from coast to coast. I was told if you have any type of income coming into your house they would work with you to modify your loan-this is not true.

“We have a multitude of banks that are playing around in people’s lives,” Welch-Davis said. “What does that do to a community? It destroys a community because when that house sits vacant it brings your property value down; it allows gangs, prostitution, drugs, and brings the entire community down. On the tour today you are going to see beautiful homes that could have been saved.”