An Independence Day Reflection
Guest Blogger: Sarah B. Cooper, TALS Intern
One family’s story
Rod has spent his entire adult life as a factory worker. Back in 2005, with changing technology and company outsourcing, the work force was downsized and Rod and his wife were faced with a decision to collect unemployment and hope to find a new job soon, or relocate to a sister factory. After a thorough review of all pros and cons, Rod and his wife decided to move. Within a few months they had sold their home and purchased one closer to the new job. Things seemed good for the first couple years, and then lay-offs began. Work came and went, with periods of unemployment and disillusionment. Finally, it was announced that the plant was closing for good.
With both Rod and his wife finding work here and there, they made ends meet until another round of downsizing plagued them again and Rod was once more without a job. With the reality of unemployment running out soon, meeting their basic financial requirements was becoming more difficult. Rod reached out to his mortgage company for a possible refinance option that would allow them to stay in the house that they loved, using his wife’s retail salary. Over the next 6 months, the mortgage company agreed to a reduced payment which Rod and his wife were able to make. As they waited to hear about a closing date to finalize the resettlement, they received a letter stating that their mortgage had been sold to another company who would not honor the new payment plan. Not only were they supposed to return to paying the old amount, they also were expected to pay the unpaid balance from the past months. If this was not done immediately, they would be considered in default and foreclosure papers would be filed.
Many people’s struggle
Although, I have followed this story closely, because it is happening to a family member, their story is not unique. With unemployment as it stands, and the economy stagnant, the foreclosure crisis is expected to continue. According to the Nashville Business Journal, “in Davidson County, one in every 867 housing units is in some stage of foreclosure. In Williamson County the rate is one in every 1,242.” Although these numbers are slowly declining, I would argue that the need is great for adequate counsel to help those low income families who are in jeopardy of losing their homes, keep their homes.
As we spend our Independence Day with family and friends, I urge us to reflect on those that had the fortitude to convene and draft the Declaration of Independence, those national leaders who stood up against the ruling body that imposed unjustified pain on the colonials, those that believe in the strength of the American people. In doing this, I ask for us also to consider those that struggle today to keep the basic rights our founding fathers fought for, shelter being one.
Last year in Tennessee, 24.4% of Legal Aid cases involved housing, more than any other category reported. If Rod is lucky, he too may be one other those 6000+ cases. I say lucky because the number of cases that the current Legal Aid offices can handle, far under weighs the amount of need. Legal Aid attorneys can make a huge difference in a case like Rod’s, but only when there are enough attorneys to meet the demand.
So this July 4th, we celebrate the country that stood up for our liberties and we renew our commitment to the battle for rights for all.
- Sarah B. Cooper, TALS Intern