Foreclosure: Dismantling Family Ties
January 4, 2011
Are you tired of hearing the terms “foreclosure,” “the crisis,” and “Wall Street”? Many of us are. Unfortunately, we are likely to be weathering this storm for years to come. We cannot afford to grow numb to families losing their homes en masse. The hazards of the housing market run deep, but many decision-makers are only hearing the corporate lobbyists’ side of the story. We have to make sure that the housing market is improved with vulnerable families in mind, not just the banks.
This is the first of five stories of families caught in the David versus Goliath struggle to save their home. By sharing these stories, I hope to give a voice to the millions of families devastated by the crisis, forcing policymakers to listen and telling neighbors that they are not alone. This is the story of the Nogales family:
On the west coast of Florida, the Nogales family has been split up by foreclosure. Ms. Nogales, a single mother who has a 17-year-old daughter and two sons, ages 18 and 25, experienced a loss in income that triggered a series of events ending in foreclosure.
First, it was a loss of income. Second, my mortgage loan actually increased because of taxes, which, of course, put me behind because with my less income and my mortgage [going] up. I was not able to pay it, the adjustable loan. I had homeowner's [association] dues, too, and they all went up.
Foreclosure triggered contention between the family members. Faced with eviction, the mother moved into her sister's home. However, the home was too small to accommodate her two older boys, so they were forced to move out on their own with little warning and before they were financially prepared to do so. This separation created conflict, anxiety, and feelings of guilt. Ms. Nogales describes the tension:
Well, for one thing, I think my boys are jealous because I'm providing for [my daughter] and not helping them out. So of course they're jealous...My daughter and I have moved in with my sister, which I never thought I would ever have to do. Never thought I would be living with my sister at this age. One of the boys comes and stays periodically with me and with a friend and the other one stays with a friend.
She goes on to express concerns about her son's anger:
My 18-year-old has been in trouble with fighting...But not with the other son, with other people...He has a lot of anger.
The foreclosure has hindered her daughter's education and emotional state. After the family lost their car due to financial difficulties, her daughter had no other means of getting to school. She was forced to transfer to an online program to complete high school. Removed from her friends and social network, the daughter became withdrawn and depressed.
Ms. Nogales' extended family used to help each other during hard times. Unfortunately, the entire family is now struggling financially.
My parents are still here and their house actually is in the process of probably going into foreclosure. So it could end up where about seven of us are all living in one place and, of course, we won't even know where that is yet, depending on the house with my sister. Ours is like a domino effect. It's like one went into foreclosure, then another one, because we're all trying to help each other financially. But we're having to not pay this to help pay that to keep this house and it just gets―it worked for a little while. It's not working anymore.
Ms. Nogales is concerned about the extinction of the American Dream. She worries about how this economic crisis promises a very difficult start for the next generation entering the workforce and the housing market.
I think my kids are just finally looking at it going, "Oh, my gosh. We thought we were going to have [the American Dream]." I mean they're seeing [the dream vanish], too. They're seeing me struggle.
I don't think [the American Dream] is available and likely to happen for a lot of people. I feel bad for these people that come out of college. My kids are going to be going into college, hopefully. I don't know what kind of future they're going to have with being able to come out of school. I feel scared for them and sorry for them for what the next ten years are going to be like for our youth.
The Nogales family's story is just one among the millions of families expected to lose their homes. To get beyond the numbers, the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) is recording the human realities of foreclosure to give struggling families a voice. We will share these stories before decision-makers who have the power to curb the rate of home loss.
This post originally appeared at www.nclr.org as part of a blog series titled Too Little to Save. Stories were gathered as part of research conducted by NCLR and the Center for Community Capital at the University of North Carolina documenting the impact of foreclosures on parents and their children.