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Community Organizes Against Foreclosures

Yolanda and Lauro Navarro sit in their dining room. Their Watsonville home is in foreclosure.

By Krista Almanzan

Watsonville, CA – If owning a home is the American Dream, then Lauro and Yolanda Navarro have lived the dream three times over. They bought their first home in Watsonville in the 1980s and then the couple inherited a second home. But the dream turned into a nightmare when they leveraged both those homes to build the house they live in today.

They are facing foreclosure because of a series of events: a bank dispute, costly legal battle with their contractor and job loss.

"The last payment we made was $5,800," said Yolanda Navarro. "We realized that we were not going to be able to keep making the payment because Lauro was laid off."

As she held back tears, her husband comforted her by saying, we don't cry, we organize.' Lauro Navarro has worked with the United Farm Workers and Teamsters, so when it came to the foreclosure crisis, organizing seemed like a natural solution.

"I think the only way is working with COPA, with churches and community support," said Lauro Navarro.

Through their church, the Navarros connected with Communities Organized for Relational Power in Action (COPA). Together the Navarros and COPA volunteers began holding foreclosure prevention workshops in their largely Hispanic community of Watsonville.

"It's not just about what the banks need to do differently," said Joaquin Sanchez, COPA's lead organizer. "There is also some important education that's got to happen with families."

Through the workshops, Sanchez wants to make everyone facing foreclosure an expert on understanding their finances and their loan packages and on how to negotiate. It's all in preparation for meeting one on one with a bank representative about loan modification. Homeowners will be asking to have their principal reduced or their adjustable rate mortgage changed to a fixed mortgage.

But given that loan modifications have been slow to happen across the nation, community organizers are exploring other solutions.

They've begun meeting with officials at all levels of government. Sanchez wants to make sure that any decision they make regarding the foreclosure crisis includes consideration for the homeowners.

"Not just people from banks, not just people from government, not just people from traditional positions of power," said Sanchez, "but everyday common people who are trying to pay their mortgages, who have a job, who are struggling to make ends meet--they've got to be at that table to be a part of that conversation."

As for the Navarros, they're waiting to hear back from their bank for a loan modification. In the meantime, they continue to help other families fight foreclosure.