Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A DeKalb Tragedy

Folks, there's a story in the AJC about a young soldier who sacrificed his life in the Iraq war. His name was Jamaal Addison and he was a graduate of Lakeside HIgh School. He left behind a young son, "Little Jamaal" who lives with his grandmother and is a rising fourth grader at Flat Rock Elementary School.

Now, it seems that due to health issues and a series of events, this family is losing their home. Bloggers, what can we do to help out this hero's family?

Read the article in today's AJC and bring your ideas to the comments section.

Slain soldier's kin to lose their home

UPDATE: Evicted soldier's mom gets help from friends

Friends and supporters have rushed to the aid of military mom Patricia Roberts just days before she was to be evicted from her Lithonia home.

Roberts, whose son, Spc. Jamaal Addison, was the first Georgian killed in the Iraq conflict, was packing her belongings early this week to abandon the condominium she shares with her ailing mother and her grandson.

After The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on her troubles Wednesday, a group called Grandmothers for Peace set up a fund in Addison’s name to help his family find a home.

The Jamaal Addison Fund was established at the Delta Community Credit Union, 1025 Virginia Ave., Atlanta, Ga. 30054. (For information call 404-715-4725 or 1-800-544-3328.)

“I’m very grateful,” said Roberts. “I’m going to try and obtain a residence, and I’m very grateful.”


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UPDATE: Kim is checking on the validity of the fund and other direct avenues for bloggers to provide support. More on Monday.

Good news - for now, the family has been given an indefinite reprieve from SunTrust bank. Read about it at the AJC.

42 comments:

Kim Gokce said...

I placed a call to SunTrust to see if anyone has tried to setup a beneficiary account for this family's mortgage in hopes of putting off the Aug 2 date. I'll post back with the result.

If there's no effort mounted yet and there's a way to intervene at SunTrust, I would be glad to initiate it and cover 1 month to get time to mount an effort. To me, it seems with a little effort we could easily buy this family another year - 500 people giving $12 would do it.

I've been out of work 24 of the last 30 months (6 mo contract last year) and just got an offer today. We've been bailed out just in the nick of time as it turns out. We came so close to the edge ourselves there is no way I could just watch this family get washed away.

Anonymous said...

I can give $12-$20 - Can you post where I can send a check when you find things out? You are a good person, Kim...the world needs more like you!

Anonymous said...

Hey Kim.

I would be glad to help as I certainly don't think this is a good situation.

Just keep us posted to what you find.

Kim Gokce said...

I have contacted a regional Sun Trust mortgage rep who says they know how to track down what, if anything, is being done. It may be tomorrow before I hear back. I suspect they are getting many phone calls and it may take a day or two for them to sort out what to support in response.

Again, my feeling is that we can't live these folks lives for them but we could buy them a year of breathing room with a little effort. It is the least we can do.

Anonymous said...

From Decatur,
I have sent the article regarding this families unfortunate situation to Congressman Hank Johnson and Congressman John Lewis. Also to Commissioner Connie Stokes of Dekalb County. I urge all to call or send emails immediately all of them. The congressmen are holding a save your home event tomorrow and saturday with banks and home owners! Also maybe we all can get each homeowner in our communities,friends and family to donate $12. or $20. by Saturday to an account for the family to try and save their condo.

Anonymous said...

Kim this is why I nominated you as the local hero for Creative Loafing. I will donate in heart beat.

Anonymous said...

From Decatur,

Kim, Please kee all informed and updated to what we can do!
Thanks!!

Anonymous said...

from Decatur

I am sure we all will support that nomination to Creative Loafing regardin Kim. What a great and thoughtful idea!!

Anonymous said...

You know we had better check to make sure that it is a good financial idea to help her save the condo. I wonder how far in arrears she is on HOA fees and I wonder what the overall financial health of the complex is.

The article is very vague about whether she intends to reenter the work force. If her income is set at 600 dollars this condo may not be doable.

I wonder what average rents are for decent places in the area are.

Cerebration said...

Bo Emerson at the AJC says he will let us know - they are setting something up for this family. Apparently, a lot of people want to help. That's great!

Kim Gokce said...

Anon 6:47 Yeah, I've thought about that ... what extenuating circumstances there may be regarding work, other liabilities,etc. However, I came to the quick conclusion that none of that matters between now and Aug 2.

If all we can accomplish is to give them one year to realize that they can't sustain the condo, at least they will have a 2nd chance to disposed of it as THEY choose and perhaps in a less disruptive fashion for the boy.

That's my goal - they have to live their own life and be responsible for it in the end. For their sacrifice, their suffering, and especially for the boy, I want them to have that 2nd chance.

Anonymous said...

Buying this family some time may help even if they can't afford to keep the condo. Extra time would help the family to find a buyer for the property so they can get their equity out.

Kim Gokce said...

Cere: "AJC" I told the Sun Trust contact that I'd be shocked if there wasn't some mechanism already being set up in response to the article. So, it may be that we simply plug into a larger effort.

Again, my only goal was to give them a little breathing room and a chance to keep their situation stable for perhaps a year for the boy's schooling among other things.

With the de-stabilizing grandmother and a young boy, I cannot imagine the pressure on the single mom. His dad fought and died in an imperfect world, fighting an imperfect war; we can certainly overlook imperfections in their lives in return and simply offer what help we can.

Kim Gokce said...

Anon 7:33 ... exactly my thought. When one is staring at the oncoming train, it is easy to freeze - especially, if you are starting the collision course very close to the train in the first place.

This is a classic "Samaritan" situation. We can't "cross to the other side of the road" out of fear or rationalization.

Anonymous said...

I want to help. I worked at Lakeside and remember Jamal. In these hard times, any one of us could be in this situation. I am an educator and I will take home over three thousand dollars less this year. But, I thank the Lord. At least I have a job. Thank you Kim for your kindness. It is great that we can all agree on something.

Anonymous said...

There are housing counselors at CredAbility (eg http://www.credability.org/en/faq.aspx) who know most of the nuances of the federal programs that Congress keeps releasing to deal with delinquent mortgages. Someone who knows them should get the grandmother to contact CredAbility and get to a housing counselor. Chapter 13 is a viable way to put off a foreclosure if all other routes fail and the bank refuses to step down and CredAbility may be a good first step in analyzing if this is a good move for them. They can not wait until August 1st to make these moves.

Kim: I second and third and fourth the nominations for "local hero" and "run for school board". Congrats on the new job!

Anonymous said...

Maybe Lewis and the Reid/Popes could return a few taxpayer dollars to help.

Ella Smith said...

I worked at Lakeside also and knew Jamal also.

I want to help.

Sadly, I think the condo is gone unless they can buy it on the steps now. The paperwork through the courts in complete.

However, the family needs hooked up with Section VII Housing. Section VIII Housing will give the family of 3 approximately $800.00 a month to rent a home. At this point the family needs a nice home to live.

The foreclosure is normally a last resort for the bank and I do not know at this point if there is anything as a group we can do. The family cannot make the payments currently if we helped them get caught up. If someone find out we can do something to help I am in. I will be glad to make donation to help out such a nice young man's son.

Ella Smith said...

Section VIII and donations

I have not had my coffee this morning

Cerebration said...

This is an emergency, and I think it takes a while to get accepted into Section 8. I think this is going to require Hank Johnson's help. Has he been contacted?

Ella Smith said...

I did talk to my husband Merck and due to the judge telling the family to get out the family is being evicted from the home because the bank owns the property at this point so the foreclosure has probable already gone through. At this point I do not think there is anything legally we can do. This is the problem regarding the home they currently live in. As a group we could help them get into another place. But this family also needs the help of Section VIII Housing to make it.

I wish we could help them save their current home. I sincerely hope I am wrong with my assumptions. I do own and rent property so I am very familiar with eviction laws. It is not a pretty thing to do but property owners do have to do it sometimes as they cannot let people live for free. I know the other side to the story when I have had tenants not pay their rent and I have had mortgages I had to pay on that property myself in the past.

Ella Smith said...

However, we could put enough money together to get them into a reasonable place that would Section VIII could take over.

I know Section VIII will give a family of three at least 800-1000 so we need to get money together to get them into an apartment in his school district. This family does not have this kind of money right now.

Cerebration said...

When I was helping a Katrina victim, I found a nice Sec 8 home in the townhouses along the northbound access road just north of Shallowford. If they could stay there, little Jamal could end up following his dad's footsteps into Lakeside.

Anonymous said...

does anyone know the amount it would take to redeem the property from the lender? (generally, the amount of the oustanding mortgage plus taxes in some cases)

Anonymous said...

Does anyone have the contact info for the person at SunTrust? I would be happy to contact the bank and offer to pay a few months' rent for this family. Even if the foreclosure is already final, the bank could agree to rent the property to the family for a few months which would buy some time.

Anonymous said...

The bigger question is should it be redeemed. Her income doesn't cover the mortgage and HOA. I am certain that it isn't worth what she owes on it, as the condos across Atlanta have depreciated terribly.

Anonymous said...

http://www.ajc.com/news/dekalb/evicted-soldiers-mom-gets-581133.html

After The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on her troubles Wednesday, a group called Grandmothers for Peace set up a fund in Addison’s name to help his family find a home.

The Jamaal Addison Fund was established at the Delta Community Credit Union, 1025 Virginia Ave., Atlanta, Ga. 30054. (For information call 404-715-4725 or 1-800-544-3328.)

Square Peg said...

Update from the AJC, with information on an account set up for donations: "Friends and supporters have rushed to the aid of military mom Patricia Roberts just days before she was to be evicted from her Lithonia home..."

http://www.ajc.com/news/dekalb/evicted-soldiers-mom-gets-581133.html

Kim Gokce said...

I've moved through the next layer of contacts at Sun Trust and still have hopes of confirming this week whether there is any way to forestall what sounds like a Monday eviction.

The mortgage was quoted as $513.00. Of course, we don't know how far in arrears they are. But, as I am good for one month, and generous Anon above is good for a couple more, I don't see why we couldn't buy this family some breathing room and perhaps save them from a crippling credit ding.

The effort at the Credit Union will help them whether they stay or go from this condo. Obviously, they have some pretty severe life circumstances to deal with at this time. I'll let the mother worry about those things - that is her right and duty.

Thank you all for your willingness to help. I'll post back as soon as I confirm whether there is any mechanism via Sun Trust to accomplish this ...

Cerebration said...

Kim, you are amazing.

Kim Gokce said...

Cere: You should talk to my wife and get the story straight!

I've reached out to the Grandmothers for Peace organization. The person listed as the Atlanta area chapter says she was the founding catalyst for the chapter but had no success. She lost her own daughter and is now raising an 8 and 10 year old on her own. :(

I contacted the national organization and left a message hoping to clarify who the proper local contact is and to confirm that the account at the Credit Union is legit in their eyes.

No Duh said...

I was at the ELPC meeting that was being held at Lakeside all those years ago when Wayne Chelf was called out of the meeting and returned ashen. He announced Jamal's death. And the grief was palpable. The war in Iraq had come home.

Kim Gokce said...

Whatever else this family has to deal with I simply do not want the date that was supposed to be reserved in Jamaal's honor to be tainted with this foreclosure/eviction. Let it happen in 6 months if it must but not August 2.

Anonymous said...

There are some parts of the story that are "unusual" -- generally banks evict 10 days after the foreclosure. The fact that they foreclosed in June and are trying to evict in August says that there's more to the story than may be being reported. I also found the comments about funds going to the widow, who wasn't the mother of the child, who was a toddler at the time and who hasn't been in touch with the family, a bit troubling as well. Bankruptcy and housing counselors can not help after foreclosure. They ultimately need to find a new home or someone needs to negotiate a great price for the current condo and agree to take on the family as tenants in their new investment. The irony of August 2nd is interesting and sad.

Susan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

In thinking about this further, because it is troubling and I think one story mentioned that Jamal's mother lost her job in May is that it takes a bank at least 3 months to foreclose so the family (grandmother) was most likely already delinquent with the mortgage payments by last March and may not have made a payment in 6-9 months. This doesn't mean that they are not struggling but it may show that they Bank may be trying to work with them in that they are still there and it's the end of July. I think Ella is right, they need to get into the Section VIII housing program where housing may be affordable because I think this wasn't and the equity in the condo was most likely very negative. I do hope the anniversary of 8/2 isn't murkied for them.

Kim Gokce said...

Looks like the foreclosure happened in June based on prelim from Sun Trust. Still digging but becoming less hopeful there is a way back from here - it may be we only can work on new options for them. Stay tuned ...

Kim Gokce said...

Finally got a call from someone at Sun Trust with a bit more detail. Apparently, Sun Trust was only the servicing company and not the primary mortgage holder. So, Sun Trust cannot really support any intervention as we've imagined. The contact also indicated that the family has been inundated with a lot of offers of help and the poor woman in the middle isn't sure how to even receive help. He also indicated that lawyer from the Atlanta Legal Aid DeKalb chapter has reached out to her to provide assistance in managing their options. I have left a voice mail for the named lawyer and will post back when I hear where things stand with the family. Still no word back from the Grandmothers for Peace. Maybe Monday at the earliest before any clarity ...

Kim Gokce said...

Very good news, folks. I received a call from the Atlanta Legal Aid office. They are representing the Mrs. Walcott's interest and her daughter's. Sun Trust has suspended the dispossession of the property. The original order was issued this past Monday for 7 days notice. That order has been suspended.

It is now a process between the Legal Aid folks and a Sun Trust legal representative. I will be in contact with Mrs. Walcott's counsel at Legal Aid on Monday to make sure she is aware of the potential aid commenters here have suggested.

I am personally relieved that the coming week can be for this family what it should always be - a time of reflection and remembrance. I will post back here in coming days/weeks as the picture becomes more clear. It may be there will be a way for us to buy them some breathing room in their current condo after all.

My message to their legal counsel will be to convey to Sun Trust's legal rep that I will mount an effort to raise amount of money to help put this family back in good standing with the bank. What that amount needs to be I hope to learn next week sometime. It could take longer if the lawyers negotiate a reduced rate, penalty, or whatever on this mortgage.

Good your powder and your good will dry bloggers!

Anonymous said...

Great news. They don't have to move. They get an indefinite reprieve.

Here is the article.

http://www.ajc.com/news/dekalb/mother-of-slain-soldier-582381.html

Ella Smith said...

I am also glad.

Kim I hope you can do this. I sincerely do. However, is this just that the eviction is posponed. It would appear the foreclosure is done legally.

I am hopeful you can do this. You are a miracle worker.

Kim Gokce said...

I spoke with Patricia this evening. She is a very impressive woman. She is very overwhelmed by community members' reaction to her family's situation and asked that I pass along her very humbled gratitude.

The negotiations continue with SunTrust regarding the condo. However, they are also looking at other options including finding a Section 8 option. Their situation is much more complicated than we know - there are other extenuating circumstances and additional family members living in the condo. In short, Ms. Roberts has much to consider.

Because she wants to avoid disrupting little Jamaal's return to school unnecessarily, she expects to make a final decision on their residence by this Friday. I asked her to let me know what she decided to do. I told her that if she chose to work out a settlement with Sun Trust on the current property that I would coordinate an effort to raise money to help her back on good footing with her mortgage in the coming year.

I will let the readers of this blog know her decision as soon as I hear.