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The Faces of Foreclosure

By Lauren Hood on April 1, 2015

You’ve likely already seen the staggering numbers when it comes to people facing foreclosure in Detroit. But here they are again: in 2015 around 62,000 Detroit properties were given tax foreclosure notices by Wayne County, including 37,000 occupied homes.

Each of those numbers represents a person with a story. It’s easy to ignore the human side if you don’t have to look into the faces of actual people being affected. We make a lot of assumptions about who those people might be.

After spending a week at COBO Hall for the Show Cause hearings and attending various foreclosure counseling meetings in different neighborhoods around the city, I can tell you first hand, that for every person who came though, there is a distinct, unique set of circumstances that put them at risk for foreclosure. Not one time did I ever encounter a person who had the money and CHOSE not to pay their property taxes. Most of the stories involved a loss of income associated with some sort of illness or injury that prohibited the individual from maintaining employment. That set of circumstances led to tough decisions where choosing between paying property taxes and necessities like electricity, phone bills, transportation cost, child care, etc. were a regular occurrence.

One might think, well “I’ll never be in that situation,” “I have a stable income”, “I have support systems in place”, “a lot that would have to go wrong before that could happen to me”. The attached stories help to dispel some of those misconceptions about what the face of foreclosure actually looks like. Sometimes it’s people we know. People that we would never expect to be facing these kinds of challenges...

The first is our friend Olayami Dabls--esteemed fine-artist, museum curator, and historian, who has lectured extensively on African Material Culture to international audiences for over 30 years. As a curator, Dabls is a founding member of the African American Sports Hall of Fame, housed in the Wayne county building. He was also Artist-in-Residence at the Museum of African American History (1973-1982) as well as at the Detroit Psychiatric Institute (1985-1989). Dabls has served as Executive Director for the Rosa Parks Arts Center (1982-1984) as well as produced and hosted a radio program on WNEC4 (1978-1981).



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