Leaders Gather for Candlelight Posada Highlighting Plight of Families Facing Foreclosures

Neighbors and community members gathered for prayer and a “posada” to highlight the plight of families facing foreclosures in one of Chicago’s hardest hit neighborhoods this holiday season.  Families formed a procession through the neighborhood, beginning at St. Nicholas of Tolentine Catholic Church, and stopping in front of vacant homes hit by the recent rise in foreclosures.

In a re-enactment of the journey of St. Joseph and the Virgin Mary going to Bethlehem for the birth of Jesus, families asked for “posada” or lodging for families affected by foreclosures.  In traditional posadas, the chorus asks for lodging for the Holy Family with stanzas played by the inn-keepers who refuse them a room.  In this posada, southwest side families affected by foreclosures were requesting additional time to stay in their homes and were refused by the banks.

“Compassion I ask of you, beloved Banker, for only some time for my family that I love,” sang the families.

“Sorry, I am simply doing what I am being asked to do, since after all, they pay my salary,” responded the bankers.

The Southwest Organizing Project is engaged in a long-term housing campaign to develop solutions for families facing foreclosures.  The Keep Our Homes Campaign, funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, is in collaboration with Neighborhood Housing Services, the Greater Southwest Development Corporation and the Southwest REACH Center to provide outreach, counseling, intervention and organize remedies for families facing foreclosure.

The neighborhood of Chicago Lawn is at the epicenter of a national foreclosure crisis.  In the first eleven months of 2008, an estimated 1,459 foreclosures were initiated in the 60629 zip code alone.

In June, the Southwest Organizing Project conducted a survey of St. Nicholas of Tolentine parishioners to gauge the impact of the foreclosure crisis on families in the neighborhood.   Through these surveys, SWOP learned that 179 families were worried about making their monthly mortgage payments, 116 had boarded up homes on their block, 11 families were in foreclosure and 34 had fallen behind in their mortgage payments.

“We want to convey the message that St. Nick’s stands in solidarity with the families facing foreclosures,” said Letty Sanchez, a parishioner at St. Nicholas of Tolentine and a member of the church’s housing team. “As a church we refuse to cast them away.  We are working for solutions to face this issue together.”