April 12, 2024

SWOP's Senior Debt Relief Campaign

Many companies and debt collection agencies use aggressive tactics to go after community members and their livelihoods to collect on their accrued debt. The Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP), alongside many other organizations, is engaging community members who have had experience with debt to bring their stories of struggle to light. Using one to one discussions as the basis for these dialogues, Communications Organizer, Carlos Pittman actively seeks out seniors who have an interest in speaking with him regarding their experiences.

When asked about how these discussions were going, Carlos had this to share. “I’ve had some extremely powerful conversations over the past few months. There’s a stigma attached to having debt and it makes people uncomfortable to even acknowledge that they have it, so I consider myself lucky that so many people even stopped to talk to me.” Carlos further explained that though the discussions were eye-opening, there was also difficulty getting people to openly speak about their debts in a larger group setting. “It’s not easy to be vulnerable. To have an open and honest conversation about your debt. I even had to refamiliarize myself with how it felt for me to be saddled with my school debt because I can’t expect them to share with me and I’m not sharing back with them.”

The debt relief campaign is still one that is being hard fought as organizers, leaders, and lawyers down in Springfield are in negotiations to see what is possible . Chris Brown, Director of Operations at SWOP, shared this when asked about why SWOP got involved in this campaign. “We saw that debt was a big issue for folks in the community and through many conversations, we were hearing about how their debt was keeping them from doing the things they wanted to do. We also saw the impact of the aggressive scavenger sales on homeowners in our community and how that was causing people to lose equity in their homes.” Chris continued to share a hope to build a collective response to the unfair approaches to debt that collectors take.

There are many people saddled with medical debt, debt from school loans, housing debt, and the practices in place to collect that debt have left community members feeling defeated and just fed up with trying to find ways to defend themselves. SWOP is passionate about doing what they can to ease the burdens placed on individuals trying to get by in their daily lives and aims to keep fighting for protection and relief for the community.

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