What Oppression Looks Like

(The following post is cross-posted from CPR – FIERCE CHRISTIAN LIVING, and was written by Renee Crosby. Renee is author of Energion title Soup Kitchen for the Soul. The post is copyright and is used here by permission.)

Foreclosure scene

That is a picture of a home in my neighborhood in Denver, CO. where an eviction notice was executed May 10, 2011. Ever really thought about what oppression is? Well, the Webster definition of oppression is listed as, “Unjust or cruel exercise of authority of power.” But have you ever really wondered what oppression looks like? Well the above picture is worth a thousand words. One key word comes to my mind, oppression.

I offer my opinion on a relevant and sensitive topic regarding the state of our afflictions. These afflictions are part of our American culture and trends that require us to take a stand and take action. I am reminded of the quote we used to use in typing class in high school, “Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country.” Forget about the government aiding the people of our country. We need to rise up as the people of this country and aid the government. So what exactly am I rambling about? That picture is the picture of a person’s former home, now under eviction- executed. This picture is not staged. It is real. If that isn’t an unjust or cruel exercise of authority of power, I don’t know what is.

OK, so your counterpoint on the topic may be that they deserved it, they defaulted on their loan. Or, they had plenty of time to get their things out for they knew it was coming. All I’m asking is for a moment to put that aside, especially if you have never been close to anyone who has gone through this process. If you have never known anyone to go through this, let me paint a picture of their lives. As a culmination of people I have met along the way, a summary of their story and their state of economy might look something like this; a single mom with at least one child, no spousal support, no job, or a job, but with the cost of day care, not making enough to make ends meet. I have met people who have lost both parents and fallen into depression, lost jobs, and can’t function because of their illness, and can’t obtain adequate resources for even medicine. I have met a couple that work in construction and one broke her ankle, so they both are now homeless as they cannot maintain a residence with one income.

These are just everyday people struggling to make ends meet. Upon eviction, many often secure smaller housing, or secure shelter housing in which they have to place belongings in storage. They often live precariously with another family or extended family till they get back on their feet, again, placing belongings in storage. Or, they become homeless, living in a hotel, again, with no place to put any belongings. These families are challenged in securing food, heat, hot water and other basic necessities. Their choices center on paying for a truck rental, gas, and storage rental or buying basic needs like food. The choices center on taking time off of work to move their own belongings because they can’t pay movers. Many have only part time jobs that offer no benefits of paid days off from work. So, the end result is they either leave their belongings in the evicted house, or put some or all of their things in storage.

So, what exactly is my issue with this cruel use of power when executing eviction notices of emptying the house of all belongings? Let’s be clear here, it is shameful, strips all dignity, humiliates, degrades, pours salt on wounds, kicks them when they are down, embarrasses, and oppresses. It also is a safety issue for the neighborhood and children playing. It is also a property value issue for the neighborhoods vying for new buyers or renters.  NO ONE deserves this kind of treatment. No one should be so stripped of their dignity. No one should have to have this happen in their neighborhood. No parent should be at risk of a child getting hurt or injured from curiosity playing in a mound of belongings. It is unethical. It is not a liberal or conservative problem. It’s a social justice problem. It has to be stopped.

We have to rise up and take action now because this epidemic of evictions is not even close to being over. “Data from the Mortgage Bankers Association shows that about 3.7 million properties are in this seriously delinquent stage.” This stage refers to home loans that are in foreclosure, pending some action like loan modifications, short sales and possibly other disposition alternatives. That is only the current properties on a list that may well end up in eviction. That doesn’t include the mass numbers of evictions already executed since the mortgage crash, and future homes entering the foreclosure process. And, I might add these figures don’t capture the number of people who don’t own homes, but rent and have been evicted or will be evicted in the near future.

However, the up side of the story about this oppressive action is that we can do something about it! I was always taught that if you identify a problem, also offer a solution. So, what do we do? I believe there are many transitional solutions to alleviate the problem that can be done, such as one sheriff in Hamilton, OH is doing. It is reported that he ordered deputies to ignore eviction orders when people have nowhere else to live. Or find support money to locally fund vouchers for assisting with truck rentals, gas and storage units. But in the long-term, the solution perhaps is to push for a law to forbid such oppressive action. The law might even look like stating that all processing evictions must safely and responsibly remove belongings by securing items in a dumpster. That seems reasonable to me. Or, perhaps the belongings could stay in the facility until a new owner is secured, and the new owners are somehow compensated for the cost of removing the belonging (again safely and responsibly removing).

FIERCE topic- well that goes without saying. But how about some FIERCE action? I implore you, please don’t just read this and do nothing. But, you ask, “What can you do?” Well, right now like me, you can raise awareness of this issue and talk about it. Share this article. I will be contacting the Metro Organizations for People, the Denver Homeless Coalition and others to see how I can help change this. When I get some activity on a resolution, I will let you know, and hope the media will as well.

Be FIERCE ya’ll. Be FIERCE.  Help pass the blog on…email friends, “like on facebook.

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