Tears streamed down Alejandra Cruz's face as she stared at a letter from PNC Bank. Standing outside of the bank's Downtown headquarters, she shook her head.
The bank, she said, would not renegotiate the mortgage on her family's Minneapolis home which was foreclosed.
"This is hard," she said.
Cruz, 26, and her brother David, 20, traveled to Pittsburgh today to meet with the bank and ask them to help the family get back into their home. The Cruzes say an online banking glitch on PNC's end caused them to miss an automatic monthly mortgage payment. After the payment was missed, they say, the bank assessed nearly an additional month's mortgage in fees, which the family could not pay. During the foreclosure process, a third-party nonprofit in Minneapolis got involved to help, but did not deliver the proper paperwork to the bank nor communicate with the family. The Cruzes subsequently lost their home to Freddie Mac, who now owns the property.
Since then, the Cruzes have been supported by Occupy Homes Minnesota, and a fierce battle has been underway for the home at 404 Cedar Ave. Signs of that struggle traveled to Pittsburgh today, including the broken door of the home that sheriff's deputies kicked in during a raid at 4 a.m. May 25.
"My family has never asked for anything for free," Alejandra said, noting her family has lived in the home for seven years. "We can pay the mortgage."
In addition to the action in Pittsburgh, actions were planned in Minneapolis and New York in conjunction with the Occupy movement. About 30 people gathered in Market Square this afternoon for the rally, many with Occupy Pittsburgh, before the group marched to PNC's headquarters on Fifth Avenue, chanting phrases like "Whose house? Cruz house!"
"In seven years, they have not missed a payment. That's what's so outrageous about this," says Marina Antic, with Occupy Pittsburgh, who led today's march. "PNC prides itself on being a community bank in Pittsburgh. It's time for them to live up to that promise."
We've contacted PNC and will post their response when we hear back. In the meantime, the Cruzes were headed back to Minneapolis this afternoon to determine their next move, said Anthony Newby, with Occupy Homes Minnesota and Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, and who accompanied the Cruzes in the PNC meeting.
Newby said the family's plans were unclear, but that they were in temporary housing and were optimistic they could get back into their home.
"We're not giving up. This is more than the just the Cruz family," said Newby. "This is a fight for the future of housing in our country."
Newby said the Cruz's situation was just a symptom of greater ills, particularlyg banks doing business with third-party nonprofits who often do more damage than good.
"PNC never got the documents [from the nonprofit] but PNC says this is not unusual," Cruz said. "We asked, 'Why are you doing business with people who will lead families onto a path of losing their home?' ... We didn't get an answer."