Corporate greed thrives by disrupting any form of clear and meaningful communication. Take for example, the quintessential "fine print," or all the money health insurance companies make by creating unreadable forms--and we are smart! Or think about the difficulties in getting to talk to the right person to solve your issue without going through hoop after hoop. It seems as though keeping people confused is the key to breaking their bank.
These are the dynamics that are at play behind our "Veronica Vs. the Bulldozers" campaign, dynamics that also make it difficult to explain the issue in more than three seconds (no "water for Haiti" for us).
Many of you have asked very good questions trying to understand the situation. While we are almost at our end goal, I want to take the time we did not have last week to explain the background of the situation to honor the beautiful trust so many of you put on us by giving with the eyes of your heart. Others need to understand to make sure their investment counts. We get that. So here is the situation:
One of the most confusing issues has been that of renting vs. owning. "Landlord" and "mortgage" are terms that don't go together for us unless we are familiar with the dynamics of manufactured homes (trailer parks, mobile homes, and such). For those of you, like me, new to the issue, think about this as a house boat. You pay mortgage on the house but you still have to pay for moorage.
This is how Veronica and Ramon paid the mortgage in their unit and rent on the plot. This isn't a perfect analogy because the unit would never really be removed from the plot in the same way the house boat would be sailed away, but you get the idea.
Back to the issue at hand: It is common practice for landlords of manufactured homes to conflate these two issues together and confuse land & unit in order to kick tenants out and keep their homes. This makes sense from a pure profit perspective (as opposed to a healthy community perspective). In Veronica's case, she and Ramon had done tons of improvements to their house before Ramon was detained. It is, indeed, a beautiful place. Their daughter, now 6, showed Diana and I how she would follow Ramon around with a hammer to help him improve and expand the house. Their house has increased in value since they bought it.
Usually the landlords or managers will wait for any sign of financial vulnerability on the part of the tenant in order to make their move. For Veronica this vulnerability was to be consistently late with her payments since January, due to the hardships related Ramon's detention at the Northwest Detention Center. Although she paid each month, she did it a few weeks late. This is when White River Estate, MHP, took advantage of Veronica's situation and initiated a lawsuit against her because she was no longer in compliance with the contract. They decided to charge her with the back rent on the lot PLUS attorney fees to be paid within a week (that was the first $3500). If she failed to pay, then the Sheriff could come and evict her and the children today, June 23rd. This would leave them homeless.
In addition to this, White River Estate and Olsen Law firm, issued an acceleration of payment for what she had left on her mortgage, totaling a little over $4600, to be paid on June 30th. But if she pays, then she owns her house and is no longer vulnerable to White River Estate's shenanigans.
To be sure, White River Estate and Olsen Law Firm were expecting Veronica not to be able to pay for this and were hoping to evict her and sell the house. You see, there is no cost and all profit for the two companies because White River Estate gets to sell a property that has appreciated (increased in value) and Olsen Law Firm gets to be paid for serving the lawsuit. Veronica, however, is left homeless, in debt, and with the losses on a house she has invested in.
At Puentes, we saw the actions of White River Estate and Olsen Law Firm as predatory and abusive and decided this was not going to happen on our watch. This is why we decided to mobilize for our sister and her family. We did it not only for the sake of Veronica and the Mendoza's but also for the sake of White River Estate and Olsen Law Firm--to show them that a different way of doing things is possible.
You see, this situation is an example of what the narratives of Empire produce: The creation of debt among a people and the reaping of profitable fruits that grow from their financial vulnerability. This is a narrative that leads to death (hunger, broken relations, you name it).
We chose life. We chose to tell a counter narrative where trust, community, and neighborhood power would speak louder than death. All of you, my friends, decided to step into that narrative with us. And that is what this campaign is about.
Thank you so much for walking with us.