Worth a thousand words: eviction

A heartbreaking image of our times. Brandie Barbiere, center, reacts as Weld County sheriff’s deputy Mary Schwartz arrives to evict her and her family from their home in Miliken, Colo. Barbiere said she had stopped making the mortgage payments 11 months before, after she lost more than half her home child care business due to the economy. See a photo gallery and learn more at WashingtonPost.com.

Photo by John Moore/Getty

UPDATE: A reader sent me this note:

I became somewhat obsessed with a Washington Post photo slideshow showing a family being evicted in Colorado.  I spent much of the day thinking about the family.  I started to Google for the name of the mother pictured in the photos and this led me to your blog…have you considered trying to help this family?  I would be willing to contribute.

That’s a poignant response — but I’m not really equipped to handle something like that.  And I suspect, even if I were, I’d soon be flooded with requests from others.  The best help any of us can give at this moment, I think, is prayer.  Meantime, judging from the reaction in some of the comments, I’d kindly ask everyone to take a deep breath.  We don’t know enough about the circumstances of this family.  But we do know this: none of us would want to be in their shoes.  Yet so many of us today are vulnerable.  Some who are reading this could very well be worried that one morning they’ll get that knock on the door, the same one that Brandie Barbiere got.  Pray for her, her family, and our country.

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30 responses to “Worth a thousand words: eviction”

  1. I know that I will be blasted for my comment, but there is something wrong about this. Yes, she stooped making payments 11 months ago, yes the bank owns the home, but putting a family on the street like this is just, well, wrong. I am conservative and but this is just not right. Most of us Americans are only a few paychecks away from this. The banks borrowed from the government (our tax money) and who will make them pay the billions or trillions that they evaporated in stupid deals? Are they going to be evicted from their buildings?

  2. At the risk of being the jerk Republican, let’s take a closer look at this:

    1. She hasn’t paid her mortgage IN A YEAR. That means she has been living for free in her house for a year. How is that fair to the bank (supported by their customers, us) who are defrauded from all that money?

    2. It is not unjust to reclaim stolen property. By not paying for the house she is living in, she has been stealing value from the bank. Just because you might not like banks doesn’t give her the right to steal from them by living for free FOR A YEAR.

    3. I’m sure this action was after many, many notices from the bank and the sheriff’s office. This should not have come as a surprise to her.

    What about the just destination of goods doctrine? This strikes me as a very just action. After a year of ignoring notice after notice, she is compelled at long last to live up to the contract she signed when she got her house. If she cannot or will not, the bank has every right to reclaim the asset in payment of her debt.

    She is not the aggrieved party. She is not the victim.

  3. Since we don’t know the circumstances, othe than what is written, we don’t know whether she has been trying to refinance and was caught in red tape, was working witht the bank and thought it was going to work out, ignored the notices and hoped it would all go away or what. Without a greater understanding of the underlying circumstances, I think passing judgement on either side of the debate is premature.

  4. Ryan, how about the fact that her down payment and all the other monthly payments that she made in the past, have now disappeared/evaporated because the wise guys with CDS and other exotic instruments that you and I never heard about has caused the housing collapse and her now ‘underwater’ predicament. Her payments evaporated through no fault of her own.. Of course the Corporations probably give you no alarm when they walk away owing millions in bankruptcy. ” that’s business’ say the Republicans

  5. Ryan Ellis, being a Republican does not absolve you from being a human being.

    You can observe that the adults in these photos failed to live up to a contract while showing compassion and understanding that this failure was not one of intention. You accuse people of stealing. Theft is an intentional act. These people were not thieves. Exaggeration and word play may convince others, but they will not win over God.

    The adults in these photos fell behind in making ends meet as so many of us have done in these dark days. I wish you could muster enough humanity to show them some compassion and empathy. But I will be happy if we can both agree that the children in these photos, who are by their nature innocent to the world of mortgages and contracts and therefore immune to your scathing line of attack, did not deserve to have their lives turned upside down.

    How would you explain to your little girl that her home is gone? How would you answer her when she asks “why”?

  6. Good God in heaven, what have we become? Ryan, God forgive you. As others have said, we do not know the circumstances. This is why We Are the 99% exists – people who do the right things yet their businesses fall apart, the jobs evaporate or a major medical crisis (I’m insured and still paying my bills from 15 months ago!) comes along and wipes people out.

    The mortgage companies broke the rules in every possible way and now people, who do bear some responsibility end up paying all the way around. It is a disgrace.

  7. Ryan, I suspect you are misreading the just destination of goods concept, which refers to the idea that private property itself is something of a temporal fiction, that creation is a divine gift that can’t be bought of sold, yes, you can’t take it with you.

    Here is the catechism, pertinent in this instance I’d say:

    Respect for the goods of others

    2408 The seventh commandment forbids theft, that is, usurping another’s property against the reasonable will of the owner. There is no theft if consent can be presumed or if refusal is contrary to reason and the universal destination of goods. This is the case in obvious and urgent necessity when the only way to provide for immediate, essential needs (food, shelter, clothing . . .) is to put at one’s disposal and use the property of others.

    There are many families now in this women’s predicament, in deep unemployment and with nowhere to turn. Does it really make sense to add homelessness to their woes, especially when the banks are for the most part allowing this properties to lie vacant and molder? There should be a common good and common sense way out of this, token rent payment for instance until she can get back on her feet.

  8. What’s she been doing for 11 months? It’s not like she didn’t know this day was coming. Was the bank supposed to carry her forever?

  9. I hope someone answers Daisy, because that is the pertinent question.

    Was the bank supposed to carry her forever? Why should this person get to live payment free forever, according to the logic of the scruffy 99 percenters I’ve seen on this liberal blog?

    The bank loaned her money to buy this house. She gets to live in the house even though she is still obligated to the bank. The bank lets her do this under the condition that she pay her mortgage on time. She did not. She had a year to start paying her mortgage on time, or sell the home, or declare bankruptcy. Any of those things would have prevented a visit from the sheriff’s office.

    I’m sorry she can’t make her payment, but this is the real world. She was given a year to get her arrangements in order, and she obviously did nothing. If she had done anything, she would have stopped this event from happening.

    This is called justice. Mercy was waiting a year before justice was finally applied.

  10. >I hope someone answers Daisy, because that is the pertinent question.

    Not really. The pertinent question is what judgment will God render on your soul when your first reaction to seeing a child lose her home is to accuse her parents of thievery.

    > I’m sorry she can’t make her payment, but this is the real world.

    This is a tired fallback. Showing compassion when the world hurts people does not mean one lives in some other world than the real one.

    And really, what is this real world we are talking about? Is it the one where hard working people are casually ruined by investment bankers who, blinded by greed, play with tools they don’t even understand?

    >This is called justice. Mercy was waiting a year before justice was finally applied.

    Ryan, your naivete is almost charming. But no. Waiting a 11 months is called “bureaucratic ineptitude” not “mercy”.

  11. I am not a heartless Republican, but I must say that this is one case where a picture (actually, it’s a series) is not worth 1,000 words. The pictures and their brief captions leave too many questions unanswered. Obviously, viewers are supposed to feel for this family–especially for the little child who comes home from school to find the family’s possessions on the lawn. But we are told that this household includes 2 parents, a dad who works full-time and a mom who cares for other people’s children in her home. The house is apparently a modest one, so the mortgage payments could not have been extreme. Why did they not make any payments at all for 11 months? Given the information provided, their plight simply makes no sense.

  12. Herman Cain, Republican Pres. Candidate said this week, if your not rich and not working its your fault.

    I guess Ryan got his man.

  13. I feel compassion, but also shock that she had not informed her husband, who was an air conditioning distributor. He found out when he came home and his possessions were on the lawn. She had to tell her son when he came home from school.

  14. Evidently this series of pictures was intended to elicit comments like #11 and #13 here. In other words, if you don’t instantly conclude that banks like the one that foreclosed on this family are evil and heartless, then you must be evil and heartless yourself. But the captions on the pictures suggest another possible interpretation. If the foreclosure resulted from deliberate negligence on the part of this woman, did she think she and her family could escape the consequences of her failure to pay the mortgage? I do know people who have engaged in similar behavior with similar unrealistic expectations, and all the compassion in the world couldn’t do much to help them out of the predicaments that resulted. That is why SVDP does not simply weep over the plight of troubled people who ask for help but tries to offer them counseling as well as immediate assistance.

  15. I’m sorry she can’t make her payment, but this is the real world. She was given a year to get her arrangements in order, and she obviously did nothing. If she had done anything, she would have stopped this event from happening.

    Given this and Win’s comment immediately above, I wonder what “the rest of the story” really was. Why did she keep the situation from her husband? Did she attempt to cut a deal with the bank, given that many are willing to ready to work with folks and shrink from homeowners merely “tossing the keys?”

    That said, the mother here has clearly painted herself in a corner, and while she bears at least a part of the responsibility, it breaks my heart and moves me to hug my kids and thank God for what I have. I hope the WaPo does a follow-up.

  16. Ron – it’s natural to want to rationalize this. Bad things don’t happen to good people right? They must have brought it on themselves? “Deliberate negligence…unrealistic expectations”.

    Telling ourselves that these people must have had it coming makes images like this easier to deal with. But the reality is that bad things happen to good people. And in an economy like this one, a lot of bad things happen to good people.

  17. I work part-time at home for a real estate agent who deals in foreclosures. I take over after the eviction to open utilities and deal with Home Owner’s Associations. I also live in a neighborhood with many foreclosed/empty houses. My next door neighbor’s house has been in foreclosure for probably 3 years. Here is my take:

    1) This day for this family was not a surprise. If she did not tell her husband there is something wrong there. The bank goes through many processes before an eviction. The bank wants the house to not be stripped of appliances, cabinets, toilets, etc. because that makes the house harder to sell and damage occurs so they offer many homeowners “Cash for Keys”. The bank will give sometimes thousands of dollars for the house to be left in clean and good condition. The question is did this family get this option?

    2) Since the photographer was there someone knew about this. Why is there stuff on the lawn? They were probably given lots of warning. Sheriffs don’t just show up out of the blue. Surely they could have at least packed. If you know your stuff will be removed you don’t need the Sheriff to take the pictures off the fridge. And why is your kid and your sister’s kid there?

    3) I have a lot of compassion for my neighbors and I have friends that almost lost their house, but something here does not smell right. I think this family was being used by the WP in some way. This foreclosure business has been going on a long time and this is the first story I have seen depicting evictions like this. Usually stuff goes on the lawn when people have already vacated and left stuff in the house.

  18. Well, let’s go back to how banking was deregulated and now they are now not hindered by the states for charging exorbitant interest rates, or, how basically they are legal loan sharks. Or, we can look at how, statistically, college graduates are now making less than their grandparents at their age. Or we could consider the fact that most GenXers are laden with university debt that their parents never had to pay, and how they also are paying more for houses than their parent’s ever did. How the cost of living has skyrocketed, and how it’s almost financially impossible for a fresh uni graduate to NOT rely on credit cards to just stay afloat.

    But hey, that’s all OK, let’s just blame the family.

  19. Should I even bother to talk about credit default swaps (another boon of deregulation) and what blame the Gov and banks hold in this housing crisis?

  20. I checked with the person who attends evictions for our real estate agency and this was his reply that I copy here in it’s entirety:

    “We contact owners and renters at an occupied property. Usually they are notified that they are in foreclosure (which they knew anyway). We offer them Cash for Keys, an opportunity to get paid for moving within something like 4-8 weeks, the shorter the time the more they get. They can get thousands of dollars. If they go for the Cash for Keys, they determine their move out date and have the dollars to relocate and move their belongings. If they decide not to co-operate they are given 30 days notice by police to vacate. They then move belongings at their own cost. I have only ONCE seen police show up on the eviction date where there were still residents at the property. We, and the preservation co, and the police were VERY co-operative, giving them another 24 hours to move their stuff.”

  21. #19: “Well, let’s go back to how banking was deregulated and now they are now not hindered by the states for charging exorbitant interest rates, or, how basically they are legal loan sharks.”

    Good Lord! Mortgage rates right now are the lowest they have ever been. From the story presented in the captions, there is no way to know exactly what led to this foreclosure. But it was certainly not “loan sharks.”

  22. Thank you, Marcy K. Can we conclude that these photos are manipulative and tendentious on the part of the Washington Post?

  23. Ron, I was talking about credit card instrest rates, which most people stuck between a rock and a hard place have to live off of. How those banks can now charge whatever the heck they please, for whatever reason they please. If you are late on ANY payment, not even your CC bill, they can up your interest. Sometimes up to 35%.

    Do you not see the protests on Wall Street?

    For housing, the actual interest rates only apply if your credit rating is now stellar. With a 20% downpayment. (which, you might argue is responsible, sure, I would agree with you, but the prices of houses are STILL overpriced for the middle class).

    Read Matt Taibbi’s article which is almost a year old and yet still relevant.


    Another great book for you to read is STRAPPED by Tamara Draut.

    Last year one of my best friends husband lost his job. HE ended up being unemployed for a year. While he was unemployed, she tried to restructure her mortgage and was told, Sure! Just pay this reduced amount, and we’ll start the paperwork. So she did. And kept trying to get in touch with the officer who was in charge of her loan (her mortgage had been sold many times over). Well, that never happened until 6 months later, when a foreclosure notice came. When she contacted the gov on the status of her loan restructure they said, no, sorry, you *Don’t* qualify, after all, and you owe ALL of difference in three months or you will be foreclosed on.

    How, when they had 20 dollars left over from a pay period to feed their four kids? Where was the $ going to magically appear from? where were the bootstraps for them to yank themselves up with?

    This is NOT the public’s fault.

  24. Well Mary, it does seem to be that way. I hate the thought of evictions. I hate thinking of people/families and what they have suffered over a long period of time. It is awful and horrendous, but it seems that most evictions are not what is pictured here.

    I do see the effects of the foreclosures on the houses though. These people that leave these houses have many times really damaged/destroyed the houses left behind. Cabinets ripped off walls, all appliances gone, toilets & sinks gone, whole walls ripped up with copper pipes ripped out, A/C equipment gone, pool pumps gone, pools completely green, etc. So it is hard to have real sympathy when people do that.

  25. To blame the evictee entirely is to blame her for the underlying economy, which is entirely unfair. The seizure of homes today is comparable to the foreclosure of farms
    during the Dust Bowls in the 1930’s. But this
    time the root cause is not the weather, geography, or poor farming methods, but rather irresponsibility and greed on the part of government and financial institutions. Roosevelt’s New Deal had several programs to help the vicitms of the Dust Bowl. Why isn’t anything being done to help people today? It’s because so many in society have made an idol of free market capitalism.

  26. I fear there will always be with us those for whom the truth is too difficult to accept: We are not masters of our fate.

    We steer our own lives as best we can – nudging the tiller here and there. Some are better navigators than others no doubt. Some have the good fortune of starting their voyage in calm seas with a steady wind. But many, despite sometimes heroic efforts, find themselves at the mercy of storms over which they have no control.

    But of course this is a terrifying thought. Surely this cannot be the case for me! It is therefore reassuring to blame folks for sailing into a storm they couldn’t see coming.

  27. Was this woman Madam Bovary or Ma Joad? We’ll never know but know this folks: when you’re bills come due they have to be paid or there will be consequences.

  28. Maybe a good ministry for a parish to have would be to get some volunteers together who have some expertise in finances, real estate, etc.; who would be willing to advise people who find themselves in a situation where they are facing foreclosure or bankruptcy. I think sometimes people are like a deer in the headlights; they don’t know what to do, so they don’t do anything. And it ends up being a slow-motion train wreck.

  29. #29 Melody

    Good idea but it has been tried and does not work. Folks are too proud to admit they are under-water and simply will not attend any program where they have to come out from under their shell of ego-protection.

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