Sudden homelessness—that’s what Patricia Roberts said she feared for several agonizing days last week after a judge ruled that she and her family of five had seven days to move from their foreclosed Lithonia condo.
However, a rush of intervention from attorneys, bank officials, politicians and others has turned Roberts’ situation on its heel.
Roberts, the mother of Army Spc. Jamaal Addison, Georgia’s first fallen soldier who died March 2003 in Operation Iraqi Freedom, said she’s relieved that her family did not have to move out by Aug. 2—the same day that DeKalb County had declared as Jamaal Addison Day.
William J. Brennan Jr., director of Atlanta Legal Aid’s Home Defense Program, said that Sun Trust has suspended taking any further immediate action involving the property, which means the family does not have to move for the time being. Also Legal Aid attorney Karen Brown has begun discussions with Sun Trust lawyers for “some way to work something out.” Exactly what that might be has yet to be determined, said Brennan.
However, Roberts points out, “We’re still in limbo.”
Since Roberts’ plight made front page news, the home she shares with her mother, two grandsons and a nephew has been swarmed with news reporters, photographers and cameramen. She said there’s been an outpouring of calls, donations and offers of assistance from a number of entities such as the U.S. Army and individuals representing various mortgage assistance programs.
While Roberts said she is grateful for the attention to help resolve her situation, she’s also exasperated she couldn’t get any assistance from programs and officials in the months leading up to this point.
According to Roberts, the three-bedroom Fairington Park condominium she lives in is owned by her 76-year-old mother, Constance Walton, and about a year ago the two began having a tough time making both the monthly $513 mortgage payment and $150 monthly homeowners association fee in addition to other bills. With her mother plagued with health problems and Roberts, who previously worked in the DeKalb Sherriff’s Office, also unable to work after battling lung cancer, they decided the priority was keeping a roof over their heads so they let the homeowners association fee slide.
The unpaid fees escalated as penalties and attorney fees accumulated. Then the homeowners association took legal action against the family and after receiving a judgment in their favor, they froze the family’s three bank accounts and seized $8,000, according to Roberts.
This created additional problems as the money in one of those accounts was for Roberts’ nephew’s college expenses—money that was being held for him after the death of his mother in 2007.
When the family was unable to keep up with their mortgage payments, the bank started foreclosure proceedings.
Roberts said she tried her best to get help—contacting a number of programs for help such as loan modification but in some cases being told she was ineligible and in other cases being stymied through automated phone systems in reaching a person to talk to or submitting an application.
“We were going from one dead end to another,” she said.
She said she doesn’t understand why so many people are available to help her now, but wouldn’t lift a finger to assist before her situation became critical.
“People all of a sudden stepping up,” said Roberts. “Why does it take for you to have to hit bottom, scrape all over the ground before someone will extend a hand. It’s not that they couldn’t help. They didn’t help.”
Brennan said the dynamics of what has occurred for this family is typical of what is happening in metro Atlanta for thousands of families involved in foreclosure.
“It’s an incredible crisis going on,” said Brennan. “And it’s been going on for years.”
He pointed out that 6,920 foreclosures were advertised and were up for sale on Aug. 3 in the five-county (Fulton, DeKalb, Gwinnett, Cobb and Clayton) area that his office serves.”
Brennan said that Walton’s and Roberts’ situation is unusual because of the media attention and the outpouring of offers to help.
Roberts said she’s shielded her grandsons—Jamaal, 9, and Jared, 5, from details of the family’s financial situation, and the boys are simply excited about moving into a new place.
The home is adorned with photographs and framed portraits of Jamaal Addison in his military uniform and framed spiritual messages as a stack of unfilled boxes leans against a wall by the front door.
Roberts said she hopes that when everything is resolved, she and her family will be able to move into a place big enough for all of them with a backyard in which the boys can play.
“My son gave the ultimate sacrifice. His family should not have to face having need for the necessities,” she said.
Donations for the family are being accepted at any branch of Delta Community Credit Union via the Jamaal Addison Fund.