Issue:  Vol. 44 / No. 42 / 16 October 2014
 
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Gay, disabled African American man faces eviction

NEWS


Protesters Fran Taylor, left; Iris Biblowitz, RN; and Susan McDonough stand in front of the Wells Fargo branch on 24th Street as a bank security guard attempts to block the photo. (Photo: Danny Buskirk)
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A gay, disabled African American man living in his longtime family home in Diamond Heights is facing eviction and Occupy Noe activists last weekend staged a protest in front of a bank branch to demand action.

The trouble started in mid-May, when Larry Faulks learned from a real estate agent that the home his family purchased in 1962 was no longer his. Faulks, 59, an African American gay man, claims that the bank took this action with no warning or notice of any kind. The Faulks's were the first African Americans to own a home in the neighborhood. Faulks, who is disabled, currently lives in the house with his brother, who is also disabled.

According to Occupy Noe housing activist Will Doherty (a.k.a. Stardust), Faulks was negotiating a loan modification with Wells Fargo, which promised him they would not sell the house. But the bank sold the Faulks's home to DMG Asset Management, which has been buying homes in foreclosure in San Francisco and around the Bay Area.

On Saturday, October 28, members of Occupy Noe staged a protest in front of Wells Fargo's Noe Valley branch at 4045 24th Street.

"The LGBT community has to stand up and fight back when banks like Wells Fargo and investment companies like DMG try to illegally evict members of our community like Larry Faulks," said Doherty, who helped organize the event.

Faulks was in attendance at the protest.

"When somebody knocks on your door and tells you that your house is no longer yours, it feels like fascism," Faulks told the Bay Area Reporter. "It feels like how the Japanese were treated during World War II. I followed all the rules. I did everything I was supposed to do. I sent the bank everything they wanted, but they went and sold the house. I complained to HUD and other federal agencies. The bank lied and claimed they attempted to call me, but those calls do not appear on my cell phone call log, which is my only phone."

The B.A.R. attempted to enter the bank to question the branch manager regarding Faulks's claims, but was told that only account holders could enter. One of the branch security guards, who was stationed in front of the building, attempted to interfere with a photographer taking photos of the protest, but backed off when a number of the protesters challenged his right to do so. When asked to give his name, the guard refused.

Faulks was an observer to the protest, as his health did not allow him to actively participate. He suffers from multiple drug resistant staph infections, and underwent surgery that he says didn't turn out well.

"I'm on IV antibiotics," he said. "I'm in chronic pain and not getting sleep. I sent in a hardship application, but the bank kept losing the documents again and again. I feel powerless. I don't know from day to day if I'm being evicted or not."

Before illness struck, Faulks worked as a tech writer. He was also a longtime volunteer at Community United Against Violence.

Faulks's eviction was set for October 31, according to a court order, but was moved up to November 7 after neighborhood activist Susan McDonough put in a request to the San Francisco Sheriff's Department. McDonough told the B.A.R. that she became involved in Faulks's case after an elderly neighbor of hers was given a predatory loan and then evicted from her home of 40 years.

"There were 70 evictions in the neighborhood that same month," she said. "I started knocking on doors, letting people know that we're here to help them."

McDonough's former neighbor is now in a hotel, which is where Faulks fears he and his brother may end up.

"If I had been speculating it would have been one thing," Faulks said. "But I didn't do that. I had a million dollars in equity, which is gone because they sold the house instead of me. Where do they expect me to go without money?"

On Monday, October 29, the B.A.R. contacted Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf and Brenda Wright, the bank's community relations manager. The call was returned by Ruben Pulido, the corporate communications representative for Wells Fargo.

"We work hard to help our customers maintain home ownership when they are facing difficulties," Pulido said in a statement. "We view foreclosure as a last resort. In cases where a customer's income is insufficient to afford the home even with help, we actively look at remedies beyond modifications to avoid foreclosure and protect the surrounding community.

"Unfortunately, we were unable to find an option that would allow Mr. Faulks to retain the home and had to make the decision to proceed with the foreclosure sale. With the sale of the property, all rights to the property were transferred to the new owner."

According to a search of court records, an unlawful detainer action was filed against Faulks in June.

Doherty, McDonough, and other members of Occupy Noe offered a solution: "Wells Fargo illegally sold Larry Faulks's house and didn't tell him," they said. "Wells Fargo needs to buy back the house from DMG investors and work out a fair loan modification to keep Larry in his family home."






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