My name is Anita Reyes-LeRey and this is the story of my Trail of Tears. It may not be the same distance, but it’s the same heartache.
On Tuesday, June 19th, the sheriff posted a 24-hour eviction notice on the front door I have come home to for the last 17 years. I am not leaving. I have nowhere to go. I am standing up for myself, my family and community.
All that I am asking is for Woodlands National Bank to sit down and negotiate with me, so I can stay in my community. They are an Indian bank that serves Native people, and right now homelessness is ravaging our community. Although American Indians make up 1% of the population in Minnesota, 11% of homeless adults are American Indian. With the support of my neighbors and community, I know Woodlands National Bank will negotiate with me, and become part of the solution to the housing crisis we face.
When I first bought my home, I slept like a baby. It wasn’t some unfamiliar place that was new, it was home. Many times, I’ve been in my backyard and thought to myself, “Some day I’m going to be an old lady here.” As the years passed, I’ve watched the cedar that I’ve planted grow from fitting in the palm of my hand to as tall as my house. I’ve stood by, smiling, as my great-nieces and nephews picked raspberries from the bushes in my yard. I’ve watched, as my house has grown from my place to a communal place, for my family, my friends, and my community.
But back in late 2010, I had a rough few months. In December, I found out that my job had cut my hours. I was still able to make the first three months payments, but by May I just didn’t have enough. In July 2011, I received notice of my home’s impending sheriff’s sale. I tried calling Cindy Koonce, the vice president of Woodlands National Bank, to try to negotiate a new plan to allow me to keep paying. Cindy said she would help me. But she refused two Attorney General offers to keep me paying and in my home.
The stress of possibly losing my house began to affect my health. I experienced vertigo and there were times during those months where I’d try to walk forward only to be moved sideways. I wanted to go to work so badly, but it wasn’t safe for me to drive. So I stayed home. For several months, I wasn’t able to go to work, but Woodlands never asked for proof of hardship. Even after I was able to find a new job, and could easily afford my old monthly payments, Woodlands refused, asking for all the money at once.
Woodlands National Bank is a Native business. I wanted them to support them; I wanted to be a part of their success. But what happened to me didn’t happen to me by choice. It was Woodlands Bank’s choice to not negotiate. All I want to do is pay my mortgage.
As a result of my petition, Woodlands National Bank offered me an option to stay in my home where I would switch to renting it. I was told that if I could come up with first and last month's rent by a specific date, I could keep my home. I called the bank at the time I was told to confirm the solution, but by the time I got through, the Bank told me they were pulling the offer because they claim I called four minutes late. Now, I could be evicted at any time -- just because of four minutes.
So please, sign this petition. Hold Cindy Koonce and Woodlands National Bank accountable for their promises to help me keep my home. It’s been my home for over 17 years. Let’s make it stay that way