As the economy continues to slump and many working class families struggle to make their mortgage payments, one home in Olney narrowly avoided becoming a focal point for the issue of foreclosures in Philadelphia.
After Esther Smith’s mother died two years ago, she’s struggled to make her payments on time as a reluctant head of the household to her two sisters and nephew. After she lost her job after missing work to attend to her grief-addled sister, payments piled up until her mortgage company began to go through foreclosure proceedings. With nowhere to go except the streets, Smith vowed to squat in her own home if she had to.
Her struggle caught the attention of the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign, a group dedicated to defending the resources of the working poor. The group pledged to stand by Smith and host a kind of sit-in protest in front of her home at 237 Widener Avenue. If the bank boarded up the windows, the PPEHRC said it would pry them off and move the family back in.
A week after the Daily News published a story on Smith’s situation, however, her fortune changed. An anonymous Samaritan sent Smith a check for $9,100 – enough to cover her overdue payments – just a few days before Thanksgiving.
According to the follow-up story by the Daily News, a note with the check read "Always stay positive. And remember, God provides."
It appears as though Smith’s troubles are over for now, but according to the PPEHRC similar situations are still all too common in the city.
By Zack Shapiro and Michelle Kraus
Group Six: Olney/East Oak Lane