Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Bank With a Human Face

The following is an excerpt from a work-in-progress called The Town I Live In.

When the Depression hit Fullerton in 1930, Fred Strauss could have lost his home. He could no longer afford his mortgage. The reason he didn’t lose his home is because his lender, The Fullerton Building and Loan, chose not to foreclose.

Strauss recalls, “When the Depression came, I couldn’t even pay my $40 a month, so all I paid was $8.88 for about one year and a half, just the interest. The Fullerton Building and Loan had a mortgage on it and they were very lenient with it and told me as long as I paid my interest I would be all right.”

The Depression slowly got better, Strauss was able to continue his regular payments, and eventually ended up paying for the house completely. “I don’t owe any money on the house anymore,” he said, “I’ve been living here 45 years and I like it very much here.”

Those were different times. Building and Loan companies were often localized, so they knew their customers personally. How different things are today, where banks foreclose so quickly and there is often no leniency. I have an idea for banks today that might cut down on the number of foreclosures, and restore the faith of an increasingly angry public, as demonstrated by the growing OccupyWallStreet movement.

Here’s my idea. Whenever a bank decides to foreclose a home, the president of the local branch of that bank must make dinner for the homeowner and their family, go to their house and explain to the family exactly why they are losing their home. No e-mails. No phone calls. No form letters. Face to face. The president has to look the family in the eyes and say, “We are taking your home.” Then maybe bank presidents would begin to see their customers as human beings with families, hopes, dreams, and fears. I think that would be a nice change.

This is a scene from my late grandpa Glenn's favorite movie, It's a Wonderful Life. The world needs more George Baileys.

This is a scene from the recent Occupy Wall Street protests happing right now all over the country. A law student is peacefully protesting the inhumane foreclosure of his parent's home.

I Am Not Moving from socially_awkwrd on Vimeo.

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