Disabled Woman Facing Homelessness

I have been documenting my experience as a 52 year old Slidell, Louisiana woman who is disabled and trying to acquire assistance with housing programs from our Federal Government with an eviction looming from GMAC Mortgage. 

My husband and I taped an interview with "Action Reporter" Bill Capo from WWL-TV Channel 4 (New Orleans).  On Thursday, June 16th, 2010, this feature aired on the 10:00 p.m. news.  The edited result can be viewed on line at the WWL-TV web site under "Action Reports" or type in their search engine “Karen Pettit” and it will take you directly to my story.

I was in hospice care last year, and during this time my husband lost his job.  As I was terminal, my husband kept our housing situation from me.  When my husband notified GMAC Mortgage about our hardship, they said they were sympathetic to our plight, and we had a couple of options.  They could tack the amount we were behind to the back of our mortgage, raise our premium until we caught up, or submit us to several of the bail out programs our government is providing for folks like us.  My husband's mistake was trusting in GMAC to follow through with their suggestions.  As they had all of our financial information, there wasn't really anything for us to do but wait to hear back from GMAC.

I became painfully aware of our housing situation when the sheriff came to our door in January of this year with a foreclosure notice from our mortgage company, GMAC.  Even with that, when my husband kept calling them. GMAC was always reassuring, that they didn't want the house back...that they were still in the process of submitting us. We kept in contact with GMAC throughout the next several months and the response was always the same--that GMAC hadn’t heard back from any of the available programs. Again, our regret is trusting what GMAC said they would do. We were led to believe that one of GMAC’s suggested options would remedy our situation.

The sale of our home was set for April 28th, 2010.  On the 27th, GMAC informed us they needed our financial information (that we were told they already had).  My husband scrambled around to fulfill their request, faxed 9 pages to GMAC, and then called to confirm that GMAC had received the information.

The next day, we were told that we were "denied" by everyone and we lost our home.  Our foreclosure took place on April 28, 2010, right after we celebrated our 8th wedding anniversary. 

I was a little suspicious, as they certainly didn't have enough time (literally overnight) to submit us anywhere.  I have repeatedly asked for the documentation of who they submitted us to and why we were denied, to no avail. 

One day, I got "Mary" on the phone from GMAC.  With me on one phone and my husband on the other, she informed us that we were never submitted to anyone...so there was no denial!  Conveniently, she did state that they had received the paperwork they requested at the last minute, but it was dated the 29th--the day after the foreclosure.  We knew that we provided this on the 27th.  I recorded this conversation with Mary, and told her I was recording her.  Still, Mary said that "everything is in the computer...and there were no submissions or denials".  We were stunned.

This presents a real problem for us.  If GMAC had no intention of working with us, they should have informed us so we could pursue other programs on our own.  Because of this mortgage company’s deception, we were denied the opportunity and right to apply for any loan modification programs that were available, and possibly save our home.

Currently, in the state of Louisiana, there are no housing programs for the non-elderly disabled (the fastest and largest growing group in our homeless population).  There are programs for children (and there should be) and seniors (and there should be) and the developmentally disabled (and there should be), but nothing in Louisiana for the non-elderly disabled.  However there is a federal program from HUD titled "Rental Assistance for Non-Elderly Disabled". However, for some unknown reason, the State of Louisiana didn’t apply for this funding. And currently, neither our state or federal government are offering any housing vouchers, rental assistance, or permanent supportive housing at this time and then there is a waiting list for services. However, I did discover one local program being offered by a non-profit organization, but first I have to become homeless and then there is a waiting list.  I have a hospital room set up in my home...where will my equipment go?

The funny thing is, Mr. Capo spoke with the attorney representing our mortgage company, GMAC.  She confirmed that our home had been foreclosed on and we will soon be evicted.  Mr. Capo asked what will happen to our home, will it be put up for sale?  Her answer shocked him--our home is becoming a HUD home!  He has suggested to all parties involved that we be allowed to stay put and has now reached out to HUD about this situation.   We'll see...

I have carefully documented every single person or agency that I have spoken with since that dark day in January.  And, besides the television exposure, this email was sent to everyone in my address book, asking for my story to be forwarded to everyone they know.  And it was sent to any federal, state and local government offices, and every organization that I could find that deals with advocacy, disability issues, and consumer affairs.  I also contacted our local media, as well as newspapers, magazines, talk shows and news programs nationally. In addition, I have filed formal complaints with the Better Business Bureau, The Federal Trade Commission, House Financial Services Committee, and The Department of Justice Civil Rights/Disability Rights.

I volunteer one day a week at a nonprofit organization working with the severely disabled.  If nothing else, perhaps some good will come out of all this through my tenacity.  Maybe I can advocate for my disabled students.

I am not someone with any "pull", but I have a voice.  And there are so many folks out there just like me that are frustrated with trying to stay healthy and not stressed while facing chronic illness and/or end of life issues.  And some are too tired and sick and just give up after the first 5 "No's"--I've heard 55 "No's" and I'm not going away...at least on my own volition.

My husband is a seminary graduate.  If GMAC will lie to a minister and his terminal wife, I guess no one is safe.  Maybe what they did on paper wasn't illegal, but I would take exception with the deception and the moral corruption. 

I would invite anyone who reads this to take the time to search on the internet "Consumer Complaints Against GMAC Mortgage".  Our story will definitely sound familiar as this has been a pattern with GMAC and their customers.  And our government gave them a whole lot of our tax dollars to bail them out and better serve our financial needs.

To date, we are existing on my disability payment of $800 a month--for both of us. Yet, we have been told on several occasions that we make “too much money” to qualify for Food Stamps or Medicaid.

Please pass this on and ask our government to stand up for our disabled. In addition, we need better laws to stop the unethical and predatory practices of our mortgage companies.

Comments for Disabled Woman Facing Homelessness

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Aug 08, 2010
To My Canadian Friend
by: kikiprart

Dear wheelchairdemon,

Thank you for your sympathetic and supportive response. I feel a kindred spirit in you as you've "walked my walk" (no pun intended!). I am continuing my advocacy work no matter the outcome in my story. There are so many Americans in my same situation and the blaring inconsistencies in our government are making a challenging life even more stressful and difficult. As you know, it's exhausting just trying to get some semblance of quality of life, and it's even more tiring having to fight with our government, insurance companies, the legal community, doctors and even sometimes, fellow Americans. It's a 24 hour job, but I have to keep putting one wobbly foot in front of the other, and get up everyday with a purpose. Each day, I learn more about how the "wheels turn" (Again, no pun intended!) in our society, and it's been an eye opening journey. I have filed complaints against GMAC Mortgage with any agency that will listen. In addition, I am in discussions with our Department of Housing and Development, the fair housing department (FHEO), to file a discrimination suit against my mortgage company. I am also filing suit against our government, and am actively seeking assistance from some probono agencies. The American Disabilities Act states that the disabled must be allowed access to federal programs. When the program opened "Rental Assistance for Non-Elderly Disabled Persons", I was denied access because my state didn't apply for it. That's against the law--the law that our government set up to protect it's disabled citizens. Do I realistically think any of these actions will provide me with the results that I seek? No, but I'm hoping it will set a precedence and cause both our government and the financial community pay attention and maybe, some good will come out of all my work that can really benefit the disabled community. I will also be doing a follow up interview with Channel 4, and our government and my mortgage company are aware of that. I got the most response and action after appearing on television in June and hope to have the same reaction this time. This time, we will probably shoot the feature, while interviewing me working with my disabled students. Hopefully, this interview will bring attention to the nonprofit I volunteer with and help these wonderful people have better access to benefits. Many of them are wards of the state and have been abandoned by their families. I tell you, it's hard to have a "pity party" after spending any amount of time with these folks. Their joy and zest for life is contagious and I'm enjoying the exposure! My best advice for you is to learn to be a self advocate. It's really true "the squeaky wheel gets the oil" (no pun) so be vocal and don't take "no" for an answer. Share your story with anyone who will listen. You won't just be helping yourself, but others like you in the process. Thanks again for taking the time to write. I so appreciate your interest and feel your fellowship.

Aug 08, 2010
Empathetic Reply
by: wheelchairdemon

This is so sad. I thought Ontario, Canada was the only place that had no accountability. The deceit and dishonesty you faced is disgusting.

Sadly, I can fully relate because I went through a similar experience about a year ago. A 60-day Access Bus strike meant the end of my job.

I kept providing the required financial information to my subsidized housing provider so they could adjust the rent to my sudden loss of income, but they kept filing the proof in a folder without acting on them. They later found their mistake (they found all 6 copies of my submissions), but they refused to admit in writing that they were the ones in the wrong and apologize.

There is nothing I can do about it because, like in Louisianna, the help is simply not there for the non-elderly disabled and poor.

We can't get a lawyer and, because we have no status, we don't have the clout to reverse the impact of their mistakes so we can clear our good name.

I just want to congratulate you for exposing this stuff in the media. I hope someone listens and will lead to a string of success!!

Good luck.

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