McCULLOUGH: Nation's foreclosure fiasco brings drastic times, tragic consequences

Nate McCullough

Nate McCullough

This week’s standoff in Duluth is another sad chapter in the ongoing Great Recession, and yet not the saddest.

The story of Howard and Nova Lee Graber is heart-rending: A software salesman felled by stroke fights the bank and the government until law enforcement removes him from his home. Afterward the couple’s belongings are tossed in the street, caring neighbors the only guardians against the Grabers losing everything they own in addition to their home.

In the Grabers’ case, a Taser was used. Others have not been so fortunate:

• In Tampa, 62-year-old Robert Capkovic told Bank of America that he would kill himself if it foreclosed on his house. When the bank reported the threat to authorities, deputies were dispatched to check on Capkovic, who opened fire, vowing they would never evict him (apparently not knowing they were there simply to check on his welfare). Six hours later the standoff ended with one deputy wounded and Capkovic shot dead.

• In Panama City, a businessman was found shot to death at a church. In a search for suspects, police are investigating his business dealings, including the fact that he owned eight rental properties in foreclosure.

• In Phoenix, Ariz., 64-year-old Kurt Aho started shooting at two men who purchased his home of 30 years at a foreclosure sale. After Aho shot at police, he died in a hail of gunfire.

• In one of the more famous cases, 90-year-old Addie Polk of Akron, Ohio, attempted suicide, shooting herself in the chest to keep from being evicted from her foreclosed home. Polk survived the shooting, and Fannie Mae forgave her debt. She died at 91 at a nursing home.

Another man set his house on fire. Another lady killed herself. Just this week in East Point dozens of people were hospitalized after a mad dash in the sweltering heat to get applications for Section 8 housing. The stories are endless, just like the list of foreclosures, which are up 6 percent this year. The Daily Post’s legal section this week was a staggering 194 pages.

I know there is plenty of blame to spread around. You can point one finger at the government, another at the banks and another at irresponsible consumers. You’d probably run out of fingers before you ran out of culprits in this nightmare.

But I can’t help but think that it doesn’t have to end in standoffs, violence and death. A person shouldn’t have to start shooting to save their home. This is not the Wild West. Is it?

On my street there is a house that has been abandoned for months. Only last week did someone remove the furniture, which had been tossed in the yard. The grass was out of control, more than three feet high, until someone finally cut it this week.

And yet it’s not for sale. It’s just sitting there, like it has been for months. I know it will be for sale eventually, and someone will buy it for pennies on the dollar. But I wonder where my neighbors are now.

They were a nice family. They took care of the yard. Couldn’t something have been worked out? Is it in anyone’s best interest for a home to sit empty for months, deteriorating, drawing thieves and dropping everyone else’s already-sinking property values?

Isn’t it better to take extreme measures to help people stay in their homes before taking drastic measures to remove them?

And before they take drastic measures to stay.

E-mail Nate McCullough at nate.mccullough@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Fridays.