Josie Ahrens—2012 Fellow
Year: Class of 2014
Organization: Occupy Homes MN
For my Chuck Green Fellowship I worked with Occupy Homes MN, which is a grassroots organization that supports homeowners who are publicly resisting their foreclosures and evictions. This summer, I matched incoming homeowners with volunteers and mapped out initial steps with them to begin to build neighborhood support campaigns. Because of this work, I quickly became an integral member of the organization and by the end of the summer, I truly thought of myself as an Occupy Homes MN organizer. By spending an intense ten weeks in different neighborhoods in Minneapolis, I got to see first hand how the organization successfully uses direct action to pressure banks to offer good faith negotiations with homeowners to keep them in their homes and communities.
It is hard to sum up all of places my work took me, the courageous people I met, or the wild experiences I had, so I’d like to share one lesson I learned that has changed my perspective on what I thought was possible to achieve. Reflecting on the sheer remarkableness of our victories I learned to always try to find a sense of fearlessness to push past any walls stopping me and my work. Even if the obstacle in front of us seemed too insurmountable, Occupy Homes would try one more next step and we would breakthrough to the other side of what previously seemed impossible.
For example, Occupy Homes was working with five homeowners (known as the Minnesota 5) who all had loans with Bank of America. After months of trying to contact the bank and gather neighborhood support, a few of the homeowners were ready to give up. But because we launched one more week of action, which included a call-in-campaign to BoA headquarters, a delegation to a local BoA branch, and a banner drop over one of the busiest freeways in Minneapolis, the bank contacted all five homeowners and four of them were offered deals that keep them in their homes. Ruby, Frank and Kristina, and Paul are now able to stay in their communities in the homes they fought to save. With these victories we achieved something that seemed implausible.
Because we pushed past challenges, we accomplished the most miraculous next steps and wins. This has taught me courage and strength, and that another world is truly possible. I know this lesson will sincerely impact all of my future work!