A rather stirring Op-Ed piece in today’s Sun-Times by Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart brings home the reality of evictions: the evicted are people, with families and stories all their own.
Dart writes that as Cook County sheriff, he is responsible for running a 10,000-inmate jail, providing patrols to unincorporated areas and securing the courts.
But perhaps no part of our job is as difficult as the work done by our eviction units. On any given day, our deputies could be asked to throw a family out of their home, with all of their possessions left on a curb — sometimes pilfered through by those living nearby.
Where mortgage firms see pieces of paper, my deputies see people.
Yet no matter how difficult they are, evictions are part of our job.
Difficult as this work may be, an impossible situation for a family with young children, Dart understands that evictions come with the territory. Sometimes people are left out on the street.
Sometimes, however, the family is not at fault, and this angers Dart, and it should anger all tax payers, in addition to those who care the least about social justice:
What isn’t part of our job, however, is to carry out work on behalf of the multi-billion-dollar banks and mortgage industries.
Too many times, our deputies arrive at a home to carry out a mortgage foreclosure eviction, only to find a tenant — dutifully paying their rent each month — who is unaware their landlord stopped using that rent money to pay the mortgage. They had no fair warning that they were about to be thrown out of their home.
That’s because, in many cases, the banks have done nothing to determine, in advance, who’s living in the building — even though it’s required by state law. Instead, those banks expect taxpayers to pay for that investigative work for them.
Dart and his deputies have found themselves evicting people who have paid their rent in it’s entirety. The sheriff is right on this one. Tenants still may face eviction, but the fault is that of their landlord, and they deserve proper notice that their landlord is doing something else with their rent money besides paying on the mortgage.
Dart says he is willing to be held in contempt for refusing to execute evicting notices. The courts would be wrong to go after Dart. Why go after the sheriff, when the real culprit is a multi-billion-dollar bank or mortgage lender who is forcing local government to spend tax dollars, saving the institution from performing due diligence?
Springfield should take notice. Attorney General Lisa Madigan should take notice. Sheriff Dart, and others in his position throughout the state, need help on this one.
I’ve seen Dart and his deputies do their job, and it isn’t easy. In August in Park Forest, Cook County sheriff’s deputies executed 34 eviction notices. Management from the Lofts of Thorn Creek, currently under receivership, were on hand, as was Sheriff Tom Dart. Working with a crew of about 40 members of the eviction units, deputies spent the morning and early afternoon knocking on doors, and, in some cases, ramming them open. Some units in this development were vacant and had been vacant for some time. While expecting the worst, deputies met with compliant, yet unhappy, residents who were being turned out into the street.
This situation was unique in that it was the first mass test of the Village of Park Forest’s Crime Free Housing Ordinance. In other words, not all of these evictions were for lack of payment on rent.
Still, a day or two before the first school bells summoned students to class, families were losing their homes.
Banks and mortgage lenders dumping their responsibilities on the tax payers is unconscionable, a de facto bailout. There should be some penalty for lending institutions that abdicate their responsibilities.
Imagine turning children out of their homes only to realize the deed was done so the lender didn’t have to pay a few legal bills?