It was the coldest, snowiest, most blustery day southeast Michigan has felt so far this year. The number four bus was even running late several times that day due to the snow. In other words, it was a real winter day. The Washtenaw Foreclosure Defense group was not to be deterred, however. We met at Ypsilanti Free Commune to plan and distribute materials for canvassing.
Some of our members with more knowledge in this field did research to find a neighborhood that had the highest number of foreclosures in the area. We decided upon the area east of where state highway 12 splits from interstate highway 94 in the West Willow neighborhood. Some of us weren’t quite prepared for how cold it was. Luckily others had extra. We were armed with maps, petitions, scripts, notepaper, and pens. Some of us have experience working for Clean Water Action and PIRGIM. Energy was high and we were excited.
We talked to many people in the hour or so we went door to door. Some of the people were very receptive, interested, and excited. They had stories of families nearby who lost their homes and heartbreak. Others didn’t care at all and shooed us away. Some feigned interest, but then hedged as the conversation continued. At the last house we visited, we met an old gal who told us stories about how the neighborhood was once so close and that people looked out for one another. She was initially quite reluctant to affix her information to any of the documents we had, despite being willing to converse with us and amiable to our goals. Eventually patience and willingness to listen won her over as she wrote her information on both our forms and signed them. Consensus was that when we spoke using our own words instead of a set script, people were more receptive. One of the keys was to listen to people and let them do most of the talking.
Next week we decided to use the information we had gathered and hit houses that specifically were being foreclosed on. Some of the groups also decided to visit others near the target houses. My group in particular had great success with this tactic and we even talked to a gal who was going to do a podcast about the very things we were canvassing for. A problem we hadn’t foreseen arose, however, when we discovered most of the places going through the foreclosure process were already abandoned. We learned things, we made some contacts, and we had a great time trying to do something about a growing problem in our area and beyond.