Barbara Anderson is an internationally acclaimed expert in predatory lending, but she did not study flow charts and case studies at any university. Instead, she learned first-hand from her family’s experience in Cleveland’s Slavic Village neighborhood.
It was 1982. Barbara, her husband and four children were delighted to buy a large home on E. 76th Street. They were among the first African-American families to buy in their section of the neighborhood, and before long, fires were repeatedly being set to their property. Eventually, their insurance company refused to underwrite them. The next time they were burned out, sometime in 1986, Barbara went in search of a loan to make needed repairs.
She found one at 7%, but by the 1990s, the loan had been sold and re-sold in slow but gut-wrenching shell game in which her payments and consistent history were lost amid the trading and paperwork failures now so familiar to us, while her interest rates jumped up over 20%.
Barbara finally found help at the East Side Organizing Project, (or ESOP, now known as Empowering and Strengthening Ohio’s People). ESOP used its resources and support to carefully map the transactions and, by 1999, work with the mortgage company then in possession of Barbara’s note to fix the loan.
Hers was the first loan ESOP fixed with that servicer. She called Third Federal Bank chairman Marc Stefansky and begged him to take on her loan. With her loan in safe, local, dependable hands, Barbara went on to use her hard-won expertise to assist other people adversely affected by predatory loans. She became an advocate at the agency, and now serves as the board chair.
“I knew the hurt, the pain, the agony, and I tried to help other people get through it,” she said.
Along the way, Barbara founded Bring Back the 70s, a street club to bring her neighbors together for positive change; raised eight children, and joined Neighborhood Leadership Cleveland Class “Sweet 16” in 2001.
“I wanted to make sure I was as strong of a leader as I needed to be. I knew it would take strength, strategy, and style.”
“Style! The ability to be persistent, engaging, aware, knowledgeable, and fierce!” She says with a laugh.
“I wanted to make sure I understood leadership deeply, so I wasn’t just out there working on my own. And that’s what I got from there.”
In 2010, Barbara shared the predatory lending crisis with audiences around the world through her involvement in the film Cleveland vs. Wall Street, by Swiss director Jean-Stephane Bron. It was shot documentary-style in Cleveland and made the rounds of international film festivals from Cannes to Cleveland.
Now in Cleveland Heights, Barbara runs the nonprofit Another Chance of Ohio to provide quality homes people in need. Their mission is about quality and care, not numbers.
“It’s not our desire to put several families in a home, but rather to nurture and encourage one family at a time. . . to equip them with resources that will sustain them for a lifetime,” she said.
Another Chance operates three homes:
Pete’s Place is a refuge for veterans who have struggled with homelessness and job loss. It’s located at 1436 East 95th St., near the VA hospital.
Janie’s Home is for families trying to escape from domestic violence. Its address is confidential for the residents’ safety.
Mama Crockett’s Home, named for Barbara’s own foster mother, Edna Mae Crockett, at 3435 East 76th Street. It’s dedicated in her honor as a home for young people who have aged out of the foster care system.
She is employed by the City of Cleveland Office of Fair Housing and Consumer Affairs. Learn more about her work at www.anotherchanceofohio.com