We refuse to let another eviction happen. Outraged at the treatment of this Afro-Indigenous family, the Portland community has united to save the Red House on Mississippi, rallying support around the family to reclaim the house and hold the land in a 24/7 eviction blockade. Since September, support has grown for the Red House and today we maintain an around-the-clock community presence along with onsite camping, a fully functional kitchen offering two free hot meals a day, and free programming centered in healing and abolition. This is what it looks like for neighbors to truly take care of each other.
One of the oldest standing homes in the neighborhood, the Red House on Mississippi was built in 1896 and has belonged to the Kinney family for 65 years. In the 1950s, William and Pauline Kinney, an African-American couple, moved to Portland from Little Rock, Arkansas to escape deep South oppression. Like other Black families, they were redlined out of getting loans in North Portland and bought the home outright with cash in 1955. There, they raised their children, and a new generation of Kinneys made the Red House their family home.
Their oldest son, William Kinney Jr. grew up in the house and remembers a time when the home was a rental for Black families and he would help his father to collect rents. He went on to become a security officer for Portland Community College, where he served from 1976 to 1992. After being excluded from training available to white employees, he spoke out. In retaliation, he was wrongfully demoted and eventually terminated. He filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against the college. A federal jury awarded him $900,000, though he accepted a settlement of a fraction of the award amount because the college threatened to appeal.
Meanwhile, in 1983, he’d returned to the Red House with his wife Julie (an Indigenous Native of the Upper Skagit Tribe of Washington) and their four-year-old, Michele. William and Julie had two more children, William Kinney III two years later (1985) and youngest son Michael (in 1990). Family memories fill the house and the neighborhood, though the shiny new condos and expensive food carts of gentrification tell a different story.
Before the community garden was built across the street, it was a vacant lot known as “the field,” used as a community baseball field amongst all the neighbors. All three of the Kinney siblings played for Peninsula Little League and proudly remember the year William’s team won the district and went on to state. One winter, Julie brought the kids over to the field during a heavy snow to build a snow-cat that was about 12 feet long. It was so huge that reporters showed up with cameras to put it on the evening news.
The Kinneys describe the attack on their family as beginning in 2002, when their son, William III was taken to prison at the young age of 17 for an automobile accident. In hopes of saving their child from the brutality of the prison system, the family was left with no choice but to take out a loan against their home to pay for costly legal fees. Despite their efforts to fight the system and keep their family together, the Kinneys' lives took a downward turn when William III was taken to prison for two 5-year sentences, totaling 10 years.
During her son’s incarceration, Julie Metcalf Kinney was met with the untimely dissolution of the local nonprofit Low Income Housing for Native Americans of Portland, Oregon (LIHNAPO), where she served as Executive Director. A longtime housing organizer for Indigenous families, she’d been involved with LIHNAPO since its founding in the early 1990s and had served as an original board member in addition to being a member of the Interstate Urban Renewal Committee of Portland and a commissioner of the Housing Authority of Grand Ronde. Mrs. Metcalf Kinney dedicated her life to fighting against the gentrification of inner-city Portland where she was born and raised. Now, decades later, her family faces the tragedy of losing their home to criminal banking practices and a horrifying illegal eviction.
Big Banks and Back-Room Deals
The trouble for the Kinneys intensified in 2004 when they refinanced their second mortgage with Beneficial Oregon to pay off an adjustable rate mortgage that had an increasing interest rate. The first loan was paid off by the new one. In December 2016 the Kinneys received a notice that the loan had been transferred from Beneficial to MTGLQ Investors (a subsidiary of Goldman Sachs), but that they should continue to send payments to Beneficial as the servicer. The loan was evidently assigned from Beneficial Financial 1, Inc. ("BF1"), as successor through merger to Beneficial, to MTGLQ.
The Kinneys then received paperwork from both entities for the next two months, each demanding payment, so the family sent a letter seeking to verify the new entity that was servicing the loan. In May 2017 the loan was sold again, this time to U.S. Bank Trust National Association ("U.S. Bank Trust"). It was then transferred to U.S. Bank Trust REO Trust. In May 2018, Clear Recon Corporation was appointed as successor trustee of the 2004 Deed of Trust and they initiated the process to foreclose on the Kinney’s home.
The Kinneys continued to challenge the process, but their home was sold via auction as a nonjudicial foreclosure in October 2018. Owing only $97,000 on their home, they were denied their right to buy it back (their right of redemption) as protected by Oregon law. They even tried to bid on their own home at the auction but were refused on a technicality. According to Zillow, the empty lot directly adjacent to the Kinney family home is worth $10.2M.
Their home was reportedly sold to a developer, Roman Ozeruga of Urban Housing Development, who got the deed in 2018. Urban Housing Development attempted to evict the Kinneys when it first got the deed, but the eviction was stalled by the Kinneys’ federal complaint and a state counterclaim. In February 2020, possession of the Kinneys’ home was awarded to Urban Housing Development. In March, Oregon declared a state of emergency due to COVID-19, issuing a statewide eviction moratorium on April 1st. A federal eviction moratorium followed on September 1st. Moratoriums at both state and federal levels should have halted the eviction.
What’s Happening Now
In response to the community and family’s reclaiming of the land, Multnomah County initiated a new 30-day writ of execution to re-evict the family. While it was set to expire October 27th, sheriffs failed to evict the family by the court-ordered deadline. Instead, Multnomah County Judge Stephen Bushong made an unusual decision, extending the writ of execution an additional 120 days. As winter arrives and temperatures dip below freezing, the community remains resolute in their support, initiating weatherizing projects for those who continue to live and sleep outside the Red House in anticipation of a second eviction, which could happen anytime in the next four months. History shows the next eviction may be more devastating than the first.
The family’s litigation continues, too. On November 14th, a petition for a writ of certiorari was filed in the U.S. Supreme Court. Urban Housing Development has until December 23rd to respond. While the fight continues in the courts, we’re working in the community to leverage our people power. This is where you come in.
We Need Your Help
We don’t need another empty, high-rise, high-rent luxury condominium. The Kinneys are one of the last Black families remaining on Mississippi and their fight for their home is also a real-time fight against gentrification. In order to stand a chance against the big banks and developers who’ve systematically displaced Black families across North and Northeast Portland, we need leverage.
We need to raise $250,000 by [date], the last day of Multnomah County’s extended writ of execution. This money will be an essential bargaining tool to initiate negotiations with developer Roman Ozeruga and ensure the Kinney family can remain housed for generations to come. To reach our goal, we’ll need to raise $22,000 each week starting today, on Black Friday 2020. Will you put your dollars where your heart is?
Follow us on redhouseonmississippi.com, on IG at @redhouseonmississippi, and on Twitter at @RHonMississippi for updates. Reach out to us at [email redacted] if you’d like to help us spread the word and bring our fundraising efforts to your communities.
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