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Foreclosure looms for Bernardston man

  • McCOLLUM



Recorder Staff
Friday, March 02, 2018

BERNARDSTON — Standing at the intersection of bad luck and what a seniors advocated says is a public policy failure, an elderly man who has been called a “Robin Hood of builders” will face foreclosure Tuesday and an inevitable eviction.

Bob McCollum, 73, first faced this fate in late July, when his Shaw Road log cabin and mortgage were in the hands of big banks in New York. Following public pressure, including an article in the Greenfield Recorder, the foreclosure was canceled.

“He’s managed to stay living with his dog and cat for seven months because of the action we took back in August,” lifelong friend and elder care advocate Al Norman said, ahead of the March 6 foreclosure date. But since then, Norman and McCollum could not find a way to finance the longtime carpenter’s way out of a mortgage gone wrong.

Living off Social Security and with no local family to assist him, McCollum is back at the mercy of the banks, between debt collector Shellpoint and Bank of New York Mellon — as they get ready to take his home from him because of a failure to pay off a $153,000 loan he had taken out at an adjustable interest rate in 2003.

“I don’t think there’s any simple answer now. I don’t think there’s going to be any last minute intervention that protects him from this sale,” Norman said. “The Bank of New York Mellon has too much they want to do to be distracted by this older person living in poverty.”

McCollum was unable to speak for this story because he is currently in the hospital, Norman said. He probably won’t be present for his foreclosure, although Norman and a representative from the Community Action anti-poverty agency are expected to be present.

McCollum’s luck started to go south when he was no longer able to do his lifelong work as a handyman around Franklin County; he battled a few bouts of cancer, lymphoma and lung, and later on spinal stenosis.

When the foreclosure is likely finalized on Tuesday, it will set off a chain of events for McCollum, all centered around: Where will he live next?

Public policy questions

There are regrets over taking that adjustable loan in 2003, when McCollum was in his early 60s and still lively in his career. That loan set him down a path to a point where he will likely face eviction and the risk of being homeless, Norman says.

“This is the fate that happens to people when they fall behind on their payments,” Norman said. “I think we’ve delayed this as long as we possibly can. The only thing left is a several month eviction process and he will have legal help.”

Norman, who has been in human services for almost 40 years and says “housing has never been an easy issue to deal with,” believes this should be a point for local and state legislators to realize action needs to be done to prevent this from happening again.

“What’s happened to Bob McCollum is a public policy failure,” Norman said. “If we had better public policy in place, he wouldn’t have gotten into this deep hole and the bank wouldn’t be breathing down his neck.”

Norman said state Rep. Paul Mark, D-Peru, could be a good person to sponsor a bill that would call for mandatory counseling for elderly people who seek to borrow and take out a large loan like this.

A Springfield mortgage counseling group did try to provide McCollum with assistance, but the counseling came too late in the game. “When these things become out-of-control, they become unsolvable,” Norman said.

Additionally, with McCollum soon to be looking for low-income housing, it means he will join a long waiting list for housing, something that is known in short supply in a rural county.

After Tuesday, the retired construction worker — who once would use expensive leftover materials from one job to help out others who couldn’t afford the contract work on other jobs — will have to sort out his future housing situation, finding a place he, his cat and his dog Moxie can move into.

You can reach Joshua Solomon at:

jsolomon@recorder.com

413-772-0261, ext. 264