One family struggles to stay in their home

This is one in a series of articles examining foreclosure in the September issue. See more

Samantha Santana knows what it is to wait for hours in the bank lobby while her mom tries to talk loan officers into letting them stay in their Chicago Lawn bungalow.

Samantha, 10, an A-student headed to a school for gifted children this fall, takes on the role of comforter to her mother, Elia, when she frets about what the family can do to save their home from foreclosure.

Elia and Lorenzo Santana have always been straight with Samantha and her little sister, Litzy, about their money problems. After her husband lost his construction job and the family depleted their savings helping a dying brother, sister-in-law and father, Elia couldn’t bring herself to pretend that their way of life was secure.

“I just couldn’t lie to them,” she says. “I think the lie would just be another slap in the face. I wasn’t going to promise them things I wasn’t sure I could do.”

It’s been a struggle since 9/11 when the Chicago construction company Lorenzo, now 45, worked for suddenly didn’t have full-time work and eventually didn’t have any. Now he forages for whatever handyman work he can find.

Elia used to be employed as a blood work and dialysis specialist. She missed a lot of work caring for sick relatives-and now medical HR folks aren’t biting on her applications.

Her mother, in her 80s, moved in with them when her husband died. The family also soon will be taking in two orphaned children.

The Santanas live in an immaculate brown brick bungalow at the end of Kilbourn Avenue, not far from Midway Airport. A red and blue Re-Max “For Sale” sign is tucked behind a shrub growing next to the front porch stairs.

They are working through the Southwest Organizing Project and Neighborhood Housing Services in an attempt to work out a deal with Bank of America to keep their home.

“I never could have imagined this could happen to us,” Elia Santana says. “We were always the ones who were there for everyone else.”

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