Photo by Joseph Rodriguez

Dianne Pinkston, unable to afford the mortage on an inherited home, says she is living a "more peaceful life" since she lost the house and downsized.

Related: Foreclosures mount, mediation efforts fail

Profiles: Finding peace after the storm

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011 

The Investigative Reporting Workshop and New America Media profiled those hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis in communities of color.

New America Media

LOS ANGELES — After her mother died, Dianne Pinkston inherited the home that had been in the family for half a century. But the inheritance turned into a mixed blessing. Although the house was a source of pride, it also became a source of enormous pressure for Pinkston during the economic recession and was eventually lost to foreclosure.

Pinkston, however, says she has discovered a newfound “peace of mind” with homeownership now behind her.

The “workaholic” grandmother grew up in the home that had been in her family for years and assumed the mortgage payments in 2007 after her mother died to keep the house in the family.

She worked seven days a week as a self-employed tax preparer, but a reduction in seasonal work, combined with the $5,000 per month mortgage note she shared with her daughter, was just too much to handle.

“There was embarrassment and a deep depression [stemming from the idea] that I wasn’t good enough to keep it,” she said.

When the housing market tanked, the value of the house shrank by $85,000, and Pinkston couldn’t refinance her loan because of the lost equity. Before she knew it, she said, the home, the memories of her childhood there and the dream of passing it down to her own daughter were lost.

When Pinkston initially moved out in 2009, she packed what sentimental, personal valuables she could take and sold the rest. She settled into a one-bedroom apartment with the money she received from her mortgage company for cleaning out the house.

Life as a renter in a new neighborhood had some initial bumps. Her car was vandalized. And she had accumulated a massive debt — $150,000 — when she took loans from friends during her effort to keep her mother’s house.

Today, Pinkston said she is living a “more peaceful life,” mentally and physically. She has moved into a two-bedroom apartment in a better neighborhood; she earns enough money to take care of herself; she has started to repay her debts to friends.

Before the ordeal, said Pinkston, she worked night and day and constantly stressed over how she would make her mortgage payments. She worried daily, rarely slept and lost a lot of time and energy working to meet her obligations.

Now she said she enjoys time with her family and expresses great pride in their accomplishments.

Pinkston’s daughter was able to save enough money to buy her own home. Her grandchildren also weathered the disruption to their lives. They were lucky they didn’t have to switch schools, she added.

“One is graduating and has been accepted into Howard [University],” Pinkston said.

Now she said she realizes that she did nothing wrong. In fact, like many in her position, Pinkston has come to feel she was broadsided by the bankers and financiers who changed the rules overnight — rules she thought she knew as an educated, astute businesswoman.

“I’m not beating myself up,” she said. “I’m loving myself because I made it through. I’m still standing.”

What Went Wrong

Donald Barlett and James Steele are revisiting America: What Went Wrong, their landmark 1991 newspaper series, in a new project with the Investigative Reporting Workshop. Over the next year, the project team will examine how four decades of public policy has shaped America's ongoing economic crisis.


Back Story

The authors talk about What Went Wrong

Donald Barlett and James Steele talk about the project, and why they decided to revisit a book they wrote two decades ago, in a series of video clips produced by the Workshop.

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Read an Excerpt

The Betrayal of the American Dream on Google Books

The Betrayal of the American Dream on Google Books

Check out the first chapter of Barlett and Steele's 2012 book here.