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Keeping People In Their Homes: Aj Fouts ’18 at Regional Bankruptcy Center

This co-op I had the opportunity to stay with and work for Antioch alumni in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I stayed with Joan Stockton, ‘65 and worked for Roger Ashodian, and spent time with many other alumni from the area – even got to attend a dinner party of the Philadelphia Chapter Alumni Association! The course I took this quarter was named ‘Work 331 – Sound, Sight, and Sentiment: The Phenomenology of Place’, with Brooke Bryan.

I worked at the Scholl Ashodian Regional Bankruptcy Center of Southeast Pennsylvania (RBC), as a hybrid of paralegal/legal research/general intern role. Day-to-day tasks of mine included mundane things like updating the firm’s court schedule, filing documents with the court, and  performing client inventory tasks to more challenging work such as working with clients to file bankruptcy, embarking on various bureaucratic journeys to battle clients’ more uncooperative creditors, performing detailed analyses of aspects of clients’ financial status to advance their case, drafting memos to opposing counsel and various creditors, and even helping out at bankruptcy court a couple times.

One of my favorite aspects of the job were my co-workers. I had worked in a law firm in NYC for my previous co-op, but the Regional Bankruptcy Center was had the opposite environment. RBC is a much smaller firm, with 9 people, whereas the firm I worked at last co-op (Outten & Golden, LLP) seemed to have close to 100 in total, and took up two floors of a Manhattan skyscraper! RBC felt more every-day, easygoing, and accessible. Clients never seemed to have much reservation about just walking in unannounced to ask questions or give us documents or talk to Mr. Ashodian (sometimes to our dismay). Additionally, with such a small office, I had the pleasure of getting to know everybody else really quickly, making the adjustment period much shorter because I felt comfortable asking questions, as well as created a more accountable environment. Not to mention, everybody at RBC cared so much for the well-being of it’s clientele, and put in a lot of work to do what they could.

Now – how does/did my co-op job connect to Work 331? The goal of the Regional Bankruptcy Center is multi-faceted, as bankruptcy matters, like anything, are complicated, but we focus heavily on keeping our clients in their homes, and that’s what drew me into this co-op – i’ve been interested in homeownership and it’s effects for quite some time.

One reading that I connected well with in the course described place geographer Yu-Fi Tuan’s idea of ‘topofilia’ – the affective bond between people and place (Cresswell, A. Place, A Short Introduction. pp 8). That idea resonated with me because so much of my day-to-day obligations at RBC centered around the goal of keeping people in their homes – often described as sacred and safe spaces. ‘Home’ – in whatever form it may lie – is incredibly important to the psychopathy of those who inhabit it. How much space does one have to live their life, what kind of light flows through their lived spaces, what memories have formed there, and are specific to that place? There are a lot of things that make a home, a home, an important place.

Attached here is a link to the Urban Affairs Coalition’s Foreclosure Prevention Task Force, with who I had the pleasure of helping out and getting to know because Roger Ashodian (Antioch alum), and Ms. Allison Hughes (who is actually a co-chair of the task force) come from RBC.  On this website there’s many resources for homeowners to gain financial literacy, connect to housing counselors, attorneys, and non-profits, and research surrounding foreclosure. Also attached is the mapping assignment we were tasked with during Work 331 – giving an overview of what I spent some of my time in Philadelphia seeing and doing.

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I am 4th-year Political Economy Antioch College student, with a Japanese language focus. My academic interests include housing, law, and the politics of place. I consider Detroit, Michigan my home, but have been to New York City, Philadelphia, and Osaka, Japan, for my co-op experiences. I love exploring new places, working with animals, and riding my bicycle.

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