On May 12, the day the city inspector came to board up his house, Ted Poetsch was eating lunch. After living all of his 53 years at 823 Penn Av. N., Poetsch had an hour left to pack his stuff and get out. Cane in hand, he lurched around, throwing a few things in bags, putting Kitty in the carrier. He heard the contractor outside starting to drill into the door frame. Poetsch made his way down his narrow stairway, resigned to the end he had resisted for three years, through personal financial missteps, the false promise of a foreclosure “rescue” and a court victory that gave him short-lived hope. He came to the door and realized that he was too late. A truck had driven away from the house, prompting those outside to think the tenants were gone. Poetsch had been boarded up inside his house.
The house at 823 Penn, vacant and already a target for thieves, is now owned by Fannie Mae. In September, the federal government took over the mortgage giant in a multibillion-dollar bailout after it was brought to the brink of collapse by the housing meltdown. Poetsch got no such assistance. The city determined that the house was potentially unsafe and that Poetsch was essentially a squatter in the only home he had ever known. Now this North Side neighborhood has one fewer neighbor and one more boarded house. “Everybody loses,” said Poetsch’s onetime attorney, Josh DuBois, who helped Poetsch get out of his boarded house that day in May.