Steve Benny Sr., an unemployed ironworker from Essex, said he tried to keep up with his $900-a-month house payments, but couldn't. When the bank went to foreclose last fall, Mr. Benny and his wife, Carol, declared bankruptcy.
After the Bennys were unable to make the mortgage payments, even under the bankruptcy agreement, the bank moved last month to foreclose on the house in the 900 block of N. Marlyn Ave.
Yesterday, the red brick rowhouse was to be auctioned off. When Paul Cooper, the auctioneer, showed up at 3:30 p.m., he was greeted with a chorus of boos and chants.
"Go home!" about 30 people, many of them members of the Baltimore Unemployed Council, yelled at Mr. Cooper. "No sale today, no sale today," they chanted.
The auction proceeded amid the din of the chanting protesters. The sole bid -- for $47,000 -- came from Eastern Savings Bank, which holds the mortgage.
"We'll try to sell it and recover our losses," said Robert H. Goodney, of Eastern Savings Bank. "We gave them a chance to pay back what they owed, but he didn't make any payments. We've tried to work with them. We've done the best we could."
According to Mr. Benny, his troubles began last summer, when he hurt his back and foot while doing an ironworking job at the Back River Sewage Treatment plant.
He was authorized for "light duty work" by a doctor, said Mr. Benny, who added, "There is no 'light duty work' in my trade." His company laid him off and he quickly used up his unemployment benefits.
After he got several payments behind on the mortgage, Mr. Benny said, he tried to work something out with the bank, but was denied.
Mr. Benny said he and his wife now owe nearly $10,000 in back principal and interest payments on a 15-year loan for $69,000.
The Baltimore Unemployed Council interceded on the Bennys' behalf after a council member heard he was unemployed and about to lose his home, said Peter D. French, a council member.
Mr. French, who helped organize yesterday's protest, said his group will be contacting Eastern Savings in an effort to work something out for the Bennys.
The group plans to ask the bank to extend the loan to a 30-year mortgage, which would make the monthly payment more affordable. What the Bennys owe could be added to the loan, said Mr. French.
"We plan to make sure that Steve and his family don't get thrown out of their home," said Mr. French.