Veteran ABC News photographer loses home, facing homeless status

No 'light at the end of the tunnel' for popular photojournalist

by Bill Stephens, Vice President of News Operations | Metro News Network | 1st April 2019 | 6:00 AM CT

My time has run out. I am going to officially lose my home sometime this year.

Why, you ask? It’s a long, but interesting story. You see, in July of 2013, I suffered a heart issue that required open heart surgery and a quintuple bypass. Anybody that has gone through this surgery or even knows anyone who has; recovery can take six months until you are back to normal or at least functioning normally.

If you are self-employed like myself, all of your income also stops. So your savings should get you through if you have enough saved. In my case it did get me through, however again being self employed I did lose customers, people who I always treated like family. I was always there for them. Sadly, I learned loyalty didn't go both ways.

During my heart recovery, I started to have other symptoms that took another five months to diagnose. I had bladder cancer, treatable with surgery. So, under the knife I went again. It was not just once, but twice within 10 weeks of each other. The second surgery was to be sure they got it all. The next three months was spent doing light duty with no heavy lifting which caused me to lose even more clients.

At this point, it's August 2014 and money is tight. Survival is becoming an issue. I petitioned my mortgage company for a deferment to “pause” my mortgage until I got back on my feet. Instead, they filed for a modification and then summarily denied it. This is just one of the many games the banks play.

I spent 2015 recovering from the effects of the surgeries and trying to rebuild my business. Then, in 2016 the cancer reoccurred – another two surgeries. This time I underwent multiple scopes to check the progress and success of those latest surgeries. Once they determined they got it all this time, I was scheduled for BCG chemo. It required eight weekly visits of having chemicals injected into my bladder to trigger my immune system to kill off anything that is left. This chemo was performed three times over the entire year 2017.

In January of 2017, I applied for a program called Illinois' Hardest Hit. This program is designed to help people that get behind on their mortgage payments due to hardship, illness, etc. They agreed to grant funds to bring my mortgage current. When Illinois' Hardest Hit contacted the mortgage company to transfer funds, my mortgage company refused the funds and have been refusing funds to bring my mortgage current ever since. Of course, this kept getting me further behind making it virtually impossible to get out and ahead of the debt.

Last night I opened my email from my foreclosure attorney notifying me that they and I had run out of motions, etc. It also stated I now have around 90 days to leave my home of 30 years; the home I raised my children in after their mother died. While the kids are now grown, I feel it is important to have someplace they can always call home. This will now be lost. I also work out of my home – my office is here and being that I am alone here now making a move of this magnitude may put the final nail in my proverbial coffin for the business.

I am 62 years old. I'm in poor to fair health. How in the world do I start over? It will take at least 250K to save what I have built for 30 years. Where do I turn. Why should anyone in this country lose their home because they became ill?

Editors Note: We have started a “Go-Fund-Me” Page to offer you and others that care an opportunity to help Bill in anyway possible. Thank you for visiting this link to donate.