IRVINE – As a young adult in Vietnam, Trang Che sold books on the black market to earn enough money to smuggle herself out of the country. There was no chance of a future for her under the communist regime, and she dreamed of escaping to the United States.
Now, when Trang Che speaks of her America, her heaven, her face lights up with a wide, toothy grin.
The small woman jumped to her feet, hopping on either foot and pointing to the walls of her now-bare house as she recalled the joy of decorating her first house.
But Che's Irvine home is in foreclosure, and when the 55-year-old licensed vocational nurse received a notice stating that she would be evicted this past Monday, she went to Occupy Orange County for help.
She told her story at the group's Dec. 16 General Assembly, and though they didn't have much time to act, some members quickly sought legal advice and to support her.
The bank has told the Orange County Sheriff's Department that the eviction will not take place over the holidays and will be rescheduled, said John McDonald, a department spokesman.
About 20 people from Occupy O.C. and MoveOn, a nonprofit group focusing on political action, have stayed with her over the past week, rotating so she's never waiting alone for sheriff's deputies to remove her from the house, said Victoria Schlicht, a protester and Irvine resident. Volunteers have grown close to Che over the past few days.
"There's a tremendous amount of shame in losing our homes ... and Trang has a lot of courage and she's willing to give a voice to that," Schlicht said.
Vern Nelson, a protester, said lending support has been a good way to transition from the village at City Hall to helping people in the local community. Occupy O.C. in Irvine has a final camping extension on the Civic Center lawn, which expires Jan. 11.
In 2005, after being mugged twice near her Long Beach apartment, Che moved to Irvine, statistically one of the safest cities in the nation. She kept up with her mortgage payments by working nearly 70 hours a week at two jobs, but fell behind when she was laid off from one job and went on leave after suffering a work-related injury at the other.
She owes more than $300,000, and after trying to refinance her loan seven times, sought help from an attorney who she said she paid $6,000.
Though she doubts she will be able to save her house, she is seeking an extension on the eviction so she can recover in her home for several weeks from surgery to treat a facial growth she was born with.
Che's supporters don't plan on acting in civil disobedience; they intend to leave peacefully. Che figured she will move in with a brother in Compton until she can get her own place.
"[With Occupy], I feel like I am not alone anymore," Che said.