BRADENTON -- Dozens of local families facing foreclosure have received help from on high.
Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., through its Housing Counseling and Foreclosure Prevention Program, has saved 50 Sarasota and Manatee families from losing their homes since October.
For nearly a year, Housing Counseling and Foreclosure Prevention services has guided 50 area clients and averaged 150 clients a year since the initiation of the program in 2008, according to Jacqueline Crombie, district director of Catholic Charities.
Catholic Charities is a nonprofit, HUD-approved agency that grew out of the charity's work with struggling families.
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"We started with helping lower-moderate-income people 13 years ago and mainly helping minorities," Crombie said. "And so we did that; and with the change in the economy it was a natural fit to try to help people with foreclosures."
The Housing Counseling and Foreclosure Prevention Program provides counseling for foreclosure prevention, assistance with pre- and post-purchase problems, credit and budgeting, and financial literacy and money management.
The program works with individuals by helping clients keep their homes through the Making Home Affordable Program and by referring clients to legal offices to get assistance on getting answers for summons.
"Clients have 20 days to answer the court summons, which says various questions pertaining to their home loan," said certified housing counselor Lucy Sanchez of the Housing Counseling and Foreclosure Prevention Program.
Clients have to be critical when answering the court summons.
"It's telling the court they are interested in working to keep their home," Sanchez said. "If they don't answer the court summons, the bank or servicer can go ahead and proceed with the foreclosure process."
When clients receive a summons and it is answered, they have the option of going back to the housing counselors for further assistance.
The Housing Counseling and Foreclosure Prevention Program will review the clients' paperwork and determine if they qualify for the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), a federal program helping homeowners receive a loan modification for their mortgage.
"We are like the mediator between the client and servicing company," Sanchez said.
All services are provided at no charge.
"We provide all the foreclosure preventions for homeowners that want to keep their homes or get out of their homes for alternatives instead of going into foreclosure," Sanchez said.
"Our main goal is to make sure we can keep families in their home."
The Making Home Affordable Program hasn't been able to help every case though, according to Sanchez.
"Some people lose their home so we assist them to find rental property where they can move into so they're not in the street," Sanchez said.
Cases vary depending on the client.
Housing counselors work closely with clients to determine the best option for them if they are forced to leave their homes.
The most recommended alternative for clients leaving their home is to go through a short-sale or deed-in-lieu when avoiding foreclosure.
As counselors, the agency will work with clients through the short-sale if they do not receive loan modifications.
In this process, realtors will draw agreements with banks and once the bank offers letter of agreement to the client they will be released from deficiency.
"If the client has a $200,000 property, and if it gets sold for $110,000, the balance of that amount the bank will let go and release them," Sanchez said.
The Making Home Affordable Program, as part of President Obama's administration in preventing foreclosures and stabilizing the housing market, will provide up to $3,000 for families to find a place to rent.
Housing counselors encourage clients to take the short-sale or deed-in-lieu options when facing foreclosures if not approved for loan modifications for their mortgage.
"Last but not least is turning to bankruptcy but we try not to go there," Sanchez said.
For more information and assistance to Housing Counseling and foreclosure Prevention Program, call 941-714-7829.