For the staff of the Clinic’s Housing Counseling Program, helping homeowners who are at risk of going into foreclosure is their primary focus. Certified Housing Counselor Michael St. André says, “Whether the hardship is a medical issue, job loss, or any other loss or reduction of income, we aim to equip folks to navigate some challenges that may be brand new to them.”
Oftentimes, the Clinic is able to help a client navigate the situation with a lender to get a modification or some other kind of workout to lower their mortgage payment. Additionally, depending on the hardships they have experienced, homeowners may be eligible for a reinstatement program called the Indiana Hardest Hit Fund. For Michael, discovering the best kind of workout for his clients is rewarding. “I enjoy collaborating with homeowners to bring about a lasting and sustainable change in what is often the single largest expense of a household,” he says.
Although consumers may be able to negotiate with their lender on their own to try to achieve a workout agreement, going through the process with a housing counselor who knows the system yields much better results. Certified Housing Counselor Jill Knight says that even if there are no workouts available to the client, the Clinic is still able to provide the client with important and accurate information to help them determine their next steps. “Homeownership is not always well understood. Even people who have been through a pre-purchase class sometimes do not clearly understand what is involved,” says Jill. “In addition, mortgage problems are very stressful and having someone who can give the facts, without having an agenda, is extremely important.”
The victories for our clients make the difficult work worthwhile. Housing Counselor Helene Rodriguez recalls one of her favorite successes. “A client came to us two weeks before the Sheriff Sale. [She] was a single mother,” Helene says. “I was able to apply for the Hardest Hit Funds and she was able to save her home since the loan was reinstated.”
Seeking assistance as early as possible is often the key to preventing a foreclosure. Unfortunately, there are always people who will target those who are going through a difficult situation. Scammers may promise the impossible to homeowners and charge them hefty fees when they are already struggling financially. For Helene, such a result is upsetting. “Many of our homeowners have been scammed and if it wasn’t for programs like [the Clinic’s] it would happen even more,” she says.
But at the Clinic, when things get difficult, we have can always turn to God. “My faith gives me the ‘tough skin’ needed to weather a lot of pain, confusion, and fear that my clients experience,” Michael says. “Knowing Jesus, and believing that he is everything we need fuels me to love my clients while they’re in this season.”