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On a recent Saturday morning, Doris, 46, is sitting in the auditorium at Michele Clark High School, 5101 W. Harrison St. in Chicago, chatting with a friend.
The long-time Austin resident is among 50-some other homeowners from the area, and as far away as Elgin and the far South Side of Chicago, who are trying to prevent a future foreclosure by coming out to an all-day, mid-June Coalition for Community Banking foreclosure prevention workshop.
First up on this day, she says, is an informative "boot camp." After that, Doris plans to gather her personal paperwork and transition into another room, a market-place, of sorts, which will feature a couple of big bank and judicial reps, numerous housing counselors and other nonprofit pros who have agreed to render help and advice.
"I am having problems paying the mortgage because of a change in my income," says Doris, who requested her last name not be used. "I had to take a different job at the same school, and the pay is much less."
Doris, who is living in her home with, and responsible for, two minors and five other adult family members, is trying to remain positive and proactive. All but one of her family members is unemployed, and that job pays $5,000 a year, which is not a living wage, she says.
"I can just speak for myself and my family. We were all working at one time, and it is very depressing that you can't find a job for one reason or another, or if you can find a job, you are not making enough money," she says. "I'm trying to make it all work at $15,000 less a year, which is very hard. But, with a loan re-modification ... just to lower my mortgage by 10 or 15 percent would really help me get through these hard times."
Sitting nearby is Sirino and his wife, conversing in Spanish. They drove in from Elgin in hopes of resolving an ongoing mortgage dispute.
"My payment has not been processed the way it should be, so the system shows that I am behind, but I have been making my monthly payments, and that is the reason I am here," says the 48-year-old family man. "I have been trying to take care of this problem on the phone, but it has been impossible because every time I call, I talk to a different person. I want to explain my problem to Bank of America face-to-face and hopefully, the rep will sort out this mess for me."
Meanwhile, sitting in the front is Anton, 57, and his wife Brenda, 45. The unemployed wife, and under-employed husband drove in from the far South Side, and they are hoping to qualify for some mortgage relief again.
"We did this over a year ago, and the bank modified our mortgage by $16 a month," says the broker associate with a south suburban real estate company.
Anton says that with their recent real estate tax escalation, their mortgage payment rose, readjusting their monthly payment to an installment that is higher than prior to the previous re-modification.
"This is going to help, but it is not the cure all. The cure all is for me to find a different way to make money within my license," he says. "We don't have a 401K anymore, and our house is underwater, so we can't afford to retire. But, we still have a daughter and four grandchildren. So, when we are gone, what do we leave them?"
First formed in 2009 to fight the seizure of Park National Bank by the FDIC, the Coalition for Community Banking has evolved into a collaborating partnership consisting of a collection of grassroots organizations, faith-based groups, non-profit community development groups and affordable housing organizations that are based in Chicago's Austin, Garfield Park and Lawndale communities.
Also in the mix, are a few nonprofit groups from the Near West suburbs, and a long list of local, state and national legislators who stand behind them and regularly promote the coalition's educational programming via their websites and database outreach, says Pastor Cathy Palmer of the Coalition for Community Banking.
Doris, for example, joined in the workshop based on an e-blast from Illinois State Representative La Shawn K. Ford, she says.
"We represent people from all walks of life, all sides of town and all colors through our expanding base of partnerships and policy reforms that will restore our communities' housing in the wake of the ongoing mortgage foreclosure crisis," Palmer says.
Tom Feltner, vice president of Chicago-based Woodstock Institute, adds that there were 730 foreclosures in 2011 in Austin, which is down slightly from 836 in 2010, but is still a significant number of new filings. "The sheer volume of properties that are moving through the foreclosure process warrants more scrutiny," he says.
In addition, Palmer adds that "U.S. Bank [which took over Park National] has stepped up to the plate, and is doing what they said they would do.
"There is hope. There are lots of programs the banks are being flexible with, so people need to stay in their homes. Talk to the banks. Talk to the counselors. There is help."