Friday, October 26, 2012

I hear you.

I hear you.

You are not alone.

Let me encourage you.

These are three statements that I heard spoken to one man yesterday and regularly hear from our staff members.

That these were some of the first words spoken to him after expressing his frustration, reminded me how proud I am to be at Able Works, with our hard working and compassionate staff.

Oftentimes the community members we serve are indeed frustrated, upset, and often feel hopeless. Frankly, most of them are justified in feeling this way having been taken advantage of numerous times by banks or refinancing scams. Whenever they interact with individuals, our staff is able to reach out and connect on a level that is deeper than just looking over their paperwork. They connect on a heart level and really live out our mission of equipping people with financial education, life skills, assets, and enabling them to live free from oppression and poverty.

Working at a non-profit, it’s not often easy to see the fruit of your labor. Yet sometimes, the fruit isn’t necessarily all that matters. Sometimes a home can’t be saved, or a financial situation not readily fixed, but this isn’t our only metric for success. What’s most important, as the result is to let these people be heard and encourage them when encouragement can’t be found anywhere else.

What would it look like to view the problems of those around me not as an opportunity to achieve some result, but realize that by simply listening, I have an opportunity to really connect and speak life and encouragement into others?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Fighting homelessness.

Our LiveAble program provides counseling for first-time homebuyers, individuals seeking to rebuild their credit, and current homeowners facing foreclosure and homelessness. Our LiveAble team does this through workshops, participating in resource fairs for those facing foreclosure, and meeting with clients individually to provide one on one support.

Seeing desperate homeowners in our office each day and hearing them tell their stories outside my office makes it easy to see the good our team is doing. However, it isn’t always as easy for me to understand what our team actually does to save these homes. In the month I’ve been working here, I’ve realized my heart has fully grasped the emotions and heartache of this but my brain hasn’t fully understood the process leading up to it.

Recently, I spent some time with our housing counselors to try to better understand the foreclosure process and where they enter to help save homes. I realized, “Gosh, everyone should have the opportunity to know this.”
This is what they said: 
At Able Works, the clients we serve are applying for a loan modification as a result of being in danger of losing their homes and sometimes facing homelessness. (Modifying their loan allows them to more successfully make the payments.)
After our housing counselors submit a full financial package (which can be a very tedious and detail specific process), the client’s lender will review the information and send it to the underwriter. At this point, the underwriter decides whether or not the client is approved to move forward with a modification. If the modification is approved, the lender will typically send the homeowner a trial payment plan lasting three months. During this time the homeowner is responsible for making all payments on time. Once the payment plan is over, the file will return to the underwriter and the modification will likely be finalized – allowing our client, the homeowner, to remain in their home.

Due to the bureaucratic and confusing nature of the banking system, the loan modification process is one that can take up to several months, sometimes even over a year. During this time, our counselors are providing as much emotional support as they are financial counseling to these families.

It is amazing to me that these counselors can be working with clients for a long time and the subject matter is certainly not easy to handle. They are fighting for these homes alongside the homeowners and providing hope without judgment. I get emotional just writing about this and our team does it every single day.

I hope, like me, you were able to gain some perspective on the foreclosure process as well as understand the great work our LiveAble team is doing on a daily basis. They are truly saving families from homelessness and the emotional impact that causes.

--Laura Gross