BALTIMORE — At Mount Pleasant Church and Ministries in northeast Baltimore, Department of Housing and Community Development’s (DHCD) Kelly L. Vaughn urged homeowners facing foreclosure to look around the crowded assembly hall at the people sitting near them.
“You see? You are not alone. There are other people in your situation,” she said. “Whatever you do, do not give up hope. Be patient and let the process work for you.”
Vaughn, director of DHCD’s Office of Community Outreach, was addressing nearly 100 financially beleaguered homeowners at DHCD’s last “Mortgage Late? Don’t Wait!” foreclosure prevention workshop of the year.
The popular and highly successful free workshops cut through the red tape, telephone tag and broken appointments to unite homeowners with counselors and pro bono attorneys and bring them face-to-face with their lenders in the hopes of working out sustainable alternatives to foreclosure on the spot.
The turnout on this arctic Saturday stood in stark contrast to a few years ago when the foreclosure crisis in Maryland was at its height. Then, DHCD’s workshops averaged more than 1,000 people and lines of families seeking assistance spilled out of the churches and schools where they were held and snaked across parking lots and down the block.
This most recent turnout may be a reminder that the worst of the crisis may have passed, although the state continues to have one of the highest foreclosure rates in the country as lenders take advantage of the improving housing market to move forward with their most seriously delinquent loans.
Still these workshops – pairing homeowners with counselors and bringing lenders to the table – remain one of the most effective foreclosure prevention measures and helps make Maryland’s response to the crisis one of the most comprehensive and effective in the nation.
In the past year, DHCD participated in 130 workshops and events, often in partnership with local elected officials, churches and civic organizations. Saturday’s workshop at Mount Pleasant was sponsored with state Delegate Cheryl Glenn and Democratic State Central Committee member Donovan Brooks. Throughout the day, grateful homeowners, often close to tears, rushed up to Vaughn and other DHCD volunteers and wrapped them in hugs for helping them find a way to save their homes.
“We are not here because we have to be, we are here because we truly care about you,” Vaughn said again and again. “Don’t let anyone say government doesn’t care, because we do.”
The workshops will resume next year. Keep an eye on DHCD’s MDHOPE website for a calendar of upcoming “Mortgage Late? Don’t Wait!” events.