February 3, 2009
 
In the battle against foreclosures, Mayor Richard M. Daley announced
Tuesday he is expanding his army to include the city’s religious
leaders.

Flanked by religious, community and housing representatives, Daley
announced the city’s outreach efforts, which include a foreclosure
prevention forum, one-on-one counseling and neighborhood-focused
educational programs for those hardest hit by the housing crisis.

But such resources are rendered useless if people don’t know about
them. Enter Chicago’s religious community, who, Daley said, will help
spread the good word of foreclosure prevention to their congregations.

“No one sees the impact [of foreclosure] more clearly than our faith-based leaders,” Daley said.

In the community room of the Park Federal Savings Bank in the Back
of the Yards neighborhood, Daley revealed the armor of the city’s 2009
foreclosure initiatives: the third-annual educational forum on
preventing foreclosures. The forum, called Homeownership Preservation
Initiative Sunday, will be held on Feb. 15.

The HOPI, which started in 2003, is a multifaceted partnership
composed of the city, Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago, 22
lending institutions and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, according
to the press release.

This year, Chicago’s religious leadership will be integrated into the partnership to combat the foreclosure crisis.

“Through HOPI,” Daley said, “we will work with faith-based leaders
to spread the word about where Chicagoans caught in the foreclosure
crisis can go for help.”

According to numbers released by the Woodstock Institute, which
monitors community economic development, Chicago had a 45 percent
increase in foreclosure filings from 2007 to 2008. Chicago, however, is
fairing better than other regions, whose increases range from 61 to 81
percent.

“Chicago is doing better that some other cities," Daley said, "but the number is still too high.”

A side effect and, in turn, enabler of the foreclosure crisis is
the feeling of fear and shame that financial instability brings to
those in crisis. These feelings, Daley and religious leaders said,
prevent people from talking to anyone about their problems until it is
too late. Daley urged communities to open the lines of communication.

“We want to hear your input immediately,” he said. “Don’t wait until you get the notice.”

The primary purpose of HOPI Sunday is to present the city’s
foreclosure resources. Resources include “Borrowers Outreach” days
where residents can get free legal advice. Prior to the forum, Daley
said the city is outfitting religious leaders with a foreclosure
prevention tool kit, which includes printed and online documents on the
forum and other programs.

Father Bruce Wellems of the Holy Cross/Immaculate Heart of Mary
Church said he advocates for informing his Back of the Yards
congregation not just on Sundays, but every day.

“We have to be there … on the streets and in the homes, educating and informing our people,” he said.

The focus should not be on loss but continued ownership. Keeping
families in homes will create prosperous children and communities.

“It is so helpful to get this word out to our people,” he said. “We
will not give up and we will recognize the rights of the people to own
a home and we will recognize the right of our children to live in peace
and live as a family in a good environment.”

Emilio Carrasquillo, Neighborhood Housing Services director of the
Back of the Yards office, said expediency is key. With more community
leaders working together to inform their neighbors, the city can fight
foreclosure early on and keep homeowners in their homes.

“The sooner we intervene,” he said, “the sooner the resolution, the easier the resolution.”

Carrasquillo, echoing the sentiment of Daley and other speakers,
pointed out the domino effect foreclosure has on a neighborhood.
“Schools lose students, churches lose members, businesses lose
clients,” he said.

Wonda Evans of the West Garfield neighborhood was close to being
one of those dominos. After her mother passed away in the spring, Evans
found herself paying her mother’s adjustable rate mortgage, which
ballooned between $300 and $900 over the course of six months.

Through Neighborhood Housing Services, Evans was able to work out a
loan modification with her lender. She said she didn’t even know she
had options, but now wants to help inform others.

“I’m here to say to everybody, I never would have found myself in
this position,” she said. “but I have, and I’m letting everybody know
that there is help.”

 
 
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