by David Cohen
Using funds from Cook County, The Chicago Community Trust awarded $225,000 in community outreach grants to 10 nonprofit organizations committed to spread the word face-to-face and door-to-door about the Circuit Court of Cook County Mortgage Foreclosure Mediation Program. The Mediation Program provides free housing counseling and legal services to Cook County homeowners and families in foreclosure. The program is aimed at helping homeowners resolve their mortgage cases in the most timely and respectful manner possible. The Trust’s role is part of its commitment to address the foreclosures crisis in the Chicago region, and is being developed in close coordination with the Court and its partners, as well as with Regional Home Ownership Preservation Initiative (RHOPI) partners, including Woodstock Institute, Housing Action Illinois, and Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago. For more information on RHOPI, visit www.regionalhopi.org
“A key element of any successful program is its outreach strategy. When it comes to promoting participation, the way you communicate the benefits of a program and engage people is almost as important as the quality of the services provided. This is especially true when families must deal with a process as intimidating and complex as a foreclosure case,” said Roberto Requejo, program officer at The Chicago Community Trust. “Trusted community-based nonprofits can be the best messengers to communicate to families that they are not alone: experts are available free of charge (attorneys, counselors, mediators) and can help them stay in their homes.”
We are excited about the Circuit Court of Cook County’s plan for community outreach,” said Rabbi Joshua Salter, Associate Rabbi of Beth Shalom B’nai Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation in Chicago Lawn. “Our temple, which is a member institution of the Southwest Organizing Project, recognizes the need for institutions and residents to connect to those who are struggling in our neighborhoods. This innovative outreach effort will train residents in our community who are troubled by the rising number of families in foreclosure on their blocks to reach out to their neighbors face-to-face and help them get to the assistance they need to stay in their homes.”
The Chicago Community Trust has been retained to award and monitor 10 six-month grants to nonprofits providing face-to-face or door-to-door outreach to Cook County borrowers. The work of the grantees is part of a larger overall outreach campaign coordinated by the Court.
“Homeowners facing foreclosure in Cook County now have a court-sponsored program that can help them navigate the court and the housing counseling process. Action Now will continue to reach out to homeowners that may be unaware of the new mediation process and quickly connect them to the program. Our goal is to increase the number of foreclosure victims that attend court and become actively involved in the process of resolving their foreclosure situation. Now that Cook County Courts have a program to help homeowners, our job is to make sure that members of our community are fully informed about their options and take advantage of the resources now available,” said Michelle Young, president of Action Now.
The foreclosure crisis continues to have a profound effect on individuals, families and communities. In Cook County, more than 145,000 filings for foreclosures occurred between 2006 and 2009. Many homeowners would be able to avert foreclosure and remain in their homes if they sought help. However, currently, it is estimated that fewer than 10% of homeowners in foreclosure show up at court when required, and in the hardest hit areas of Cook County, about the same percentage have used the services of a housing counselor certified by the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Specific information on facts, trends and responses related to our current foreclosure crisis can be found at the Regional Home Ownership Preservation Initiative (RHOPI) Web site, co-sponsored by the Trust and available at: www.regionalhopi.org
During the convenings of the Regional Home Ownership Preservation Initiative (RHOPI), housing experts and practitioners throughout our region agreed upon the need to establish effective outreach strategies to reach out to troubled borrowers . The RHOPI Action Plan established as a priority the development of “early, effective and efficient regional outreach to households experiencing or at risk of experiencing foreclosure.” A variety of initiatives currently reach out to Cook County borrowers at risk of foreclosure or in foreclosure proceedings, from large events where borrowers are assisted in submitting applications for loan modification, to door-to-door initiatives where community-based organizations inform neighbors about their options.
About The Chicago Community Trust For 95 years, The Chicago Community Trust, our region’s community foundation, has connected the generosity of donors with community needs by making grants to organizations working to improve metropolitan Chicago. In 2009, the Trust, together with its donors, granted more than $100 million to nonprofit organizations. From strengthening schools to assisting local art programs, from building health centers to helping lives affected by violence, the Trust continues to enhance our region. To learn more, please visit the Trust online at www.cct.org.