Distressed Macomb Homeowners Helped by Our New HOC Office

October 15th, 2010
Teresa Torres, a foreclosure mitigation counselor at Southwest Solutions, talks to Dee at the Hope Center.

Dee did not come to the Hope Center in Fraser for foreclosure counseling. She came because she needed food from its pantry.

“I was one who prided myself in giving and never taking,” Dee says. “Though I needed the food, I thought it was going to be a humiliating experience, but the Hope pantry is a very dignified place and I soon understood that I am not alone and should not be ashamed.”

Dee is 77 years old. Her husband died ten years ago and she lives on a fixed income in Sterling Heights. Because her husband had taken care of all their bills, Dee knew very little about managing household finances. She had never written a check until after he died.

Dee has suffered through several tragic events in the past few years. Her son’s wife died suddenly, and her son and his three children moved into Dee’s home after he lost his job. Dee was treated for breast cancer and is now in remission. The medical and additional household expenses exhausted her savings and her income does not cover her monthly bills.

During her intake interview for the pantry, Hope Center staff learned that Dee was falling behind on her mortgage and was afraid she would lose her home. They referred her to Teresa Torres, a foreclosure mitigation counselor with Southwest Solutions, who has been working out of the Hope Center two days a week since mid-August.

“After meeting with Teresa, I felt relieved, and that night I got a good night’s sleep for the first time in a long time,” Dee says.

Teresa is teaching Dee to manage her budget judiciously and to eliminate any unnecessary spending. With these measures in place, Dee is just able to balance her monthly budget, including the mortgage. At the same time, Teresa is working with Dee’s home lender on a loan modification that would make it easier for Dee to make her payments.

“Dee’s situation is similar to others that I’m working with at the Hope office,” Teresa says. “These are people who never thought they would need help, but because of job loss, health issues or other unexpected problems, they are struggling to feed their families and keep their homes.”

In the limited time that Teresa has been at the Hope office, she has seen about 20 clients. All had come to the center for food and then were directed to Teresa after they indicated they were worried about their homes.

The Hope Center opened in mid-June this year. Its location on Groesbeck Highway was chosen because 90% of Macomb County residents live within 10 miles of the site.

“The Hope Center is meant to be a one-stop shop for those who need humanitarian services,” says Chet Decker, its executive director. “The number of individuals and families in Macomb County who are in need of the basic necessities of life, like food and shelter, continues to grow at an alarming rate.”

Last month, the Hope Center pantry served 3,224 people and distributed more than 85,000 pounds of free food. The pantry is sponsored by Meijer and Gleaners Food Bank and is based on a “client-choice” model that allows consumers to choose their own items as if they were in a grocery store.

Southwest Solutions is one of a dozen community agencies that provide on-site services at Hope. These include housing assistance, grief counseling, support groups and other services. In addition to Teresa, Jacquelinne Rascon from Southwest Solutions works one day a week at the center. Jacquelinne provides counseling for first-time homebuyers and financial literacy coaching.

“Our presence at the Hope Center expands the reach of our services to families in Macomb County who will benefit from our expertise and experience to help them get through tough times and improve their lives,” says Hector Hernandez, head of the Housing Opportunity Center (HOC) at Southwest Solutions, where our homeownership counseling, financial literacy and workforce development services are based.

“We are strong advocates of the partnership model that the Hope Center represents, and we are working to promote collaborative efforts across metro Detroit to address issues that affect residents throughout the region,” Hector adds.

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