Small dollar fund supports struggling homeowners

In March of 2020, the federal government issued foreclosure and eviction moratoriums, orders that helped secure housing for renters and homeowners alike during the COVID-19 pandemic. While these policies prevented millions of residents from losing their homes, they expired during the summer and fall of 2021, threatening the housing stability of millions of renters and homeowners who were still behind on bill payments. Community members facing eviction in Baltimore turned to agencies like St. Ambrose for help.

As the pandemic unfolded, our attorneys observed that the forbearances and deferments that lenders offered were helpful stopgaps but they were not permanent solutions and have the potential to create longer-term problems.

Homeowners like Lynne Frankel felt the impacts of this process acutely. Ms. Frankel attempted to work with her lender on her own to resolve her mortgage default and avoid foreclosure. For two years, she struggled to make payments that were double her normal amount, and ultimately could not sustain them. “I felt set up for failure and let down,” said Ms. Frankel, “because they literally said I could afford the payment without a modification.”

This led Ms. Frankel to St. Ambrose. She worked with attorney Owen Jarvis, who helped her secure approval on a loan modification, which would resolve the mortgage default and give her affordable monthly payments. Payments on the new modification were set to begin in a month, and things were looking up; Ms. Frankel was going to save her home from foreclosure once she finalized the modification by making her first payment.

But then disaster struck. In the month before her first payment came due, Ms. Frankel’s sister passed away. She had to fly out of state to help make arrangements and provide care for her nieces. The financial aspect was difficult, but emotionally, Ms. Frankel was dealing with an even greater weight.

“This was a very sad time for our family, coupled with the stressful burden of fighting foreclosure for a second time,” she said. At this point, she had already tried everything to make her finances work. “I had to get a second job again, which caused medical issues, so I had to quit that second job.”

However, just as things seemed dark, St. Ambrose was able to provide a bit of light. Through the SHOW Fund, St. Ambrose was able to pay money directly to Ms. Frankel’s lender to help her afford her other expenses. Upon first hearing that this was possible, she was brought to tears.

“I received assistance with a partial payment of my mortgage so that I could pay for my flight to Wisconsin in support of my nieces and their mother, who was using at-home hospice care due to cancer,” she said. “Owen Jarvis helped stay on top of my lender and helped get my home loan modification approved with an affordable payment.”

Since then, Ms. Frankel’s situation continues to improve. The home she had lived in for 13 years was able to avoid foreclosure.

While the impact of the pandemic will continue to be felt for months and years to come, St. Ambrose will remain an innovative and steadfast resource and navigator for those in need.

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