Homeowners offered financial tips, anonymityFor residents worried about losing their homes, but too embarrassed to attend a public forum to get help, two agencies are setting up a special telephone conference.
By: Patrick Garmoe, Duluth News Tribune
For residents worried about losing their homes, but too embarrassed to attend a public forum to get help, two agencies are setting up a special telephone conference.
People who want to listen or ask a question can call (888) 886-6603 at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
This second telephone conference in the state is geared for residents in St. Louis and Dakota counties, but anyone in Minnesota can call in.
During the first half hour, the meeting will focus on general information regarding a variety of issues connected with home foreclosure, said Dan Williams, program director for Lutheran Social Service financial counseling, which is organizing the event with the Minnesota Home Ownership Center.
Some topics experts will address are ways to work out a different payment schedule with a lender, what to do if you are currently paying your mortgage but racking up big credit card bills to do it, figuring out what kind of mortgage you have, whether you ought to have an additional interview with a financial counselor and what scams to watch for.
The final 30 minutes of the hourlong session will be spent answering caller questions. While the whole format is anonymous, counselors will also be ready to talk privately over the phone with people who call in, Williams said.
The notion behind this is to save the cost and planning it takes to set up an in-person event, and reach out to the many people who may avoid a meeting at a public setting, organizers said.
“It’s proven that a lot of people won’t attend an education session” on an issue like home foreclosures, Williams said. “They don’t want to be perceived as someone who’s not succeeding.”
The meeting comes as the number of foreclosures continues to rise in St. Louis County.
In St. Louis County in 2005, 207 homes were foreclosed on. In 2006 that number shot up 49 percent to 309, and in 2007 it increased 15 percent to 355.
During the first half of this year, 205 homes were foreclosed on, nearly the same amount as in the entire year of 2005, according to the St. Louis County Sherriff’s Department and county land records.
The goal of this and other forums, is to reach out to people, preferably before they get into serious financial trouble, said Julie Gugin, executive director of the Minnesota Home Ownership Center.
“We like to talk to people when they’re worried,” Gugin said, well before they’re on the verge of losing their homes.
For people who can’t listen to the forum, or would like to talk with a counselor right now, the hotline is (800) 777-7419; or visit www.hocmn.org.