As I begun my AmeriCorps service year in October, I was welcomed by my host site Community Housing Network as an equal team member and was quickly given the tools needed to serve the population of Wayne County by offering foreclosure prevention information and counseling. I was eager to learn more about the process of foreclosure and thought this would be a excellent way to serve the community of Wayne County. However, I did not realize on my first day what a pressing need there was for housing counseling services and how much of an impact I could make by advocating for people facing foreclosure.
For most of the programs that I assist homeowners with, the programs require a “involuntary hardship” in order to qualify. Most of these stories are fairly emotional and involve serious heartbreak. One client in particular made me understand the need for this kind of assistance in the communities. This client had the toughest hardship I have seen yet during my service here; several years ago she discovered that her son had a possibly cancerous brain tumor. Because of the tumor her son had to have extensive radiation, and with no one else to drive her son to radiation she was forced to miss several days of work. While her son was undergoing radiation, she separated from her husband and lost another source of income that was keeping her family together. Endless medical bills piled up and she began getting behind on her mortgage.
Since those tough times, our client has been doing much better-her son’s tumor was not cancerous, and he has started to work again. The last remaining obstacle to get this client out of her housing crisis is to get her caught up on her mortgage. If she can get caught up, she can rest knowing she can keep her home and not have to move after putting so much into her house. Together with Paul Stanford, our organization’s housing counselor, we were able to help point her toward programs such as Step Forward that would get her completely up to date on her mortgage, and help give her advice on her budget in order to keep her financially stable for years to come. Though she has not yet been approved, I am optimistic about her chances to keep her home through one of these programs.
This client has reminded me to passionately advocate for people who call or come in for help, because I can make a real difference on their lives. Without our agency offering our services, the above client would not have known about the help available and might have been forced to leave her home. I have already learned that this year of service will not be simply a “nice way to give back,” but a real asset to the community to aid them for years to come.
Michael McAuliffe is an AmeriCorps member at Community Housing Network in Troy.
This post is part of a blog series highlighting the viewpoints of Michigan AmeriCorps Foreclosure Prevention Corps members serving at different foreclosure host sites around Michigan. View information about the program or see more stories in this series.