Facing the Foreclosure Giant

A word from Phyllis Nichols, Knoxville Area Urban League President and CEO

Today I started my day like most others, with a cup of coffee in one hand and the News Sentinel in the other. (I like the new format.) While reading the article, “Knoxville man caught in foreclosure maze,” I wanted to shout, “We could have helped you – for free!”

In case you didn’t read the story, it’s about Chris and Amanda Beckendorf, a West Knoxville couple who struggled with unemployment and subsequent mortgage problems, tried to personally handle their mortgage problems, and ultimately filed bankruptcy in order to save their home.

I imagine the article caused an assortment of responses. Some people probably quickly scanned the article and thought it didn’t apply to them. Some may have gotten angry at the government or banking industry. Others may have looked for ways to blame the couple for their dilemma.

While it might be more comfortable to assume that people facing foreclosure are in a bind because they “bought too much house” or did a poor job of managing their finances, today’s reality is that many foreclosures are the result of job loss. No job… no income… no way to pay the mortgage.

It’s a spiraling downfall that affects people from all walks of life. And, while Realty Trac may indicate the foreclosure crisis is easing, try telling that to the Beckendorfs or the many others in our region just like them.

The Urban League sees lots of people who have reached a crisis point in their lives. People who never needed help from a social agency before, and they only come to see us when they have nowhere else to turn.

Fortunately, we’re often in a position to help. I’ve got some great stories about people we’ve helped find employment and/or keep their homes. Ask me about them sometime, and I’ll be happy to share.

Since shouting at the newspaper wouldn’t have done any good, I’m going to take this opportunity to say to you what I wanted to shout to my paper:

  1. The foreclosure problem is still real. Ask the 278 people who have come to the Urban League since January.
  2. Trying to prevent foreclosure is a time consuming, difficult process. The good news is that homeowners don’t have to go at it alone. The Urban League is a HUD-approved non-profit counseling agency. We’ve been helping people keep their homes since 1971, and our counselors are here to offer valuable assistance — for free.
  3. If you’re in a state of crisis, beware of sharks! There are fraudulent companies who will take advantage of your situation. If you need help, be sure to go to a HUD-approved agency that doesn’t charge for its services.
  4. Help is available. Don’t let pride get in the way of asking for help, and don’t make the mistake of waiting until the 11th hour to seek help. It’s far better to seek assistance before the foreclosure notice appears in your mailbox.

Finally, if you have a job and a home, count your blessings and be thankful. I know I am.