Credit counseling agencies across the nation are being inundated with scores
of phone calls from struggling homeowners looking for answers to a growing
problem. “It’s not only the sheer volume of people needing help but the
emotion,” said Mohammed Ibrahim, a counselor at the Neighborhood
Housing Services of Staten Island in New York. “Each person comes with a
different story. Often they break down and cry.”
Ibrahim, who helps homeowners in Staten Island, New York avoid foreclosure,
said the number of calls to his office surged last summer as the crisis took center
Between October and December of last year, he took on 63 cases, compared
with just 77 cases for the previous nine months and just a handful in 2006, with
2008 expected to be even busier.
Meanwhile, Scott Scredon, Director of Public Relations for Consumer Credit
Counseling Service of Greater Atlanta, says his company plans to hire about
130 new staff members.
“[We have] plans to hire new managers, counselors and customer service
reps to handle increased demand for our services,” he said.
“Just more than 400,000 people utilized CCCS of Greater Atlanta in 2007,
but we project there will be more than 600,000 this year,” he added. “Of
course, the largest demand is for counselors to help people avoid
Scredon said that since the interest rate freeze plan was announced, CCCS
has received such a huge swell in calls that it had to limit its services to
customers who were delinquent on their mortgage payments, and refer those
who were not to their own lenders.
The so-called HOPE NOW alliance has garnered a lot of attention from
struggling homeowners since it was announced, but doesn’t seem to be
helping at-risk borrowers.
“We’re getting so many calls about the government plan, but no real answers
on how we are supposed to help them,” said Eileen Anderson, who runs
two NeighborWorks counseling centers on suburban Long Island.
The volume of calls to her offices rose more than tenfold in 2007 compared
to a year earlier, and since October more than half of those calls have been
referrals from HOPE NOW, she said.
The Homeownership Preservation Foundation, the nonprofit group that runs
the national mortgage counseling hotline as part of the HOPE NOW alliance,
has taken 140,000 calls since it joined up in October, according to vice
president Tracy Morgan."
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