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RISMEDIA, February 27, 2009-(MCT)-Programs are available to help some people avoid housing foreclosure, but getting people to attend a free seminar has proven to be a challenge. For the second time, no one showed up to make use of information on offer at a scheduled foreclosure intervention seminar Monday evening in a Maryland community. It left organizers baffled.

The seminar, which would have run from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Frederick County Cooperative Extension Office on Montevue Lane, was canceled because of lack of interest, said Nancy J. Lewis, a family and consumer sciences educator with the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension. “I think it may be due to the language we are using to publicize the event,” said Brad Peterson, a housing counselor for the Frederick Community Action Agency. “We need to change it to indicate that the seminar is a more information-type thing. People may not want to admit in front of other people that they are having problems.”

Considering the high foreclosure rates that pervade many communities, the no-show is baffling, Lewis said.”I don’t know if it’s the publicity. Maybe we’re not getting the information out to where people will see it,” Lewis said. “I just don’t know what it is. Maybe by combining it with another event could make for a bigger draw.”

Frederick County saw 303 foreclosures in January, up from 202 a year ago.

Lewis said a more central location, such as the C. Burr Artz Library in downtown Frederick, might be a better place for the meeting than the Extension Office. “I don’t know if people don’t want to deal with the issue, or they are pretending it doesn’t exist, or they are waiting to get bailed out,” Lewis said.

“What’s frustrating to us is we see the published list of foreclosures and not one had even talked to us,” housing counselor Joe Baldi said. Local lawyers will soon offer pro bono service to also assist people with housing issues. That may be a better way to publicize the seminar, Baldi said.

“Maybe just call it ‘help with housing issues’ and leave it open-ended,” Baldi said.

The need for housing foreclosure information is evident by the numbers of people Peterson is seeing, he said. “It’s not like people are not coming to the seminar because there’s no need,” Peterson said. “We’re certainly seeing more and more people” seeking foreclosure avoidance assistance, Peterson said. Programs available to help people who qualify include Bridge to Hope, a state-sanctioned program that offers $7,000 to $15,000-money that can be used toward their back payments and help keep credit scores up for possible refinancing.

Another state-approved program-The New Lifeline Refinance Mortgage Program-helps people refinance to a lower interest rate before they start having trouble making payments.

Each program has qualifying criteria that must be met, Baldi said. The programs are not only limited to victims of predatory lending, Baldi said. Some people may need assistance if one family member lost a job and may need temporary help, he said.

Baldi said more programs may be available when President Barack Obama announces his home foreclosure initiative on March 4.

Copyright © 2009, The Frederick News-Post, Md.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.