A loss of funding has led Catholic Charities to shutter its free foreclosure counseling program, which since 2009 has helped 1,849 local families through the difficult process of home foreclosure and loan modification.
Funding for service, which came from various federal sources, was either cut or no longer available.
Catholic Charities said it failed to win a $100,000 grant from HUD's National Foreclosure Mitigation Counseling program because it required a matching grant from another source.
The Santa Rosa nonprofit agency had sought a $100,000 grant from Wells Fargo Foundation but was turned down, said Betsy Timm, a Catholic Charities spokeswoman. The agency also lost a HUD grant of about $30,000 for housing counseling that it has received for the past several years.
The foreclosure counseling program not only assisted people through the loan modification process, it offered personal counseling that was often an emotional lifeline for its clients.
"We've been dealing with them for months," said Lynnette Davis, a Catholic Charities client who is struggling to keep her Windsor home where she and her husband have lived for 25 years. "They helped us get our second modify so that we could keep our house."
Last October, after Davis' husband suffered a heart attack and was hospitalized for a month after double bypass surgery, the couple was unable to make their December house payment of $1,108. They heard about the free counseling service at Catholic Charities and got the help they needed to get a loan modification.
Foreclosure counselor Jason Williams is helping the couple apply for a mortgage loan forbearance, which suspends or significantly reduces the homeowner's monthly payment in cases of financial hardship.
Davis said Williams has been a strong advocate for her in the process, even as the bank pressures her to give up her home.
"He's really been working his little buns off," Davis said. "I want to know where the people are out there that could help Catholic Charities keep this program open."
Timm said the California Human Development Corp. in Santa Rosa has agreed to provide counseling for clients who have gone through the intake process but whose cases have not been taken on officially.
"Clients who are working on loan modifications through Catholic Charities' counselors will continue working with staff through May 15 when all loan packages will be complete," the organization said Tuesday in a statement.
Linda Hedstrom, CHDC housing and economic development manager, said she's not sure how many people her agency can take on. Hedstrom is currently the only certified counselor and CHDC is in the process of training another counselor, though he is not yet HUD certified.
"We have somewhere around 75 or 80 active clients," she said. "We're going to do our best."
In contrast, Catholic Charities had about 300 active clients. Of these, Catholic Charities hopes to transfer 89 clients to CHDC. Another 47 are moving ahead with refinancing or short sales.
Catholic Charities will continue to see 100 cases through May 15.