GREENE COLUMN: State ready to help you keep home
Chances are, you know a family member, friend or former co-worker who is jobless and struggling to stay in their home.
Well, the state wants to help.
South Carolina has $295 million in federal money to help those hit hardest by the economy.
Trouble is, not enough homeowners are applying.
“The money is there,” said Clayton Ingram, S.C. State Housing Finance and Development Authority spokesman.
Many are unaware of the funds, despite radio and newspapers ads.
Now, the push is on to further get the word out.
A good idea with a 9.6 percent state jobless rate. For African-Americans and Latinos, the rate is typically higher.
‘Back on track’
Tonya Ndiaye, 48, of Summerville, heard about the Hardest Hit Fund last year from Charleston Mayor Joe Riley on the radio.
A year into a new job, she had taken leave to care for her mother, who had suffered a stroke. Then the single mother of two boys became ill herself and had to undergo surgery.
She had fallen $1,600 behind in her mortgage when she sought help. The fund also assists those facing possible foreclosure due to underemployment, catastrophic medical expenses, divorce or the death of a spouse.
It took her two years to get help. It should have taken only about 30 days. She blames unsympathetic intake clerks who misplaced her papers. But it was worth it.
A purchasing agent for a local plant, Ndiaye encourages applicants to keep trying even if they get turned down. She did at first.
In the end, the fund paid $16,000 to catch her up. The max is $36,000.
“Now, I am great. God is good. I got my house back. I’m in a good place now.”
Pass the word
Ndiaye credits Richardine Singleton-Brown and the staff at S.C Legal Services with moving her case along.
The firm does the closings for the money.
Singleton-Brown, lead closing attorney, said staffers especially want to help those in rural areas who may not have access to computers.
Staffers will walk an applicant through the entire process, if needed. “We just need homeowners to apply.”
She said the firm’s executive director goes to churches and civic meetings to spread the word.
Pastors have agreed to make announcements from their pulpits or place notices in church bulletins.
A good idea since black churches historically have been used to disseminate information.
Others are given fliers to take to churches, libraries, grocery stores.
Singleton-Brown said the extra effort is needed because too many have lost their homes; they did not know about the program.
As of July 31, the state has spent more than $32 million to help 3,286 homeowners.
Singleton-Brown said: “Tell somebody. We depend on people passing the word.”
Here is passing it on.
For more info, call S.C. Legal Services at 1-888-257-1988 or go to www.schelp.com.
Reach City Editor Shirley A. Greene at 937-5555