The Dane County Foreclosure Prevention Task Force has stopped offering its free monthly workshops designed to provide options and guidance for people concerned about making their mortgages -- though other task force programs are continuing.
Formerly held on the second Thursday of each month at MATC's Truax campus, the prevention workshops have been suspended, at least for now, due to low attendance.
And while that could be seen as good news, if it means they aren't needed anymore -- or at least as much they were, as the foreclosure crisis appears to be easing -- it doesn't mean the task force has ended its central message of prevention.
"We will be exploring other options to educate distressed homeowners on their rights and responsibilities," said Ellen Bernards, co-leader of the task force, which formed in March 2009 as the foreclosure crisis in Dane County swung into high gear.
Since then, the task force, a coalition of government agencies, non-profits and other community partners, has helped hundreds of area residents through its various programs. You can see a story I did in April here that accounted for how many had been helped in more detail.
Dane County foreclosure filings first topped 1,000 annually in 2008, and the high point was 2010, when 1,768 were filed.
Last year marked the first year-over-year drop after six consecutive years of annual increases, but foreclosures in 2011, at 1,374, were still quite high historically. They represented a 226 percent increase from the 422 foreclosures filed in 2004, before the housing crisis began.
This year has been a mixed bag, still historically high but with some monthly drops compared to last year. Foreclosures fell year-over-year in September for the second month in a row -- but for just the third time out of the first nine months of this year.
And from January through September of this year, filings are still running nearly 6 percent ahead of last year, at 1,077 compared with 1,017.
That makes the task force's other programs, aimed more at people already in foreclosure, as important as ever.
The two biggest ones are a voluntary court mediation program -- designed to get banks and distressed homeowners to sit down together and try to avert foreclosures -- and free legal clinics, which provide some basic legal advice and help homeowners file their required initial court responses to ensure they aren't foreclosed on by default.
In addition, the task force offers a website that provides a wealth of statistical information and other resources, and there's a foreclosure prevention specialist who's available by phone for free.
Here's more detail and contact information about the task force's remaining programs, from a recent news release:
Foreclosure Prevention Specialist: UW Law School graduate Sam Owens answers homeowners’ questions via phone and email, offering reliable, impartial and free information and support as well as referrals as appropriate.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 608-261-5677.
Foreclosure Answer Clinic: Free legal assistance to answer the foreclosure lawsuit is available on the 1st and 3rd Thursday of every month from 11 am to 1 pm. at the City-County Building 210 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd on the 3rd floor.
Homeowners are assisted on a first-come, first-served basis. Please bring your summons and complaint.
For more information, contact Sam Owens at email@example.com or 608-261-5677.
Foreclosure Mediation Program: Homeowners who have been served with a foreclosure summons may request mediation. This process is voluntary for both homeowner and lender and costs $100 if the mediation is conducted. It allows homeowner and lender to discuss issues and explore options to possibly avoid foreclosure.
Contact Peter Enter, Program Coordinator at 608-221-1695 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Website: www.daneforeclosurehelp.org is a resource for homeowners in distress. The website is updated periodically and has resources including the foreclosure timeline, which helps homeowners understand the foreclosure process in a visual format.
GreenPath Debt Solutions: Homeowners in distress can always receive free, confidential housing counseling from GreenPath Debt Solutions, a U.S. Housing and Urban Development-approved, non-profit housing counseling agency. The local office is at 802 W. Broadway Suite 202.
To schedule an appointment, please call 877-428-1113.
The task force needs a webmaster well-versed in Word Press to assist us in updating our website.
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