Homeowners hit the road in hopes of mortgage relief

Claudette Hinds sank into a chair outside the ballroom of the Columbia Courtyard hotel on Monday morning, her eyes red from a constant stream of tears.

It had been an exhausting weekend for the Atlanta mother of four. But she was leaving Columbia with hope for herself and her family, who have spent long stretches without electricity and water as she struggled to pay her $2,196 monthly mortgage.

Her situation was so dire she spent 16 hours on the road between Saturday and Monday to get relief.
Hinds was one of an estimated 12,000 who flocked to the Carolina Coliseum on Friday through Monday for a chance to avoid foreclosure, including many who were directed to local offices Monday as the event closed.

The Neighborhood Assistance Corp. of America brought the third installment of its Save the Dream Tour here, with hundreds of counselors and dozens of lender representatives on hand to help people reduce out-of-control mortgage rates.

People came from as far away as California and Massachusetts to get help standing in the rain in long lines that at times wrapped around the coliseum.

Not everyone left with a solution. For some, the process will take weeks as lenders sort through paperwork. And some might not get help at all.

But many, like Hinds, spent nearly the entire weekend working with the nonprofit, HUD-certified counseling agency to hang onto homes they were close to losing in the worst recession in 80 years.
Hinds arrived in Columbia at 4 a.m. Saturday and returned to Atlanta after 4 a.m. Sunday without a mortgage rate reduction.

She had met with a representative from her lender earlier in the war room set up in the hotel across from the coliseum. The rep told her she needed to fax a few more documents.

Hinds faxed the papers but hopped in the car for a return trip to Columbia early Monday to be sure she would get help.

She had reason to doubt: a large bag full of correspondence with her lender from the past year that yielded no results for a loan restructure or refinance.
And she had reason to worry.

Nearly $8,000 behind on her mortgage, she had sent the bank $2,200 two weeks ago in an attempt to stave off foreclosure. They sent it back, and she and her children had been looking out the window every day, waiting for someone to kick them out.

Hinds said she moved to Atlanta in 2005, and soon after, her husband left. She was fired from her job as a medical assistant in a nursing home in 2007 after having to take time off to deal with her son’s asthma. A year later, she found a stocking job, but there was no way to catch up with her payments _ until this weekend.

Hinds left the war room with a fresh start. Her lender shaved $6,000 in interest off her loan and reduced her mortgage rate to 3 percent from 8.5 percent. With a $1,400 monthly payment, Hinds hopes her family will make it.

She walked into a hallway full of people waiting for that same chance Monday. As counselors announced her success story, people she had never met before clapped and rushed to hug her.
“I knew God was going to help me today,” she said. “That’s all I had left.”

Copyright 2009 The State (Columbia, S.C.).