In Aurora, Illinois, Richard Carney went to The Neighbor Project (TNP) seeking assistance. His tenant couldn't pay him on time, which also put Carney in a difficult financial position. TNP, a recipient of a grant through NeighborWorks America's Keeping People Housed initiative, was able to help the landlord apply for assistance on his renter's behalf.
Computers were one of the obstacles for the landlord, and The Neighbor Project helped him navigate the application process. "I know I can reach back out again if my renter or I need financial guidance," Carney says.
Rick Guzman, executive director of The Neighbor Project, has seen landlords tire of negotiating with tenants as the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic has continued. With the ending of evictions moratoria, "keeping landlords engaged – and at the table – has become a big part of keeping people housed," he says. Nationwide, more than 8 million Americans are behind on rent, according to U.S. Census.
As TNP assists clients, the grant has allowed staff to increase outreach. The nonprofit hosted vaccine clinics, for example, and at the same time let people know about available rental assistance and financial wellness services. "We were able to meet people where they're at," Guzman explains. TNP sponsored seven vaccine clinics at area churches.. Each time, staff talked about housing counseling and more. "We used the flexibility of the grant to make new relationships and be present in new places."
Meanwhile, at their headquarters in Rancho Cucamonga, California, counselors at NPHS Inc. have been answering calls from homeowners whose forbearances had expired. They hadn't been approved for modification programs, either, says Lisa Ralph, director of Homeownership Development and Preservation. But counselors had some ideas for other solutions and began screening homeowners for the California Mortgage Relief Program, which provides up to $80,000 in mortgage assistance for eligible borrowers.
The Keeping People Housed grant, made possible with funding from Wells Fargo, helped support the organization's daily outreach and counseling efforts. "With the foreclosure moratoria ending, this grant has been essential to keeping up with the increased demand for foreclosure counseling," Ralph says. The grant helped the NeighborWorks network organization hire a program support specialist, put on monthly virtual foreclosure prevention workshops, and, as with other NeighborWorks network organizations, with outreach. Staff were able to provide education and counseling to more than 500 families.
The NeighborWorks initiative aided 14 NeighborWorks network organizations in communities hit hard by the pandemic and accompanying hardships. All of the organizations work in eviction and foreclosure prevention, an area that has come even more into the spotlight as leaders across the country emphasize the link between health and home.
NeighborWorks America's 2022 Housing and Financial Capability Survey also highlighted the importance of having an affordable place to live – with affordability remaining a top priority among Americans. It also highlighted Americans' desire for financial guidance, including guidance on saving and budgeting, building credit and paying down debt. Financial and housing counselors are a part of that guidance, be it one-on-one guidance, or classes on homeownership and financial capability
Consumers interested in learning how to take advantage of housing or financial counseling services should contact a local NeighborWorks network organization in their community.