ESCANABA - Representatives from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority visited Escanaba Friday to announce a new partnership with clergy and other members of the faith community aimed at combating home foreclosures.
Michigan's Hardest-Hit Fund, which operates under the name "Step Forward Michigan," has been offering free programs to help homeowners since 2010. However, many Michigan residents who need and qualify for assistance are not coming forward.
"It's such an impact on their life that they don't talk about it. They don't talk to their lender about it. They won't always talk to public agencies who can help them out," said Gary Heidel, MSHDA executive director. "Who they will talk to is their faith community."
Representing local churches was Rev. Scott Harmon of Central United Methodist Church. "I'm excited that clergy here in our area are coming together and joining with MSHDA," he said. "It's giving us more tools and ways to assist families in Escanaba and beyond."
The partnership between MSHDA and faith communities is not limited by denomination or beliefs.
"This campaign is designed to engage clergy and lay leaders of all religions in the fight against home foreclosures," said Jodi Mercer, MSHDA Home Ownership Division program & business development manager.
Churches that are involved in the program are encouraged to spread the word about the Step Forward Michigan Program through church bulletins, video presentations, meetings, or as part of their regular worship service.
"This is an idea that came from a group of faith leaders in southeast Michigan," said Heidel. A video presented at the press conference featured members of the Metro Coalition of Congregations, an interfaith organization of clergy and congregations representing Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne counties, who were instrumental in starting the partnership.
"We know the need exists in the Upper Peninsula as well, and we want to do what we can to help more homeowners. That's why we're reaching out to our faith based partners to us help spread the word that this free assistance is available," said Mercer.
To combat home foreclosures, Step Forward Michigan offers an unemployment mortgage subsidy program, a mortgage loan rescue program, a modification plan program, and a principal curtailment program.
MSHDA also wants to remind Michigan residents that foreclosures affect more than just the homeowner being foreclosed on. "If your neighbor is going through foreclosure it does have impact on you. It has negative financial impact on the value of your home," said Mercer.
For more information about the programs offered through Step Forward Michigan or to apply for assistance, visit www.stepforwardmichigan.com or call the MSHDA toll free hotline, 1-866-946-7432.