Timothy and Michelle Moll had been happily settled into their remodeled house in Toledo's old south end for nearly a decade when misfortune struck. The factory where he had been employed for many years shut its doors and moved to Mexico.
The couple fell behind in mortgage payments, and were facing the loss of their house.
But then, the Fair Housing Center of Toledo tossed them a rescue line.
Personnel there convinced the Molls' lender to reduce the couple's loan balance to $10,000 from $55,000. That done, the Fair Housing Center helped them find $10,000 in financing, including a $5,000 grant from a Lucas County foreclosure prevention program established with state anti-poverty funds.
The couple's monthly mortgage payments have been cut from $1,275 to $245.
'If we wouldn't have received the assistance, we would have lost our home,' said Mrs. Moll, a mother of four. 'We had been there eight years and had made it our own.' Her husband has since returned to work as a truck driver.
The outcome pleases Katherine Broka, president of the Fair Housing Center, even as agency officials concede it is only a drop in the bucket.
'We want people to stay in their homes,' she explained.
But with 2008 foreclosure filings in Lucas County alone totaling 3,087 thus far, demand for assistance is great.
This summer, six weeks after the Housing Center received $150,000 from the Lucas County Department of Job and Family Services for the same program that helped the Molls, the cash was gone.
That grant was on top of $200,000 received for the program on April 1.
But the Fair Housing Center, which is among a number of non-profit agencies addressing the Toledo area's foreclosure crisis, expects another large infusion of money from the program soon. And there are other funding pools from which it can draw to aid homeowners struggling with mortgage payments.
Since the area's housing market began encountering headwinds in 2004, the center has helped 180 homeowners avert foreclosure. Negotiating with lenders, staff members helped cut clients' combined debt by $4.1 million and saved each family an average of $60,446. Monthly loan payments have been cut by an average of $237.
The key to the center's efforts, said the president, is not to hand out money to homeowners so impoverished that they are likely to quickly fall behind in payments again, but to provide a hand up to those with hope of managing the debt.
To qualify for grants of up to $4,999 through the Lucas County program, a family of four household must make no more than $63,600 annually, have at least one minor child living at home, and be at least two months behind in mortgage payments.
Other programs exist for people with lower incomes, officials said.
A program by the Federal Home Loan Bank of Cincinnati, provides grants of up to $3,500 for households facing foreclosure. That program will distribute $400,000 to homeowners in Lucas and 11 other northwest Ohio counties. Information for Lucas County residents is available from the Fair Housing Center, National City Bank, and Neighborhood Housing Services of Toledo, and from Genoa Banking and WSOS Community Action Commission, Fremont, for surrounding counties.
Advocates for those facing foreclosure expect more help in the coming months when funds are disbursed via a federal housing bill passed earlier this year.
Ohio and Lucas County are among areas hardest hit by the mortgage crisis. In Lucas alone last year, there were 3,704 foreclosure filings, according to the county clerk of courts.
When the Fair Housing Center first began efforts to help people avert foreclosure, it concentrated on assisting with mortgage refinancing, said Keith Foster, the agency's director of enforcement. At the time, lenders often refused to talk and when they did, the efforts often resulting in high loan payments that homeowners still struggled to pay.
More recently, as the nation's mortgage crisis has intensified, the agency has focused on changing existing loans. Lenders are often willing to reduce mortgage balances and trim interest rates, Mr. Foster said.
While proud of the agency's efforts, he is circumspect.
'We're one agency in a city,' he said. 'There are going to be plenty of people who are still going to lose their homes.'
Contact Gary Pakulski at: email@example.com or 419-724-6082.