Group helps people avoid foreclosure

TRENTON, N.J. - September 30, 2008 - For some, like Hazel Negron, it comes just in time.

Negron has health problems and hasn't been able to work for a year. Her husband is in the hospital.

Financially strapped and now behind on the mortgage payments on their Ewing home, they are facing foreclosure.

"It's very important that we keep our home. We worked hard to get it, and it's very important we keep it," Negron said.

Negron is a prime candidate for a new program expanding into the Trenton area called HARP, the Housing Assistance Recovery Program, financed by Roma Bank and run by the First Baptist Community development corporation.

"If you're in foreclosure, we will buy your house and let you stay in it. We will work out an affordable rent and help you with your credit and other issues," said the Rev. DeForest Soaries, the founder of HARP. "In 12 to 24 months, we'll sell you your house back and give you your equity back."

However, there is a catch.

"We will give them training. Mandatory. They go to training for financial literacy and budgetary training," the Rev. Soaries said.

The president of Roma Bank, Peter Inverso, says this is what community banking is all about.

"The subprime mess has caused such turbulance in the marketplace," Inverso said. "Keeping people in their homes kind of knits the community together."

Part of the problem has been that some people are too embarrassed to let anyone know when theyre in danger of foreclosure. Officials say you've got to get over that.

"A lot of people are afraid to ask, or are embarrassed to ask, but if they don't ask they're going to lose their homes," said Joy Franklin of the American Credit Alliance.

There are more than 600 properties in Trenton alone now in some stage of foreclosure. HARP wants to target those people.

"We actually go door to door, knock on their doors, letting them know we're here," said Carmen Melendenz of HARP Trenton.

Hazel Negron hopes she can get that help, and save the home she's in danger of losing.

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