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Foreclosures take center stage on southside

The Rev. Samuel Mosteller (left), president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference's Georgia Chapter, and Glenda Allen, executive director of the Homeless Network, Inc., were among the speakers at a recent townhall meeting in Henry County, on foreclosures.

The Rev. Samuel Mosteller (left), president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference's Georgia Chapter, and Glenda Allen, executive director of the Homeless Network, Inc., were among the speakers at a recent townhall meeting in Henry County, on foreclosures.

By Jason A. Smith

jsmith@henryherald.com

Nearly 4,000 foreclosures have been recorded in Henry County, thus far this year. In light of this figure, and similar numbers around the Atlanta area, efforts are in high gear to help people save their homes.

The first step in that process, officials said, is education.

"Georgia is a non-traditional state for foreclosures," said the Rev. Samuel Mosteller, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference's Georgia Chapter. His organization has been active, for a number of years, in helping people understand more about the foreclosure process.

"It doesn't go to Superior Court to take your property away from you," Mosteller said. "It goes to Magistrate Court, where there is no record. Once they take it, it's done. That's not the same as it is across the country. That's why so many homes have been foreclosed on. The biggest problem we have is people who are paying their mortgages, but still being foreclosed on at the same time."

Mosteller added that he and his organization were at the forefront, last year, of a moratorium on foreclosures across the country. "We saw that the national banks had foreclosed on people's houses," he said. "People are confused about the process. They get the run-around from the banks, and politicians don't know what advice to give them. Most lawyers are not well-versed when it comes to talking about foreclosures."

Equity Depot, a Kennesaw-based organization, which conducts research on foreclosures in the Atlanta area, reports that Henry County recorded 3,885 foreclosures in 2011, through the month of July. The numbers are even worse in Clayton County, which amassed a tally of 5,464 foreclosures in the same time period.

Mosteller said one method homeowners can use to protect themselves against the risk of losing their homes, is by attending seminars offered by authorities on the subject.

One area organization, which seeks to educate the public about foreclosures, is the Atlanta-based Homeless Network, Inc. Executive Director Glenda Allen said her staff has received a number of calls from people in fear of losing their homes, including some in Henry and Clayton.

"Anytime we get phone calls, we start looking into the area to try to see if we need to set up an office, to see if we can get the community to assist, and also to look for other homeless programs that may be in the area," said Allen. "A lot of times, there are none. Sometimes, you may have some shelters. So, we start looking at different areas to see what is available."

The Homeless Network, in existence since 2005, is designed to benefit homeless people, whether they lost their homes through foreclosure, or are living on the street as a result of other circumstances. Allen said her organization is geared toward providing assistance programs for housing, food, clothing, transportation and life-skills training.

Allen and Mosteller were among the speakers at a townhall meeting on foreclosures last month, hosted by Henry County District V Commissioner Bruce Holmes. Allen said roughly 50 people came to the event, including some from Spalding, Gwinnett, Clayton and DeKalb counties.

Many of them were concerned about losing their homes in the current economy.

"It became very obvious that ... there were people there that had problems," Allen said. "They were in foreclosure situations, or they were fighting a foreclosure. There were also some of the elderly that had gotten into some reverse-mortgage situations, and their kids are having to work with them, with that."

Commissioner Holmes said he organized the meeting, in part, because neither his district, nor other areas of Henry County, are immune to foreclosures.

"We know that foreclosures have been an issue for some time now," Holmes said. "I wanted to set up a venue where people can get resources and information that will help them in their everyday lives. You don't see a lot of homeless people in Henry County, but I know of people in District V that are having a hard time holding onto their homes."

"Most people don't know where to turn," the commissioner continued. "This problem is so spread out throughout the country. This meeting provided them an opportunity to talk to people, who could help them to find the proper resources."

For more information, call the Homeless Network, Inc., at (770) 572-9130.