Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Friday, September 23, 2011

Foreclosure Workshop: Why was turnout so low?

Knowing the severity of the foreclosure problem in Plainfield, I went to the workshop for those facing foreclosure held at Shiloh Baptist Church Thursday evening.

It was well organized, with a lot of agencies involved in helping those facing foreclosure in attendance.

Tables in the entry foyer were well stocked with handouts on foreclosure assistance from the state's Division of Community Affairs, Union County's Foreclosure Task Force, and the NJ Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (NJHMFA).

I loaded up on materials and went inside to listen to the presentations.
But there were only thirty in the audience in a sanctuary that seats hundreds (and among those I spotted several Shiloh members who may have been there more as 'hosts' than as folks in need of foreclosure assistance).

The program leaflet proclaimed the event was presented by the Union County Human Relations Commission and the Union County Foreclosure Task Force in conjunction with the NJ Public Defender's Office of Dispute Settlement and the Union County Superior Court Civil Division. Whew!

There were six presentations from these agencies and others and opportunities for Q&A from the floor.

But where were the folks who are in trouble with their mortgages?

I didn't see any of the local service providers I would have expected, who are busy working on the ground in Plainfield with those in trouble with their mortgages.

Where were they?

After leaving the workshop, I called contacts at Faith Bricks and Mortar and the Latin American Coalition, asking why they hadn't been there.

Both said they were not even aware an event was being held in Plainfield and that they had never been contacted -- despite the fact they are working on a daily basis with homeowners in difficulty with their mortgages.

Later, organizing the materials I had picked up preparatory to writing this post, I found that five of the pieces of literature I had picked up were all from one agency -- Brand New Day, Inc., of Elizabeth.

This is a non-profit founded in 1985 by Elizabethport Presbyterian Center and the community. Among other things, it offers services to homeowners with mortgage difficulties.

Did the organizers purposely omit opportunities for Plainfield-based organizations to participate in the workshop? Was the whole exercise designed to steer prospects for assistance to just one nonprofit -- and an Elizabeth-based one at that?

Despite the presenters being well-informed and earnest, I wondered if this isn't just an example of why the foreclosure assistance programs are constantly reported in the media as reaching too few to have any real effect on the crisis. And whether it gauges the effect being had in New Jersey, and Union County specifically, on the issue of foreclosures.

Being held in a church led me to recall a New Testament story from the Gospel of John (21:1-19, see here, the third reading).

It is a post-Easter story and tells how six of the disciples of Jesus went fishing overnight on the Sea of Tiberias, netting nothing. At daybreak, Jesus (whom they did not recognize) called out to them from the beach, telling them to let their nets down on the other side of the boat. Whereupon their nets were filled so full they could not pull them in.

Could there be a lesson for the organizers here?

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Anonymous said...

Maybe some plainfielders didn't want to be seen and photographed and reported by the likes of you in your blog? Your presence would certainly deter me from showing up and admitting I was in trouble.

Anonymous said...

Dan, I knew nothing about this although I wish I had, as I have a few friends who might have been able to benefit from it. I'll keep my eyes and ears open for the next one as it doesn't seem like the economy is getting any better. Thanks


Anonymous said...

Maybe those who need help didn't want to be seen at Shiloh Baptist which might be the most visible venue in town. Maybe the publicity didn't work - local publicity is much harder than it seems. Or maybe many have just given up on the bureaucracy - they've filled out too many forms and have gotten nowhere.
As to why Brand New Day, Inc. and not a local organization maybe BND is just better at it. Being local doesn't mean better, it just means closer.

Anonymous said...

Maybe some plainfielders didn't want to be seen and photographed and reported by the likes of you in your blog?

You are losing your home. There is an organization who may be able to help. Many people are in the same boat. And you don't show up because you are afraid of being photgraphed? Sounds like either an excuse or they did not know. All people are hurting today, no matter what your income. Getting help is a sign of motivation, perserverence, and yes bravery. Let's hope your assessment is not at all true.