Urban League: who they are and what they can do for you

August 11, 2008

KETC/Channel 9 has listed on its Web site many local organizations specializing in foreclosure resources. Each provides services beneficial to community members seeking help, but which one should you call? To help you decide, I’m visiting the offices of some of these organizations to ask them all about who they are and what they can do for you.

My first visit was to the Urban League, a HUD certified nonprofit offering free pre-purchase, post-purchase and foreclosure counseling.

The person I met with was Eric Madkins, director of housing and foreclosure intervention. Up to this point we’d only communicated by e-mail, where I first experienced his dedication to his work. After receiving a phone call from a person in an urgent foreclosure situation on a Friday, I e-mailed his information to Eric, who responded to me in mere minutes to let me know that he’d called him immediately and arranged for the person’s first counseling session the following Monday.

Madkins doesn’t believe there are many people Urban League can’t assist in some way. Last year the housing staff helped prevent 127 foreclosures in nearby city neighborhoods and as far out as Festus and St. Charles.

Their process begins with a one-on-one counseling session, in which the homeowner and counselor look at the mortgage statement and person’s budget and work toward bringing their finances current. “We work as an advocate for the homeowner,” says Madkins. “It’s my job to hold lenders accountable and work out a resolution between them and the borrower.”

He urges homeowners to act fast in seeking help, but has been able to make progress with individuals in last-minute foreclosure situations. “The most important thing is that people get the help. They can call us or just drop in and we’ll get the process started.”

In addition to offering housing services, Urban League also offers resources to address the “big picture” for someone facing foreclosure. Job placement counseling, food pantries and utility assistance are just a few options people have in times of economic hardship. “We differ from other organizations in that someone can see me for housing counseling, then I can walk them down the hall to job placement and get the ball rolling on increasing income so they can make their house payment,” he adds.

Limited financial assistance is available in some cases. Madkins views it as an investment. Who will make the best use of the money? Will they be able to stand on their own two feet? “We want to make sure the solution is long term and the money will go a long way,” he says.

With 3 counselors on site at Urban League’s headquarters and more being added at their St. Claire and St. Louis county locations, Madkins feels confident they can meet the demands of area residents experiencing the mortgage crisis.

To make an appointment with Eric or one of Urban League’s other HUD certified housing counselors call (314) 615-3500, or visit any one of their three locations. Addresses and directions are available on Urban League’s Web site: http://www.ulstl.org.

For your first session, you’ll need to bring: most current mortgage statement, any communication/notices from your bank or lender, a photo ID, at least 1 month’s proof of income and, if available, your home’s closing papers.

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