888-995-HOPE offers free counseling by phone and…chat room?

August 20, 2008

After reading St. Louis Beacon’s latest mortgage crisis article, I surfed around the St. Louis Fed site to look into their foreclosure resources. Both the Fed and NeighborWorks refer homeowners to (888)-995-HOPE, a foreclosure help line run by the Homeownership Preservation Foundation.

Linda Ingram mentioned last week to me that she sometimes sends clients to this HOPE line, and has a lot of faith in the service. When I looked them up, I found a blog post near the top of the search results that criticized them for not helping people who aren’t actually in foreclosure.  I’d like to set the record straight that this is not true.

I called (888)-995-HOPE this afternoon and was immediately connected to someone who wanted to put me in touch with the next available housing counselor. I asked if there was help available to me if I wasn’t in foreclosure yet. What if I’d lost my job or my rate adjusted and I feared I’d fall behind in the next month or two? “It’s always good to be proactive and we’ve got plenty of people who can help you,” she told me.

Another service offered through them that I’ve not seen anywhere else is the option to chat online with a housing counselor. Though I believe it’s most effective to visit a counselor in person, this could still be a useful service–especially to those who can’t take time off work for an appointment. You can use the online chat feature to simply ask a few questions or to do an all-out counseling session.

 I think this could also benefit night owls such as myself. Personally, I do the most worrying (and occasionally some problem solving) between 1:00 and 3:00 a.m., usually because I forgot to make the car payment or I can’t figure out why my credit card interest rate keeps going up. I can’t exactly call these places on the phone so late, so I’d likely take full advantage of the option to get online and ask a professional what to do.  The online foreclosure chat is a new concept to me, but it may be yet another valuable free resource.

To learn more about the HOPE line or the online chat feature, visit www.995hope.org.

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