Fresno, CA – Thanks to an innovative collaboration led by Central California Legal Services, Inc. and funded by the CA Attorney General, homeowners and tenants in Fresno, Merced, Kings and Tulare counties are able to stay in their homes for the holidays. Being Home for the Holidays gets new meaning for a family of seven in Los Banos and a man facing terminal cancer in Reedley, California. While most people wish to spend this special time with friends and family, for others, being able to keep their home during this time of the year brings holiday cheer.
“These homeowners and tenants are courageous and determined. We are glad to be in a position to help,” said Chris Schneider, Executive Director of CCLS. CCLS has joined forces with Tenants Together (TT) and Community Housing Council of Fresno (CHC) in an innovative model that starts with grassroots outreach to at risk properties and finishes with legal services and financial counseling at workshops occurring across Fresno, Merced, Tulare and Kings counties with remarkable frequency. A tenant along with her family and a homeowner, who have been assisted by the project, learned of the project from door-to-door outreach and attended workshops in their area. “We urge anyone in a property at risk of foreclosure, whether renters or homeowners, to come to these workshops,” commented Maribel Rodriguez-Valcasti, project coordinator. She pointed to two recent examples of how the project has saved vulnerable residents from displacement.
Unbeknown to them, a family of seven were renting a property that was facing foreclosure. The first time they learned about the status of the home was when a representative from Tenants Together visited the home to invite them to a workshop. As a result, the tenant attended one of the community workshops held in Los Banos. On November 22nd, just days before Thanksgiving, the new owner served the tenant with an illegal three day eviction notice. The tenant’s participation in the workshop led her to contact one of CCLS’ attorneys who was able to prevent the illegal eviction. Moreover, the attorney is still negotiating the possibility of entering into a new and longer rental agreement. Through the intervention of Tenants Together and CCLS, the tenant and her family including five minor children were able to find information and legal recourse to prevent them from becoming homeless during the holiday season.
Another story starts with Tenants Together efforts to reach a remote household in Reedley, California. In an effort to provide information and resources to this homeowner with terminal cancer, he was invited to come to the local workshop. Unable to work, this homeowner lost his job and got behind on his mortgage payments. The homeowner had been unable to obtain a loan modification because he had been waiting to get Disability Insurance. While he waited, the bank moved to foreclose the property. Timely assistance from Tenants Together led this homeowner to one of CCLS’ attorneys who together with Community Housing Council of Fresno worked to identify a solution to his plight. The combined efforts of the three local agencies allowed him to get a postponement of the foreclosure of his home. As a result, he is now able to wait for receipt of his Disability Benefits which may qualify him for a loan modification to save his home. The homeowner wants to be able to die peacefully in his home. Being able to stay in his home through the holiday season affords him some hope in an uncertain future.
All of this is possible thanks to a Grant from the Office of the Attorney General of California, from the National Mortgage Fund Settlement to assist California Consumers. This partnership has undertaken a holistic approach that has resulted in timely and appropriate referrals enabling clients’ needs to be properly addressed. In the case of the family from Los Banos and the Reedley homeowner, it has meant they get to stay home for the holidays.
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