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Foreclosure Workshop Helps Distressed Homeowners

Ann Sablosky and Rashid Mahdi

Ann Sablosky and Rashid Mahdi volunteer to give legal counseling at the Silver Spring workshop. (Photo by Maryland Newsline's Hannah Kim)

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Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland

By Hannah Kim
Maryland Newsline
Thursday, March 12, 2009

SILVER SPRING, Md.  –  About 70 distressed homeowners flooded a recent workshop at St. Camillus Church to seek free legal advice on how to avoid losing their homes in the mounting economic crisis.

They were advised to know their complete debt, keep track of mortgage paperwork and keep a phone log with calls related to their payments, said Adrienne Hagepanos, a project assistant with the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland, which sponsored the event.

Seven attorneys met one-on-one with 20 homeowners, while others were counseled by volunteers from nonprofit organizations who assessed mortgages, provided resources, informed homeowners of their rights and helped to create action plans.

Specific advice was tailored to each homeowner depending on their income, location of their home and their bank.

“It’s just as dangerous to give incomplete advice as it is to get bad advice,” Hagepanos said, stating that the first step for distressed homeowners is to call the center so that lawyers can examine their paperwork.

More than 32,000 properties in Maryland were foreclosed last year, said Rosa Cruz, deputy director of communications and marketing at Maryland’s Department of Housing & Community Development. 

Since last May, the nonprofit Pro Bono Resource Center has held 22 workshops around the state, helping 505 homeowners, Hagepanos said.

Ann H. Sablosky, a real estate lawyer from Bethesda, trained last year to become a volunteer attorney with the project.

“I’m really struck by the scope of this problem, and I would like to be of help, “ she said.

Carlos Flores, 37, of Gaithersburg, learned about the workshop through his brother, who attends the church. He said it was helpful.

“They help me to understand more things and … help me with different options,” he said.

Gilberto Mejia, 33, of Kensington, who attends the church, said the workshop also helped him a lot.

“They gave me ideas, tips on how to still keep my house. The next step I have to take is to talk with a counselor,” he said.

Copyright 2009 University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism

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