Foreclosure center marks one year

By Chuck Weber email

WEST PALM BEACH, FL (WFLX)-This week marks the one-year anniversary of West Palm Beach's Foreclosure Assistance Center. In the past year hundreds have been helped. Hundreds more still need a hand.

Monday Lakeisha Walker-Martin walked through the foreclosure center's front door. "I've lost so much weight, I'm losing sleep," confided Martin.

Martin is divorced, a single mother of four sons, and recently lost her car because she couldn't afford it. Martin says she's back to being current on her mortgage, but is still technically in foreclosure because she owes some $4,000 in legal fees related to the process. "Maybe I pay a little extra month," said Martin, "but not take the majority of my check, because it's just hard feeding the boys already. I'm just hoping they can work something out."

Since the foreclosure center opened a year ago, nearly 250 families have been helped-- most of them now able to stay in their homes. The center recently expanded to help people county-wide, thanks to a partnership between the City of West Palm Beach and a private not-for-profit called Home Free USA.

The city's housing director Emelda Johnson recalled the reasons for opening the center. "The number of homes that were actually abandoned in the community," she said. "We saw the horror stories of swimming pools overrun with all kinds of debris. The homeowner may be losing their home, but the neighbors lose their value if we don't rescue it."

Johnson also observed in recent weeks she's actually seen more flexibility on the part of banks and lenders. Her advice to anyone facing foreclosure? Seek counseling, she said. Any Palm Beach County resident wishing to meet with a counselor at the Foreclosure Assistance Center should call 561-822-1583. Appointments can be made for the center headquarters in downtown West Palm Beach or at several participating churches throughout the county.