September 20, 2012 in City

$3 million to nonprofit will help struggling homeowners

Cut is from national settlement, will help mortgage holders avoid foreclosure
By The Spokesman-Review
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Jaclyn Milroy and her husband, Tom, were facing foreclosure after they lost their jobs and suffered health problems.
(Full-size photo)

Counseling, education

SNAP hopes to halt 500 foreclosures over the next five years by offering counseling, education, case management and foreclosure prevention loans for low-income homeowners. It is the only Spokane-based agency that received funds from a national settlement with lending banks.

Their situation seemed hopeless.

Tom and Jaclyn Milroy had done everything right, yet their lives were unraveling. They were both hit with job loss and deteriorating health in rapid succession, and they were on the verge of losing their home.

But a settlement paid out by the country’s five largest lending banks for their role in the housing crisis will help the Milroys and others like them stay in their homes by funding foreclosure prevention programs.

“It was just an accumulation of a lot of things,” Jaclyn Milroy said of their crisis. “We just didn’t know what to do.”

Two years ago, she suffered an infection in her leg and had it amputated. She was hospitalized for more than two months and was no longer able to run the day care she had operated for 20 years.

Then her husband, an engineer, was laid off from his job of 10 years.

As Jaclyn Milroy recovered, Tom Milroy, an Army veteran, was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer, possibly from exposure to Agent Orange while he served in Vietnam. As a result, he had an ear amputated in May 2011.

That summer, Jaclyn was diagnosed with congenital heart failure.

“Oh my God, it was horrible,” Jaclyn Milroy said. “We’ve had a really hard time.”

Struggling with joblessness, poor health and mounting medical bills, the two were on the verge of losing their home, too. They couldn’t get anywhere with their lender.

“We tried to talk to the mortgage company, and they just wouldn’t even talk to us,” she said. “After awhile you just don’t try because you’re shot down everywhere.”

Tom Milroy added, “Just a dog chasing its tail.”

But now the couple have hope that they’ll find a way to stay in their home.

SNAP recently announced it will receive more than $3 million to help Spokane-area residents affected by the ongoing foreclosure crisis through its Foreclosure Prevention Program. Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna announced Aug. 27 that the state was awarded $43.8 million in the national settlement for foreclosure prevention programs.

The Milroys are working with a SNAP counselor to go through mediation with their mortgage company.

“It’s been a full-time job just to find out the solution to our problem,” Tom Milroy said. “Now we can take action.”

SNAP hopes to halt 500 foreclosures over the next five years with the funds by offering counseling, education and case management for struggling homeowners, said Monica Lloyd, SNAP’s Housing Counseling Program manager. Through its Foreclosure Prevention Loan Program, SNAP will also help those who are unable to get a modification or refinance.

“The most important thing is this grant allows us really to do more prevention counseling,” Lloyd said. “It allows us to reach a larger audience.”

Washington’s share of the settlement will be split among 13 nonprofits. SNAP is the only Spokane-based agency that received funds.

“We like to try to help people understand that you may have done everything right, but this can still happen to you,” Lloyd said. “It’s your neighbor. It’s your co-worker. It’s your grandmother. It’s just really everyone that you could meet walking down your local street. It cuts across all economic lines.”

Spokane County has more than 1,100 foreclosures a year, according to SNAP’s grant application. A large number of preventable foreclosures occur because homeowners are not aware of the resources available to them or don’t have support as they struggle through the process of finding a way to stay in their home.

“A lot of it is people get discouraged through the whole process because it is very lengthy,” Lloyd said. “It is a long process, and people really have to be in it all the way through.”

It’s a process the Milroys are all too familiar with, but they’re grateful for the support they’ll get as they make their way through mediation.

“You have to have a good sense of humor,” Tom Milroy said. “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

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