CHICAGO (STMW) – In Chicago, 97,000 homes were foreclosed last year – the second-highest foreclosure rate in the nation. Statewide, more than 103,000 homes had a foreclosure filing in 2011, the eighth-highest rate in the country.

For homeowners facing the possibility of foreclosure, there are state and federal programs which can offer them the resources they need in order to keep their homes. But it can be a daunting task for homeowners to navigate through the different programs available to them.

A state program though, the Illinois Foreclosure Prevention Network (IFPN), a multi-agency effort coordinated by the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA), gathers all these resources together in a “one-stop shop.”

The first of six regional IFPN “Keep Your Home, Illinois” workshops was held Saturday at Morton West High School in Berwyn.

On hand hours before dignitaries such as Gov. Pat Quinn, Berwyn Mayor Robert J. Lovero, and the heads of the state Departments of Employment Security (IDES), Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR), and IHDA, were the first homeowners seeking assistance.

“We had our first homeowner here at 7:20 a.m.,” nearly two hours before the event began, IHDA Director Mary Kenney said. By 11 a.m. satellite parking areas had to be opened to accommodate participating homeowners.

“It’s been a pretty tremendous response,” Kenney said. “We registered 250 homeowners in the first hour – we were projecting anywhere between 800 to 1,000 people” to take part in the workshop, which ran from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Taking part in Saturday’s workshop were eight lenders — with three to four representatives apiece — some 40 counseling agencies, legal aid clinics, and representatives from IDES (to offer unemployment benefits and employment search assistance) and IDFPR (to work with homeowners who may have mortgage fraud issues).

“In addition to the counseling agencies and the lenders we have people taking applications for the Hardest Hit Program,” a two-part state initiative launched last September using a chunk of $446 million from the federal government that offers a one-time payment that wipes out arrears, fees, and penalties, in addition to monthly mortgage assistance.

Noting the existence of the state and federal programs available, Kenney said, “There’s really been more relief than ever” for homeowners facing foreclosure, yet, “it can be overwhelming” for a homeowner to find out what’s available to them.

Bringing all these resources and agencies together has been “a consolidated effort” between the state agencies and lenders to help Illinois homeowners, Kenney said. For instance, at the workshops, homeowners can apply for mortgage payment and unemployment assistance at the same time and place.

One Chicago homeowner, Regina Bailey, was recently approved for temporary financial assistance through the Illinois Hardest Hit Program. In a press release, she said, “you go through program after program, but you never know about most of them unless someone tells you. Then all of a sudden you feel OK because you have hope. That’s what (IFPN) has done for me.”

Kenney put to rest any notion that the homeowners who receive this assistance are shirking their obligations or putting one over on the banks that hold their mortgages.

“No one is putting anything over on the bank,” she said. “Most of the people (helped by IFPN) are either unemployed or re-employed,” but earning less money now than they previously were, she explained.

“It isn’t as if this relief is being doled out without any oversight. The modifications are based on the income of the homeowner. It’s just an untruth to say people are out there working the banks.”

Kenney said the state expects to see an uptick in foreclosure filings once the state’s settlement with five major loan servicers for $1.1 billion is finalized, but “on the brighter side, the settlement is forcing lenders to the table” to work with homeowners on modifying their loans before a foreclosure would occur.

The IFPN’s resources are also available 24-hours a day online, at

© Sun-Times Media Wire Chicago Sun-Times 2012. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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