Housing Opportunities Happenings: May 2013

By: Housing Opportunities, Inc. Last Updated: May 6, 2013

Shirley-LucheneConnecting with the Community

As we approach June 30th, we also come to the end of fiscal year 2013. What a tremendous year full of stories from people that have made Housing Opportunities part of their philanthropic journey. We truly believe fundraising is providing opportunities for people to feel good, and we enjoy building relationships with those that want to make a difference in their community through the work that we do.

If you follow Housing Opportunities on Facebook, you likely saw many stories of children stepping up to do their part to help the homeless in our community. Some of our favorite stories this year include a boy that used his leftover Christmas money to purchase 2 pairs of shoes for 2 kids in our homeless housing programs. Another story would be many children giving up their birthdays, and asking for presents of items to fill our food pantry. We even had a girl sit in front of a local grocery store asking people to purchase a little extra to donate to our pantry. That cold January day, she collected over 1,200 items!

Thank you to all our donors that make a difference every day. We are so grateful for your generosity.

Giving Thanks To Our Volunteers

April was Volunteer Appreciation Month, and we celebrated in a big way at Housing Opportunities! As we talked to our volunteers from the food pantry, we inquired as to what would make them feel most appreciated by us. Their response was unanimous! They said, "April Showers Bring May Flowers! Let's shower the pantry with items for the participants." We did just that by hosting a pantry shower luncheon for our volunteers. What amazing volunteers we have, many of whom are so selfless that their first thoughts are about others! They have stepped up, so that our clients can step forward in their lives! Since July 2012, we have been helped with 2,026.75 hours of service- with hours helping in the office, helping with yard work, helping get apartments ready for homeless families, and a lot of hours spent in the food pantry. We are amazed and thankful at the outpouring of volunteers, without whom we would not be able to carry out our mission and vision. Above all, we want to say a very BIG thanks to all volunteers, who help not just in April, but continue to step up through May, June, July and beyond! If you think that volunteering might be something that you would be interested in, please contact Kathleen at 219.548.2800 x 205 and she would be happy to help you step in to our world of volunteering at Housing Opportunities!

Foreclosure Staff Spotlight

Thanks to the Indiana Foreclosure Prevention Network, The Hardest Hit Fund Grants and our community supporters, Housing Opportunities (HO) has been able to help 1,258 families stop foreclosure and stay in their home in the last fiscal year. Here is an opportunity for you to get to know one of our housing counselors! Shirley Luchene started her career at HO in August 2007 as bookkeeper and quickly became an integral part of the team. In November of 2010, she put her background knowledge with real estate to work by joining the Foreclosure Prevention Department as a housing counselor. Here is what one of her clients had to say about her hard work: "I have had the pleasure of working with Shirley over the last several months. I went through a divorce, which left my income divided by half. I struggled while attempting to recover- trying to pay my bills and mortgage. I tried to work with my lender on my own with no success. I found out about HO by reading an article in the local newspaper. Frankly, Shirley has done more to help me than anyone and has so much knowledge. Thanks to Shirley's efforts and working with my lender, I now have a modification and I am able to stay in my home. I would recommend anyone struggling with their mortgage to call Housing Opportunities! Thank you- R.R."

Low-Income Housing Stats

Wonder why the low-income rental program that Housing Opportunities offers is always full? Because in Indiana, a minimum wage worker earns an hourly wage of $.725. In order to afford the FMR (Fair Market Rent) for a two-bedroom apartment, a minimum wage earner must work 76 hours per week, 52 weeks per year. Or a household must include 1.9 minimum wage earners working 40 hours per week year-round in order to make the two-bedroom FMR affordable. For more information and to see Indiana data, visit this link: http://nlihc.org/oor/2013/IN. For more information on HO's low income rental program, contact Cathy Thompson at 219.548.2800 x 208 or cthompson@housing-opportunities.com

Events: FAWN Style Show

Preparations for the September 5th FAWN Style Show are in full swing! The Fashion Show, Dinner, and Silent Auction will be held at Avalon Manor on September 5, 2013 at 5:30 pm. The charitable recipient of this event will be Housing Opportunities, Inc. FAWN (Friends Assisting Women in Need) is a 501(C)3 organization that specializes in positively changing women's lives as well as the lives of their families. This event holds great opportunities for both organizations as they aim to improve the lives of clients, especially the female head of household families. DOn't miss your chance to enjoy a fun evening and make a difference in the lives of those who are in need! If you are interested in sponsoring, donating a silent auction item, or purchasing tickets, please contact Caren at 219.548.2800 x 216 or cfurdeck@housing-opportunities.com

Homeownership- 1 Year Plan to Buy a Home

Thanks to community partners and grants, Housing Opportunities is able to offer first time homebuyer education classes. Here is just some information that is covered at those classes. Want to end up in a new home a year from now? Here's a look, month by month, at what you should be doing as you count down to buying a home.

Month No 1: Pull your credit report and take steps to ensure that you have built up sufficient credit history and that your score is as high as it can be. The higher your credit score, the better the mortgage rate you'll qualify for.

Month No 2: Take inventory of your monthly income versus your monthly debts as well as your savings to figure out how much you can put toward a down payment and how much you can afford to pay each month.

Month No 3: After you determine how much house you can afford, you need to figure out what kind of home you need. What is important to you? Does your home need to be in an area with great schools? How many bedrooms and bathrooms do you need? Once you decide what you need and want, it is time to start shopping.

Month No 4: Start researching the local housing stock. Cruise around the neighborhoods you're interested in and talk to other homeowners and store owners to see if a given neighborhood is right for you.

Month No 5: Find a motivated real estate agent you can trust. Finding the right agent could make all the difference in your home-buying experience.

Month No 6: Other professionals such as lawyers, insurance agents and home inspectors will be involved in your home buying process, and you'll need time to shop around to find ones who fit your needs.

Month No 7: Now it's time to get your paperwork organized. Mortgage lenders are going to require that you prove your income and your assets. That means showing them income statements, at least two years' worth of tax returns and statements from your savings account and any investments you might have. If you're receiving money from a family member or friend- for example, a down payment- you'll be required to provide a letter from the person giving the gift stating that the recipient has no legal obligation to pay it back.

Month No 8: Research mortgage lenders. A pre-approval will allow you to shop and negotiate with a seller because you can show that you can obtain financing and are a serious bidder. This is not a loan guarantee.

Month No 9: Your real estate agent will help you with your purchase agreement. This may involve offers and counteroffers until you and the seller reach an agreement. After an agreement has been reached, you will hire a home inspector and also finalize your mortgage loan.

Month No 10: As if the entire mortgage-approval process isn't stressful enough, you also need to worry about the logistics of moving. If you're a renter, now's the time to give your landlord notice that you're moving out. You should contact your utility service providers to determine if you'll need to transfer or terminate your service.

Month No 11: It's time to get packing. However, at this stage, packing won't be your only concern: You'll be given your closing date when you'll sign the final paperwork. You should also schedule your final walk-through of the house before you sign the papers.

Month No 12: Last but not least, don't leave yourself without options. What if things don't go according to plan? What if, for some reason, you can't move in as planned- do you have money set aside or living arrangements and storage for all your things?

The home buying process is hardly smooth sailing. However, if you follow this timeline and make sure you're organized, you can avoid any squalls that could wind up costing you money, or even your home. For more information about homeownership education, contact Debbie Kardos at 548.2800 x 200 or dkardos@housing-opportunities.com

Stepping Up to Housing Challenges

Homelessness and poverty are inextricably linked. There are people in our community who are frequently unable to pay for housing, food, childcare, health care, and education. So many difficult choices must be made when limited resources cover only some of these necessities and often it is housing, which absorbs a high proportion of income, that must be dropped. If the sole provider for the family is working a minimum wage job then they are, essentially, an illness, an accident, or a paycheck away from living on the streets. This is true for so many of our residents. Many homeless residents are eager to retain the stability of permanent housing; however, for others who have a history of life on the streets, or making the rounds of shelters, engagement can be a challenge. Housing Opportunities is pleased to share we are currently using updated software that will make the process of applying for assistance run faster and smoother. Some families only need a hand up and therefore they apply for our temporary housing where they have a chance to get back on their feet quickly. They Step In, Step Up, and Step Forward! The need for housing for the homeless in our community is evident by the fact that all of our housing programs run at near 100% occupancy rate, whether it is our temporary housing, or transitional housing, or our permanent housing program. For more information on these programs you can call Alora Johnson at 219.548.2800 x 220.