Homeowners behind in their mortgage payments because of a mountain of medical debt may be among those eligible for some relief under a new Cook County program.
A 2008 Harvard Law School study of foreclosures in four states found that half of all respondents identified medical problems as a contributor to the loss of their home.
In the case of the Lambrecht family of Berwyn, medical conditions put them deep in debt and on the road to foreclosure. Ruth Lambrecht, an amputee, applied for help in the form of a loan modification from the Obama Administrations's Home Affordable Modification Program.
For 10 months, the family says they were told they "qualified" for a modification, but in the end were never approved by the mortgage lender.
The new Cook County program, to which the board allocated $3.5 million, may be able to help them get on sound footing with a lease-to-own plan.
"She was a defendant in a mortgage foreclosure case, and like many defendants, she was afraid," said retired Cook County Judge Cliff Meacham. "They are not at all unique. For most people, a house is the single biggest investment that they have. And when something goes wrong, they are afraid of the system. They are afraid of losing their home."
Details of the county's program are still being hammered out, but a press release announcing the program said it would offer free legal services and housing counseling for residents who have received a foreclosure summons from the court and live in the building in foreclosure.
The Cook County Mortgage Foreclosure Mediation Program is a collaborative effort involving the Circuit Court's Chancery Division, the Illinois Housing Development Authority, the Chicago Bar Foundation and the Chicago Community Trust. Attorneys and mediators from the Center for Conflict Resolution, the Chicago Legal Clinic and Chicago Volunteer Legal Services will provide free legal services.
Homeowners who have received a summons can call 877-895-2444 or 312-836-5222 (TDD) to schedule a meeting with a housing counselor at the Richard J. Daley Center, at 69 W. Washington St.
Homeowners concerned about their mortgage but not currently in foreclosure can check CookcountyForeclosureHelp.org for a list of resources.