Foreclosure is about to descend on hundreds of Indiana residents between now and the onset of winter.
The grim Lake County Sheriff's Sales website, which lists names and addresses of foreclosures, nearly included David Copeland.
The 26-year-old was making good pay as a postal worker when he and his wife, La'Meisha, moved about three years ago from a Portage apartment to their first home in Merrillville.
He was laid off April 10 with no apparent future job prospects, and his wife was pregnant.
"I had to do something for my family," he said.
Learning of his misfortune, businesses blew up his mailbox with promises of mortgage rescue — for a price.
"I had so many and some stuff sounded true, but there were scams," he said.
He eventually called the Get Hope hotline at (877) 438-4673. The organization can also be found at www.877gethope.org.
"They connected me with the Consumer Credit Counseling, and I sat down with Toyia," he said.
Toyia Moore, program manager for Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Northwest Indiana Inc., said her nonprofit counseling service reached out to 500 families last year and 480 already in 2013. She nominated Copeland for the state's Hardest Hit Fund, which can provide mortgage payments in return for a qualified person's volunteer work or job training.
Copeland said for weeks his mortgage company balked at taking part.
"Toyia wouldn't give up and when I got the phone call from her office saying I was approved, I was so overwhelmed with joy. Now I can search for a new job, go to school. We have a healthy son, 2 months old and a roof over him."
There were about 34,000 mortgage foreclosures statewide in 2012, according to the Indiana Supreme Court administrator's office.
The state sponsors a number of free mediation and counseling services for Northwest Indiana families, but there is also the little-known Mortgage Foreclosure Trial Court Assistance Project. The project is a joint effort between the Indiana lieutenant governor and the Indiana Supreme Court to encourage out-of-court settlements of foreclosure suits at no cost to the homeowner.
Although everyone facing court-ordered foreclosure is given notice of the trial assistance program, fewer than 1 in 5 of the 4,000 Lake and Porter County foreclosure defendants requested a settlement conference because they are often too depressed, said Merrillville lawyer Adeloyin Gomih, who works for the program.
She said many people, financially devastated by the loss of the job, illness or the death of a breadwinner, try to work out something with their lender, who either won't accept partial payments, or "they contact the lender, talk to 10 different people and get 10 different answers and send in documents only to have them lost."
An official serves them a court summons, along with notice of a settlement opportunity, she said.
"Many times they are too scared to read, deciding there nothing good is in this package, or (to) navigate this on their own," she said.
Some prefer to trust promises in junk mail, television and radio solicitations.
"Just the other day, I met this lady who was seven years behind in payments and was crying," Gomih said. "An out-of-town firm told her to sign with them for $500 and they didn't do a thing for her."
Hammond attorney Curtis P. Vosti, works in the court assistance project and says some run into problems with lawyers.
"I've come across people who have said they've hired a law firm from Utah, New York or Florida, but we find out they haven't filed an appearance in their foreclose case because they aren't licensed in this state," Vosti said.
Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller’s office received 692 consumer complaints about foreclosure rescue consultants since 2009. His office has pursed many of them, including two Florida-based foreclosure consultant companies sued in June on allegations they took more than $7,500 from Hoosier homeowners and did not provide services or refunds.
Vosti said of those who do grab the opportunity often get a second chance, and it's often with a lower interest rate.
Copeland said he plans to start work next month as a volunteer working with Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Northwest Indiana.
"The program has been great for me, and I encourage other people to take part," he said.