HPN Member Avesta Housing thanks Wells Fargo

As people face important financial decisions—buying a home, finding an affordable rental unit, or how to manage through a time of crisis—housing counselors offer information and guidance to help people make the best decisions for themselves and their families.  And as we continue to witness the effects of the global pandemic within our communities across the country, ensuring that counseling agencies have the support to meet the demand for their services during this time is critical.   

At a time like this, the Wells Fargo Foundation quickly provided the Housing Partnership Network with flexible funding to help respond to the needs of renters and homeowners impacted by the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. The funding has enabled counseling agencies to transition to the virtual environment, market their services, and most importantly serve renters and homeowners in need. On behalf of HPN and its Members, we want to thank the Wells Fargo Foundation.

One of the members participating in this grant program is Avesta Housing a non-profit organization in Maine that provides housing and financial education and counseling, in addition to developing and operating affordable housing.  They shared the following reflections on how this funding has allowed them to serve their community during this time—and most importantly how it has helped improve people’s lives.

We are so thankful for Wells Fargo support because it allows us to help these individuals and connect them to resources when they need them the most.

"As part of our comprehensive efforts to help people stay in their homes, we believe this collaboration will have a meaningful impact in directly assisting people to stabilize their housing situation and improve their financial health."

Eileen Fitzgerald Head of Housing Affordability Philanthropy, Wells Fargo Foundation

This grant is part of the Wells Fargo Foundation’s efforts to keep more than 200,000 people affected by COVID-19 housed with grants to nonprofit housing organizations across the U.S. Overall, the Wells Fargo Foundation has donated over $225 million to assist people and communities affected by COVID-19.

Sandra first came to the HomeOwnership Center after her application for Avesta Housing was denied since she did not meet the credit policy. A credit review was conducted by Homeownership Center (HOC) staff and some credit education was provided. The denial was overturned, and in 2017 Sandra was housed in an Avesta property. Sandra continued to work with Homeownership center staff and began to see an improvement in her credit score. In July 2020, Sandra lost her sister unexpectedly and the COVID 19 outbreak began to take its toll. This hit Sandra hard and caused her to fall behind on several months of rent. While grieving her sister, Sandra shut down and did not feel comfortable communicating with her Property Management team. She reached back out to the staff that she had bonded with at the homeownership center. Together Sandra and the staff worked on a plan to pay back her arrearage. Not only was she able to pay off the entire arrearage from the previous months by October of 2020, she is now also in a position to pay off other debts which could allow her to begin saving for homeownership, her ultimate goal.

James became an Avesta resident in July 2019. His household was carrying a balance early on in their tenancy because of a miscommunication around their voucher. James worked with the HOC staff to set up a payment plan to pay back that balance. In April 2020, James contacted the HOC with concerns about paying the payment plan installments because he had experienced job loss due to COVID 19. The HOC was able to pause the installments and then worked diligently with James’ case worker to explore the possibility of receiving financial assistance. Because James had a voucher, the normal rent relief programs were not an option, but over the course of several months, the case worker and HOC staff worked together to secure WRAP funding to pay off the initial arrearage while James remained current with the ongoing rent payments.  His household is now current and paying an affordable rent.

"This grant allows us to put our focus onto our clients, and for that we are so grateful."

Nicole DiGeronimo Director of the HomeOwnership Center, Avesta

Steven moved into an Avesta property in February 2020. A worker in the service industry, he was laid off at the beginning of the pandemic in March. As such, he was unable to pay his rent from March to June and racked up a significant arrearage. Steven was able to regain income in July and contacted the HOC to set up a payment plan at that time. He made payments successfully and was also able to access assistance from the State’s rent relief program. Steven recently contacted us to let us know that he secured a more “COVID proof” job outside of the hospitality industry, and had paid off his payment plan early. He is caught up with his payments and is feeling much more secure in his financial future.

Henry started working with the HOC on his mortgage delinquency over a year ago. He fell behind on his mortgage after the death of his mother caused him to experience some major mental health issues. While employed, he lives pay check to pay check.  Over the span of a few months, our foreclosure housing counselor was able to help Henry receive a loan modification that reduced his mortgage payments by $200 and reduce his drastically high interest rate by 4%. About a month after Maine declared a state of emergency due to the COVID-19 crisis, our foreclosure counselor received a frantic phone call from Henry. He explained that the automatic payments that he had set up to pay his mortgage were somehow doubled, which was causing his bank account to be negative and left him unable to make a car payment. With the help of the housing counselor, the issue was identified and the mortgage payments corrected. His counselor also helped him call the lender who held his car loan and put his payment put into a 2 month forbearance so he could get caught up on his financial obligations.

These are just four of several hundred success stories that were made possible by work of the HOC staff supported by the funding from Wells Fargo. This grant allows us to put our focus onto our clients, and for that we are so grateful.