Legal Aid Society of Rockland County

Thousands of local families have been kept in their homes

The following article appeared Oct 1, 2015 on the New City Patch website.

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman on Thursday announced $11.5 million in new funding for more than two dozen legal services organizations statewide — including two local legal aid groups — to help prevent foreclosures, keep families in their homes, and rebuild communities hit hardest by the housing crash.

Awards will be given to 28 legal services providers with proven track records of providing services to at-risk homeowners. Locally, the grants will go to the Legal Aid Society of Rockland County, which is based New City, and Legal Services of the Hudson Valley, which has offices in White Plains, Mount Vernon, Yonkers, Peekskill, Spring Valley, Newburgh, Kingston and Poughkeepsie.

The new round of funding will support the Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP), a network of nearly 90 housing counseling and legal services agencies that provide free, high-quality assistance to at-risk families across New York to help them avoid foreclosure.

“It’s just a critical program for us,” said Mary Ellen Natale, deputy director of the Legal Aid Society of Rockland. “Since the HOPP grants started for us in 2012, we’ve assisted 987 households,” including more than 700 families in settlement conferences at the Rockland County Courthouse in New City.

“It’s been tremendously successful,” Natale said, noting that HOPP funds help pay for three attorneys and one paralegal in the Rockland office. “It’s really enabled us to assist homeowners looking to stay in their homes and avoid foreclosure.”

The new state money will help Rockland Legal Aid “assist perhaps 500 families in the next year,” Natale said. “Many of those are already families we’re assisting.”

Per capita, Rockland is now No. 3 in the state with pending foreclosures, said Derek Tarson, the Foreclosure Project Director in the Rockland Legal Aid office. “Since 2012, we’ve prevented 254 foreclosures, through (mortgage) modifications, short sales and dismissed cases.”

Legal Services of the Hudson Valley, which provides legal aid for the poor in Westchester, Putnam, Rockland, Dutchess, Orange, Sullivan and Ulster counties, has also been receiving the HOPP grants since 2012. “We’ve helped about 1,100 households, impacting more than 3,000 people, including 994 children,” said Cynthia B. Knox, the group’s chief operating officer.

The state anti-foreclosure grants help pay for five staff attorneys, one supervising attorney and two paralegals in the Hudson Valley offices, Knox said. “We’re thrilled to be the recipient of a large award.”

The grants, which are now before the New York State Comptroller for review and final approval, are for one year with a possibility of a one-year renewal. The new round of funding brings the total foreclosure prevention investment by the Office of the Attorney General to more than $70 million.

A report released this summer by Schneiderman’s office showed the program has already helped more than 50,000 New York families. The attorney general has committed $100 million to support HOPP from the settlements that his office negotiated with the nation’s largest banks following the collapse of the housing market.

HOW TO GET HELP

If you are facing a foreclosure, here are some groups that can help you navigate the process and keep you in your home.

Legal Services of the Hudson Valley at 877-574-8529 or http://lshv.org

Westchester Residential Opportunities at 914-428-4507 or 877-976-4968 or www.wroinc.org

Community Housing Innovations at 914-683-1010 or http://chigrants.org

Human Development Services of Westchester at 914-939-2005 or http://hdsw.org

Rockland Housing Action Coalition at 845-708-5799 or www.rhachomes.org

Legal Aid Society of Rockland County at 845-634-3627 or www.legalaidrockland.org

Putnam County Housing Corp at 845-225-8493 or www.putnamhousing.com

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