Operators at AARP Foundation’s Housing Solutions Center have been fielding calls at its toll-free number, 855-850-2525, since the beginning of 2013, putting callers in touch with HUD-certified counselors who offer practical advice and guidance to hundreds and hundreds of 50+ homeowners worried about foreclosure. Despite the fact that home prices have in general been rising and foreclosure rates falling, the need is still great. In July, for example, foreclosure filings increased by 2 percent from a 78-month low the month before. Percentage rates don’t speak as clearly as raw numbers: More than 130,000 U.S. housing units received foreclosure filings in July.
To help address the need for good advice and clear guidance, HSC hasn’t just been waiting for concerned homeowners to call; at the Denver-based outbound call center, volunteers and clients of AARP’s SCSEP program under the direction of Program Specialist Bob Toye have been reaching out to at-risk senior homeowners in such key states as Arizona, California, Florida and Texas. Using a peer-to-peer approach and capitalizing on the bilingual Spanish skills of several team members, these “call specialists” have placed calls to more than 27,000 homeowners who are either in foreclosure, behind in their payments, or carrying mortgages that are “underwater” (the loan amount being greater than the value of the home).
The six- to 12-member team shares information on various scams related to foreclosure prevention and loan modifications. They also introduce the HSC program and transfer interested homeowners to the free HUD-certified counseling resources it provides.
Learn more about AARP's Housing Solutions Center
One of those callers is Dario Damian, who has been with the call center since March, first as a SCSEP participant and now in a ReServist capacity (ReServist.org provides stipended positions for part-time workers; Dario's position is funded by Colonial Penn Life Insurance Company®, which sponsors the HSC program). Dario finds making calls both a rewarding and a challenging experience.
“As good as it feels to connect someone with a certified counselor, to know they’re going to get assistance,” says Dario, “all of us have also spoken with homeowners for whom HSC has come too late…. They wish we’d called them earlier, when there was still time to help. Those calls can be rough.”
On the other hand, he notes, “Helping folks hold onto their homes, explaining how the Housing Solutions Center works and can be of assistance, is what keeps us energized.”
Born in Denver but raised in Mexico, Dario, who is 60 years old, is particularly pleased that HSC has placed a special focus on at-risk Hispanic/Latino homeowners. “Working alongside volunteers who share that culture, and serving our own community,” Dario say, “that’s been especially rewarding.”
Over the months, Dario has taken on more of a leadership role and is now providing training, coaching and data-reporting support. “Dario represents the best of what we’re all about,” says Bob Toye. “He’s conscientious, innovative, and the volunteers have responded to the example he sets. We’re delighted to have him with us.”
Also of Interest
- Housing Solutions Center counselors tell their stories
- 22 things you should never do again after 50
- ACA questions? Check out our ACA Q&A page
Visit the AARP Foundation homepage to learn about other great programs and services.