Working out of a small basement office in Shoreline, Candace Sheehan and her colleagues offer a lifeline to homeowners coping with everything from missed mortgage payments to foreclosure.
Every month, thousands of people call the Washington Homeownership Information Hotline for help.
"The people are calling and saying: 'Help me, help, me. Who do I go to?' Some of them are very desperate," said Sheehan.
Jim Scott was one of the desperate callers. After nearly three years of battling to save his Monroe home, he was on the brink of foreclosure. "It was devastating. I was going to lose my home the very next day," said Scott.
The hotline connected Scott to Parkview Services, a nonprofit housing counseling agency funded by the state.
"They jumped right into action. First person I talked to said, ‘Jim, give me a little bit of time,' and they told me they would get that sale date postponed," said Scott.
And they did. Randy Lowell, Homeownership Programs Development & Education Manager at Parkview Services, got the bank to back off just hours before the foreclosure was going to happen. He did it using a new law called the Foreclosure Fairness Act, which went into effect last summer.
"I looked at his (Jim Scott's) financial information and I talked to him in detail about it. It was a very late night. And then I invoked mediation. I said, 'This guy is a perfect candidate for modification,'" said Lowell.
Scott said ever since he lost his job in 2009 he'd been trying in vain to get Wells Fargo, the bank servicing his loan, to grant him a loan modification. It was when Lowell invoked mediation that the bank was required to sit down with Scott to try to reach a resolution.
"It was the last chance to save what is near and dear to me. I was not able to do this on my own," Scott said.
Lowell and a team from Parkview Services went with Scott to the mediation. Lowell was armed with binders full of federal and state regulations, the bank's own lending guidelines, and Lowell's 25 years of experience in the banking industry.
"And so we simply went in there with the intent to show them the rules and make them adhere to it. And it took three-and-a-half hours of battling in that room to get there. We took a few breaks, but for the most part it was swinging the mallet every time you got the chance," said Lowell.
Scott walked out of the mediation with the loan modification he needed to stay in the house he's lived in for 16 years.
"They accomplished what I had pretty much given up on," said Scott.
Scott is back working full time and said he's finally optimistic about the future.
Anyone can call the Washington Homeownership Information Hotline at 1-877-894-HOME.
Intake and referral specialists try to connect homeowners with services to help them with a range of problems. The only cost to the homeowner is a $200 fee for the mediator if the homeowner goes to mediation.