“Congresswoman Donna F. Edwards, second from right, co-hosted Pro Bono Resource Center of Marylandís 100th Foreclosure Solutions Workshop on July 21. From left: PBRC Secretary Manuel Geraldo, PBRC Executive Director Sharon E. Goldsmith, Congresswoman Edwards, and PBRC Deputy Director Jennifer Larrabee”
Attorneys once again volunteered their time and expertise to counsel homeowners in various stages of the foreclosure process on Saturday, July 21, 2012, in Prince George’s County when U.S. Congresswoman Donna F. Edwards hosted the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland’s (PBRC) 100th Foreclosure Solutions Workshop.
Over 40 homeowners were seen by 19 attorneys at the event. The workshop was co-sponsored by the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), the Prince George’s County Department of Housing and Community Development, and Freddie Mac. Non-profit housing counselors and loan servicers were also on hand to speak with homeowners facing foreclosure.
The pro bono attorneys are part of Maryland’s Foreclosure Prevention Pro Bono Project, which was established in response to the foreclosure crisis in 2008. The Project is a collaboration of various legal services organizations, state agencies, and others who donate their time to recruit, train, and connect lawyers to homeowners who need their help. The project provides homeowners with an opportunity to meet one-on-one with attorneys and to receive free legal advice about the foreclosure process, their legal rights, and next steps for preserving their home or making a dignified exit.
Since the project’s inception in July 2008, nearly 1,200 volunteer attorneys have counseled over 2,300 homeowners and donated over 5,000 hours of their time at PBRC’s Foreclosure Solutions Workshops across the state. The time donated by the generous pro bono attorneys is valued at more than $1.1 million.
Hosting the 100th workshop in Prince George’s County was neither an accident nor an afterthought. Rather, the hosting site was a deliberate choice made by PBRC and its partners because Prince George’s County has been hit particularly hard by the foreclosure crisis. According to DHDC’s 2012 Maryland Foreclosure Task Force Report, Prince George’s County filed 22,401 Notices Of Intent to foreclose between January and September of 2011. The staggering number is nearly twice as many as any other county in the state.
Congresswoman Edwards, representing a portion of Prince George’s County in Maryland’s 4th Congressional District, explained, “Foreclosure continues to be a serious threat for far too many residents in Maryland’s 4th Congressional District. Since coming to office, I have hosted several foreclosure prevention workshops to help provide a forum where those seeking assistance meet with pro bono attorneys, housing counselors, banks, and lenders to see what options are available to them to stay in their homes. I am especially grateful to the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland for their involvement in this event and for their daily efforts to assist homeowners in my district and across the state of Maryland.”
Secretary Raymond A. Skinner of DHCD is hopeful for the future of homeownership, stating, “Under the leadership of Governor Martin O’Malley, Maryland has enacted major reforms to foreclosure processes to help keep hard-working families in their homes. Our success is due in large part to committed partners like the Pro Bono Resource Center whose free legal assistance has been invaluable to thousands of Maryland homeowners.”
PBRC’s commitment to ensuring that homeowners receive adequate legal advice during the foreclosure process was acknowledged by additional Prince George’s County officials during the 100th workshop as well. PBRC’s Foreclosure Prevention Pro Bono Project was unexpectedly recognized by Rushern L. Baker, III, County Executive for Prince George’s County, who made the formal proclamation of July 21, 2012, as “Maryland Pro Bono Resource Center Foreclosure Prevention Day.”
In reflecting upon the day’s achievements, Sharon E. Goldsmith, PBRC’s Executive Director, comments, “We are thrilled to be celebrating this milestone and credit the extraordinary efforts of our volunteer attorneys and partnering agencies for making this possible.”
Perhaps the most important outcome of the day can be viewed through the eyes of grateful homeowners upon completion of a Foreclosure Solutions Workshop. There is demonstrable evidence that homeowners find the workshops invaluable, achieving a sense of control, and a better understanding of their realistic options after attending. As one homeowner stated, “I just want to thank everyone involved with the organization of this session. I came here overwhelmed and quite emotional. When I left I felt hope renewed and had a strategy in place.”
To volunteer with the Foreclosure Prevention Pro Bono Project or for more information on volunteer legal services opportunities in Maryland, contact Jennifer Larrabee at the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland at (410) 837-9379 or (800) 396-1274, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Carey Moore is the Communications Manager of the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland.