In Codman Sq., agency helps homeowners on the brink

A Brockton woman was only a month behind on her mortgage payments in November when her son, who was the only one home at the time, received the vacate order.

A day and a half later, the impending foreclosure was reversed, thanks to officials at the Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation (NDC), which works to develop affordable housing and owns about 700 units.

The good news stories when it comes to mortgage foreclosures are few and far between, particularly in Dorchester and its 02124 zip code, one of the areas heaviest hit by the foreclosure crisis that has ripped through the state and the country.

But in a small way, the Codman Square organization is trying to change that, pointing to the Brockton woman's case, along with a successful refinancing of a Dorchester woman's mortgage, as examples.

Of the Brockton case, Veronica Truell, a community mortgage lender with the NDC, was able to use the paper trail, receipts and phone bills to show the lender that the foreclosure was unnecessary.

"Based on what I saw, she had been making payments and when she was looking like she was having a hard time, she was calling in advance," says Truell, who is originally from southern Georgia but grew up in Mattapan.

For people coming to see her, bringing everything related to the foreclosure is necessary, she said.

"When they come to see me, they should bring everything they have," Truell says. "Even if it's unopened mail. Whatever they have. Because it helps me create a picture, bring the pieces of the puzzle together."

Truell, who previously had about 15 years of experience in the mortgage lending business and started at the NDC over the summer, works with financial fitness adviser Keyna Samuel, after getting people referred to them from MassHousing, the state's affordable housing bank, and the quasi-independent agency's helpline.

The non-profit is set to start up "foreclosure clinics" in January on the second Wednesday of every month through June. Individuals will be able to talk about credit budgeting and new rules on loans. They can also make appointments for individual sessions after the clinics.

Truell said she has been handling about two loan modifications a day - where she and others talk with the lender to stop the mortgage rate from being adjusted.

"There are a lot of different ways that we can help," she said, noting that if the loan can't be modified, the individual can be referred to a property manager for apartments, a budget expert, or a real estate broker.

"I spend a lot of time educating," she said.

In the case of the successful refinancing, the person had a good credit score and it became a matter of finding a mortgage that was reasonably priced for her, Truell said.

Truell and the acting director of the NDC, Mathew Thall, are offering tips to those interested in their help. "The best thing is, people should call us," Thall said. "We're right here."

Other tips include:

• Opening your mail.

• Contacting others early. "If you're 30 days from foreclosure, it's very, very hard," Thrall says.

• Don't ignore the problem.

• Remember it also affects your family and neighborhood. Abandoned houses cause blight and become a magnet for vandals and criminals, Thall says.