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Foreclosure Prevention Group Jeopardized By Funding Cuts

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Yildiz Yilmaz says she couldn't have navigated the mortgage process without the help of her First Home Alliance, the nonprofit foreclosure prevention counseling service run by her brother-in-law, Larry Laws.
Jonathan Wilson
Yildiz Yilmaz says she couldn't have navigated the mortgage process without the help of her First Home Alliance, the nonprofit foreclosure prevention counseling service run by her brother-in-law, Larry Laws.

The rate of foreclosure is dropping in Prince William County. A few years ago there were 8,000 foreclosures in the county, but last year the number dropped to 6,000 and continues to decline.

Cuts force layoffs

But Larry Laws, founder of the non-profit financial counseling service First Home Alliance, says there are still plenty of people in trouble, and funding cuts from the state and the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development mean many organizations can't give the support they once did.

"Beginning last year, the funding from the state decreased by 50 percent," he says. "Now, the HUD funding is projected to be totally taken away, which is about a third of our operating budget."

Laws says the cuts to his $110,000 budget have forced him to whittle down his staff.

"From 2008 until today, our staff has been reduced from 12 down to 2," he says. "Just in the last two weeks I had to layoff our translator. So now it's only two paid staff members," he says.

Group's real life success stories

Yildiz Yilmaz -- who also happens to be Laws' sister-in-law -- can attest to the effectiveness of foreclosure prevention counseling.

She was underwater on her mortgage -- but after two years of negotiations helped along by First Home Alliance, she still has her house, and her previous $4,000 monthly payment has been cut in half.

"And I hope and wish that everyone who's in trouble will come in the end to the same result -- to save their houses," she says.

Looking for help from local government

Right now, Laws is looking for help anywhere he can get it. Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chair Corey Stewart says the county is willing to fill in some of the gaps.

"We are going to look for ways to fund these organizations as we continue to see some people who are in financial hardships and are going into foreclosure," Stewart says.

But Stewart isn't specific about how much help the county can provide.

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