MEDINA TWP. — Six years ago, Scott and Laurie Christner had no idea where to find food pantries in Medina County. They never had the need.
Last month, the couple visited four as medical bills and reduced work hours threaten to oust them from the Lafayette Road home they built in 1995.
The Christners were among about 100 people who attended Tuesday’s Homeowner’s Assistance Expo at the Western Reserve Masonic Community Center, 4931 Nettleton Road.
“We’re here because there’s supposed to be government money for people like us, hardworking, honest people who want to keep our houses,” Laurie said.
The Christners, who have two children, hoped to qualify for the Ohio Housing Finance Agency’s stability program, also known as Hardest-Hit Funds, to save their home.
Like others Tuesday, they sat down to apply for the funds with officers from the Empowering and Strengthening Ohio’s People program. Hardest-Hit Funds provide up to $15,000 for those who are unemployed or under employed to help catch up or pay their mortgage.
The Home Assistance Expo didn’t begin until noon, but the first person showed up at 10:30 a.m. to get in line to talk to state finance program officers, said Sandy Davis, administrative assistant to the Medina Department of Economic Development.
“There are people coming in for other things, too,” she said. “There is a lot of help for people who lost their jobs and are unemployed or re-employed but not making enough money.”
The Christners’ story was familiar to the organizations at the expo, including Medina County Workforce Development, Goodwill Industries and Community Legal Aid.
They filed for bankruptcy in 2005, about a year after Scott filed for disability after medical problems prevented him from continuing work at a Medina company where the couple met. Paying for medical bills was difficult, but they managed to get by on Laurie’s income, and also had help from their oldest son.
This winter, however, Laurie’s hours were cut from 40 to 28 per week, and their son lost his job. They were behind on their mortgage payment by four months but managed to catch up after they received income tax returns.
They’ve been without hot water before, and last weekend their cable and phone services were shut off. Laurie said she only has $44 until she is paid again.
“You do without to keep what you have,” she said.
Kelley Bush, director of workforce development for Goodwill Industries, said she heard many stories like the Christners’.
One woman, she said, took a buyout from Ford and went back to school but was worried about her job prospects. Another woman saw her hours at work were cut and she took a lower-paying job at a financial firm to make ends meet.
“She’s worried she won’t be able to make a house payment,” Bush said. “She’s struggling.”
Brunswick economic development manager Tim Smith said like the rest of Medina County, Brunswick residents have struggled to find employment and make house payments.
“Because people have been unemployed and under-employed for so long, that’s why people are struggling with their house payments,” he said. “When it lasts a long time, you start to fall farther and farther behind, and a lot of times you can’t do it on your own and you need to find resources to help you catch up.”
Contact Lisa Hlavinka at (330) 721-4048 or email@example.com.
WHERE TO GO FOR HELP:
Though the Homeowner’s Assistance Expo was a one-day event Tuesday, organizations in Medina County are still available to help those struggling financially.
The following organizations might be able to help:
• 2-1-1 is a telephone number that connects people to the right community resources for their unique situation. Provided by United Way, the service is available 24 hours a day.
• Empowering and Strengthening Ohio’s People officers at the Medina County Auditor’s Office can help people apply for the Hardest-Hit Funds and others during regular business hours. ESOP officers also write new mortgages for people facing the loss of their homes. To schedule an appointment, call (330) 725-9137.
• Problems with foreclosure can mean a lack of funds to do home repairs. Community Action Wayne/Medina has three departments: Child and Family Development, Economic Assistance and Housing.
Its home repair program targets five specific areas: roof repair, electric repair, no heat, no water and handicap accessibility. The Medina office can be reached at (330) 723-2229.
• Community Legal Aid gave presentations on the do’s and don’ts of foreclosure throughout the day. Community Legal Aid provides attorneys that offer free legal services to those who qualify. Those in need of advice can call the Legal Aid HelpLine at (800) 998-9454 between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday to see if they qualify.
• While there are more jobs available than there were about nine months ago, it can still be tough for those re-entering the workforce.
A spokeswoman for Medina County Workforce Development, 3721 Pearl Road, Medina Township, said “most people think it’s how it used to be, where you go door-to-door and fill out applications, but today you need to do more research.”
Workforce Development can help people polish their job-searching skills and help them find the right training. The office can be reached at (330) 723-9675.
— Lisa Hlavinka