By Emma Bowen Meyer For The Herald Bulletin
The Herald Bulletin
---- — When Phil Carrell lost his job, he was afraid he would lose his house as well. Without income during his job search, his mortgage payment became impossible to pay.
That’s when he turned to Indiana’s Hardest Hit Fund, administered through the United Way of Madison County.
When the housing bubble burst and the economy took a nosedive, many homeowners in Madison County struggled with mortgage payments. The number of foreclosures – not just locally, but across the country – was shocking and created even more problems.
Stepping in to alleviate some of the woe, the U.S. Department of the Treasury established the Housing Finance Agency Innovation Fund for the Hardest-Hit Markets (Hardest Hit Fund). With $221 million to provide assistance, Indiana targets low- to moderate-income homeowners within the state.
To receive assistance, residents must participate in approved training, education or volunteer work. The United Way matches those who choose volunteer work with agencies that need help.
“We interview and find what they are passionate about,” said Julie Barton, outreach coordinator.
“Some people love the elderly, others love dogs and others love children. We find them a place where they are happiest and most productive.”
Phil Carrell chose to log his 20 hours a month at the Senior Café, which is an outreach of LifeStream, at the Pendleton Public Library. Lunch and activities are provided to seniors. He found he liked the work so much that he logged more hours than necessary and continues to volunteer even though he has found employment.
“(Volunteering at the Senior Café is a) perfect fit for me and, over a short period of time, I have come to find out that working with this program has turned out to be a two-way street,” he said.
Indiana’s Hardest Hit Fund has been expanded to include hardships beyond unemployment, including underemployment, medical procedures, death of a household member and military service. Assistance in 2012 totaled $8.9 million dollars to 1069 homeowners while assistance in 2013 has totaled $23.9 million to 2258 homeowners thus far.
Volunteering is an important component of the program for several reasons.
“The person who has lost income still has that incentive to get up in the morning and go do something and interact with people and network,” said Barton. “Some have found jobs through this networking. Participants feel they are contributing and that ‘give-back’ mentality in enhanced.”
One client has a medical background and is volunteering in a pharmacy in a food pantry. This position requires high-level skills. Volunteers have also been placed with schools, Operation Love, Cancer Services Center, LifeStream and the Humane Society, among others.
“(The program) was a miracle and saved our lives,” said Winndy, Phil’s wife, who volunteered alongside him. “We would be homeless without it.”
Latest in a series u This is the latest in a series of weekly articles, being published Mondays, about the impact of United Way programs in Madison County. How to give u To contribute to the United Way's campaign: -- Visit www.unitedwaymadisonco.org -- Call 643-7493 Who is eligible for the Hardest Hit Fund: u You may be eligible for the Hardest Hit Fund program (HHF) if you: u Are an Indiana homeowner, owning only one home and currently living in that home; u Have experienced a loss of income due to unemployment through no fault of your own; - Are an unemployment insurance recipient or former unemployment recipient (within the past 12 months) who is now re-employed; - Meet certain income guidelines; - Are willing to participate in approved training, education or volunteer work while receiving HHF assistance. Call 1-877-GET-HOPE or visit www.877gethope.org