Thousands turn out for immediate mortgage help

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Tuesday August 11, 2009
Thousands lined up outside the Georgia World Congress Center Tuesday hoping to get relief from unaffordable mortgages during the last day of the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America’s “Save the Dream” mortgage restructuring tour…

The tour was originally set to end in Atlanta on Monday, but Darren Duarte, spokesman for NACA, said the Atlanta stop was extended an extra day to meet the enormous demand.

“We’ve had huge lines every day,” Duarte said. “This is definitely the largest day.”

Duarte estimated that 2,000 to 3,000 people were waiting in line Tuesday morning. By comparison, on Friday, the first day of the tour’s Atlanta stop, about 3,500 attended for the whole day.

The tour stopped in Cleveland, Chicago and St. Louis before it came to Atlanta, the only city where it was extended an extra day. Duarte said Atlanta showed the largest last-day attendance of any of the tour’s cities so far.

“The need is great wherever you go,” Duarte said. “I think people feel helpless that they can’t get their mortgages down. A lot of people here have been telling us they can’t sleep at night because of their mortgage.”

The “Save the Dream” tour provides free same-day mortgage modifications for many of those who attend.

Homeowners meet with counselors and answer detailed questions about their finances and mortgages. The counselor then makes a recommendation to the bank. NACA has legal agreements from the country’s largest mortgage holders that requires them, in most cases, to restructure the mortgage based on that recommendation.

One of Atlanta’s biggest success stories was a $50,000 drop in one homeowner’s principal, Duarte said.

Lane Hammond, who works as a family services counselor for Kennedy Memorial Gardens, said his monthly payment dropped from $805 to $385.19.

Hammond arrived at the World Congress Center at 6:30 a.m. and received his solution later in the morning.

“I was elated,” Hammond said. “I’m walking on a cloud.”

The tour’s next stops include Phoenix, Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York.

The Atlanta event lasts until 8 p.m. Tuesday. Homeowners who cannot be seen today can access NACA’s free service online at Results will take between 30 and 60 days.

–Staff writer Michelle E. Shaw contributed to this report.