Struggling homeowners look to free services

Local business and homeowners struggling to keep their properties out of foreclosure and their businesses afloat say they are turning to some free community resources for help.

Kwok Fay Hugh, a carpenter who lives in Elmsford, says his home is currently facing foreclosure. So far this year, 500 people have filed for foreclosure and half of them have already lost their homes. Hugh received a summons of complaint in February, despite thinking he had made his mortgage payments and properly refinanced his home.

Hugh says he recently spent $28,000 to replace his home's chimney and make other repairs after a carbon monoxide leak. To help him sort out his expenses and hopefully keep his home, Hugh sought the advice of Community Housing Innovations, a free foreclosure counseling service.

Peter Spino, a foreclosure counselor with Community Housing Innovations, says the most important thing people can do when facing money problems is to inform their banks.

"Immediately contact your lender, whether you are behind or about to fall behind," Spino says. "That's key."

Terry Schneider, who owns Central Eyes Optical in Hartsdale, says his business is suffering and bringing in just a quarter of the money he was making before Wall Street's decline. Though he has applied for many loans, Schneider says he has been turned away each time.

Schneider says the banks he's dealt with have told him loans may be available after the regulations of President Obama's economic stimulus plan are completed.

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