Program lets Hoosier volunteers get mortgage help

In Indiana, unemployed people who receive federal money to cover their mortgage payments can repay the favor by volunteering.

The new program, dubbed HoosierCorps, is unique among the 18 states participating in the federal Hardest Hit Fund, said Emily Duncan, spokeswoman for the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority.

“Your community’s helping you. Why not have you help your community in some type of service work?” Duncan said.

Indiana received $221 million through the Hardest Hit Fund in the fall of 2010 and is now starting to ramp up its distributions. So far, 52 households are receiving payments and about 2,000 people are in the application process, Duncan said.

The state expects to reach about 16,000 people. Referrals come through the Indiana Foreclosure Prevention Network and its 1-877-Get-Hope hotline.

The money is a forgivable, no-interest loan, which can bring delinquent mortgages current and continue to cover payments for 12 to 18 months. But recipients have to do a number of things to keep up their end of the deal. The main requirement is paying 30 percent of gross income, including unemployment benefits, toward the mortgage.

In Indiana, recipients also must take part in approved job-training or education programs. HoosierCorps is a third option. Volunteers have to work 40 hours a month.

Like the program as a whole, HoosierCorps is just getting under way. United Way of Central Indiana, which will oversee the volunteer work in Marion and surrounding counties, hopes to see 1,000 participants a year, said Alan Witchey, volunteer center director.

United Way has approved 35 not-for-profits to work with HoosierCorps, but at this point they're still waiting for referrals from foreclosure-prevention agencies, Witchey said.

United Way plans to use HoosierCorps for the benefit of the volunteers as much as charities, Witchey said. Volunteers will be placed in jobs where they can use their professional skills, and they'll attend workshops on how to leverage that experience in the job hunt.

“Through volunteerism, they can network and develop new job leads,” Witchey said. “They can do a whole host of things that make them more appealing to hire.”

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