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Homeowner Spraypaints "Help!" "Foreclosure!" Onto House

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As part of our Bearing Witness 2.0 project, the Huffington Post is rounding up compelling local stories about the victims of the recession.

A distressed homeowner in San Antonio, Texas, spray-painted "Help!" and "Foreclosure!"on the side of her home when she learned she might lose it, reports Janet Kwak for WOAI-TV. Mary Ann Herrera has been unable to make payments since losing her administrative assistant job in March.

"I didn't know if we were going to be homeless," she told WOAI. Herrera eventually won a modification, but with back taxes her bills are even larger than they used to be. She doubts she will be able to hold onto her house for long. "I used to pay $440 a month," she said. The bank "did lower the payment to $380... but I have to pay house taxes, house insurance, and the escrow for those past eight months, and now I'm facing $760 a month."

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An emergency fund meant to assist Idaho military families while soldiers are deployed is being used to help current soldiers get through the recession at home, reports Tim Woodward for the Statesman. Idaho National Guard Pfc. Bambi Williams, a single mother of three, lost her civilian job as a nursing assistant this fall, and could not keep paying the rent. She told the paper that she would he homeless without the Idaho Guard and Reserve Family Support Fund, which paid for two months of rent and gave her a $600 gift card to Walmart for food and household needs.

The fund was started in 2004 to help military families at home with things like transportation and major household appliances. Maj. Jim Hicks, the fund's secretary-treasurer, attributed a quarter of their current requests to the poor economy. "That's quite a bit more than when the program started," he said. The fund distributes interest-free loans and no-strings-attached grants. Williams said that, because of the grant she received, this year "will probably be the best Christmas we've had in a long time."

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On Saturday, the school district in Salinas, Calif., will team up with a local church to host a Christmas party for about 400 homeless students in the city, reports Maria Ines Zamudio for the Californian.

"Most of these families are not going to have a Christmas at all," said Cheryl Camany, homeless liaison and outreach consultant for the district. "[Parents] have lost their jobs, homes and vehicles. They don't even know if they are going to have a roof over their heads on Christmas."

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A family in Sarasota, Fla., would have lost their home had it not been for the help they received from the Jewish Family and Children's Service, reports the Herald-Tribune's Jennifer Shea. Kevin Witkowski is a mechanic whose business has fallen off. "I get paid by the job, not by the hour," he said. When his pay declined by about 45 percent, the Witkowskis started to fall behind on their housing payments.

Kevin and his wife, Teresa, negotiated with their bank, but even their new payments were a struggle, and after two months Teresa got in touch with the Jewish Family and Children's Service. The JFCS helped them make a mortgage payment and provided financial advice for the future. They managed to keep their home and "we are surviving and paying our bills," said Teresa.

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Anslee Willett reports for the Gazette in Colorado Springs, Colo., that Marti, who preferred to keep her last name private, was out of work for three months after her husband found her collapsed on their living room floor with intestinal ulcers. While she was recovering, the family could not pay all of their bills, and the couple and their three children were almost evicted.

They turned to Ecumenical Social Ministries, a charity receiving grants from the Empty Stocking Fund, a project partly organized by the Gazette. Marti's family was given some money to help with the rent, as well as emergency food and future access to their food bank.

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Brain Wofford, whose house was featured on the TV show "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," has been given additional time to avoid foreclosure, reports the San Diego Union-Tribune's Tanya Mannes. The house was supposed to be sold Monday, but after media exposure the bank, OneWest, has delayed the sale until mid-January. Brian's daughter, Rebekah, said the family was prepared move out, if they need to: "We love our house, but it doesn't define us."


HuffPost readers: Seen a compelling local story? Have a neighbor going to bizarre lengths to get through the recession? Tell us about it! Email jmhattem@gmail.com.


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