Woman battles foreclosure in Philadelphia neighborhood

By Felicia Melvin
July 22, 2010

In 2009 the Saving Homes Saving Neighborhoods campaign was launched in West Oak Lane and Southwest Philadelphia, with the leadership of Margaret Shepherd, a woman who has faced and overcame foreclosure.

Saving Homes Saving Neighborhoods is a program that helps homeowners who are facing financial troubles and are worried about their futures. Saving Homes Saving Neighborhoods serves the community through outreach initiatives, counseling services, door-to-door advice, and provides better options for home owners in the Philadelphia area.

“I ended up going into foreclosure. It was embarrassing and an icky situation. I couldn’t tell my friends, my girls, or my family,” Margaret Shepherd, housing counselor, said. I was supporting a bad relationship and I didn’t maintain my finances.”

In 2009 2.82 million homes were foreclosed. Three million homes are expected to go into foreclosure in 2010.

Margaret Shepherd eventually sold her property and filed for bankruptcy.

“I had to start all over again,” Shepherd said. I had gotten to a point where I wanted to do something different and give something back. I wanted to help someone else avoid the same situation.  I began working for the Greater Philadelphia Urban Affairs Coalition (GPUAC).”

GPUAC is a nonprofit that works to improve life’s chances for young people, low-income families and minority-owned businesses by creating economic opportunities and strengthening nonprofit organizations in urban communities.

The Savings Homes Saving Neighborhoods local outreach workers use door-to-door counseling as a method to help community homeowners. They also participate in other community activities such as, town hall meetings, community events, block parties, church events, etc.

“It was hard at first going door-to-door,” Shepherd said. Those who are in trouble don’t want to talk to you at your door, but they would call. It was a humbling experience. In March 2009 GPUAC hosted a kickoff event for the program; they asked me to speak about my situation. I was really scared to tell my story, but after my talk a lady came up to me and told me ‘it was like I was living in her house.’ I busted out crying, it wasn’t just me.”

“GPUAC helped me by giving me the opportunity to help tenants and other people who are, and want to become homeowners. They have also helped me to give back to the community,” Shepherd said. They hired me to launch a Saving Homes Saving Neighborhoods program in West Oak Lane in 2009. Currently I am working as a housing counselor and Chanel Alexander has taken over the door-to-door outreach initiative.”

“Some advice I would give to anyone dealing with foreclosure would be to seek help! Call Saving Homes Saving Neighborhoods, call a counselor, call somebody; when that mail starts to come in try not to be afraid; help is out there, Shepherd said.

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Felicia Melvin

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