On Tuesday I volunteered through Rock Ventures with the Wayne County Treasurer’s Office at their Show Cause Hearings for households facing foreclosure due to non-payment or non-compliance with their 2014 property taxes. Anyone familiar with taxes and Detroit knows that especially a few years ago, home values and their respective property taxes were severely misaligned. This placed a much higher tax burden on homeowners than they rightly should have to pay.
A show cause hearing is essentially a last chance effort to keep people in their homes. The treasurer’s office mailed out notices to the thousands of Wayne County residents at risk of foreclosure due to a two-year delinquency in their property taxes. The notices were to get people’s attention and let them know that there were resources available to prevent the loss of their home.
The hearings represented the last chance before action was taken to put homes in foreclosure, for the homeowners to either pay their 2014 property taxes OR enroll in a payment plan to pay them off over the next few months. There were dozens of county representatives there to work one-on-one with homeowners. There were also area non-profits and free legal aid services available to anyone who needed additional assistance.
My role was as one of the first people that the homeowners saw when they entered the building. As smoothly as possible, I tried to connect them with the exact service or person they needed, to try to minimize their waiting time and stress in dealing with what I can only imagine would be an incredibly stressful situation. Throughout the day, we assisted 1,062 individuals and families. If we did our jobs correctly, that’s over 1,000 people who will no longer be receiving foreclosure notices in the mail and who will remain homeowners.
The day was one of emotional highs and lows.
The most rewarding experience of the day for me was being able to tell a young man and his fiance that their notice was sent in error and that his diligent payments each month had gotten them out of delinquency, that he had nothing to worry about. The surprise in his eyes of seeing a $1600 debt he was prepared to settle, erased, and the smile that followed, coupled with the way she hugged him after receiving that news, is imprinted in my mind and I won’t soon forget it.