By Mary R. Kenney
As the headlines shift to a recovery in the housing market, with an increase in national home values and home sales, it would be easy to forget that many of our friends and neighbors are still struggling through the bad economy. Last year, over 28,000 Illinois families lost their homes. And the foreclosure rate in Illinois continues to be high.
Determining what options are available can be a daunting task. And when time is wasted, the amount required for a homeowner to bring his or her loan current can escalate quickly.
Gov. Quinn launched the Illinois Foreclosure Prevention Network (IFPN) last year to ensure homeowners can efficiently and easily access all the resources they need in one place, free of charge from a reliable and trusted source.
IFPN coordinates the efforts of various state agencies and nonprofit organizations working to connect homeowners with resources, providing a single point of entry for those seeking help. The network simplifies access to counseling, legal advice and even provides financial assistance to qualifying homeowners. Most importantly, it offers homeowners a safe, trusted and free source for support.
Since its launch just one year ago, the network has connected over 350,000 Illinois families to information and support.
Nearly 36,000 Illinois families have been connected to counselors who provide one-on-one counseling in over 80 locations around the state. Over 3,400 homeowners have attended IFPN events and workshops where they can receive on-site loan modifications, face-to-face counseling and apply for financial assistance. And over 6,000 families have received critical financial assistance through the State's Hardest Hit Program, helping to bring their mortgage current and keep it that way.
These services are vital to homeowners in need and are easily accessed through the IFPN website — http://www.keepyourhomeillinois.org  and toll-free helpline — 1-855-KEEP-411.
So while we are grateful to see signs of hope in the housing market, let's not forget about those who still need some help. Let's make 2013 a year of real recovery — not just for some, but for all Illinois families. Pass the number along. Use it yourself. Access the resources that are available — and do it now. The resources are free, safe and reliable.
Preventing additional foreclosures is a critical step to keep our communities strong, our families healthy and the economic recovery moving forward.
Mary R. Kenney is executive director of the Illinois Housing Development Authority.