HOUSTON - Rent and mortgage payments are coming due again soon. If you can't afford to pay them, HUD-certified counselors say they're ready to help you through the financial crisis and to try to avoid eviction or foreclosure.
A Housing and Urban Development approved counselor is specially trained by the government to help you try to stay in your home. And their counseling is free.
"It's embarrassing crying like this, I was hoping somebody would listen," said mother of one, Heather Panizo.
Panizo says she heads to court this week to fight being evicted from their apartment.
"It's very stressful. I don't remember the last time I was able to sleep," said Panizo.
Her Lone Star Legal Aid attorney plans to argue that her home is federally protected from eviction under the CARES Act.
The CARES Act is one of many resources that can help people stay in their homes, according to GreenPath, a national non-profit organization with HUD-certified housing counselors.
GreenPath CEO Kristen Holt says their counselors can help homeowners, for example, secure 6 to 12 months of mortgage forbearance through the CARES Act.
"We're your partner in this. We're a non-profit and we're going to help you understand your options. We're funded by HUD so there's no cost to you to get the housing counseling," said Holt.
GreenPath counselors begin by helping you cut your monthly bills and spending. They will even contact your lenders for you to arrange deferrals or payment plans.
"We can help you with contacting your lender if your want or you're nervous about that or you're confused," said Holt.
And they can refer renters to local rental assistance and resources to help them avoid eviction.
"Our counselors are all trained in empathy. We have an ability to make you start feeling better immediately so you can move from extreme stress into proactive action," Holt said.
They know the stress families are facing.
"I'm very worried. I'm very worried, not knowing. I am and I just don't know what I'm going to do," said Panizo.
You can call GreenPath at 1-800-550-1961 or visit their website at https://www.greenpath.com/.
You'll find more organizations with HUD-certified counselors at https://apps.hud.gov/offices/hsg/sfh/hcc/hcs.cfm?webListAction=search&searchstate=TX.
If you need legal help with an eviction, you can contact Lone Star Legal Aid at https://lonestarlegal.blog/.