Most individuals and families are one or two paychecks or one sudden injury from falling behind in their residential mortgage payments and possibly losing their homes.
"We're seeing homeowners - and it isn't the way it was three or four years ago with the subprime or (risky) loans - who are coming in for help," said Savonna Reagan, a housing counselor at STEP Inc., 2138 Lincoln St.
These are homeowners who followed the script of the American dream, who have not had the opportunity to save for a rainy day and are just meeting their daily expenses, she said.
"One slip and fall, one employer cuts back on work hours, and they are in serious trouble," Reagan said.
At present, the housing counselors at STEP are seeing a cross-section of the community asking for assistance. "There's no clear cut demographic," Reagan said. "Absolutely not."
Those seeking counseling and facing foreclosure are living in homes on the lower and upper end of the scale.
"No one is immune," Reagan said. "If they receive (foreclosure) notices by mail, they should run - not walk - into one of the counseling agencies," Reagan maintained. "Please don't ignore notices in the mail."
With no income stipulations to receiving help and services available without cost, Joe Campagna, an attorney and home ownership counselor with STEP, said the counselors are standing by.
"They don't know what to do," Campagna said of many people facing foreclosure. In most cases, they have not had a meaningful conversation with a local housing counselor or attorney, he said.
The administration of President Barack Obama has created federal programs to assist debtors and give them a fair shot at several alternatives to losing their home, Campagna said.
"We're trying to make the home affordable and that is happening with what is known as Home Affordable Modification program with participating lenders throughout the nation," Reagan said.
"The homeowner has the ability to lower interest rate on loans to 2 percent for a period of time," Reagan said. "They can extend the loan terms to 40 years and there is also an opportunity to do a principle reduction."
Principle in a home loan is the original amount borrowed. Each month, the principle repaid is the amount of repayment that exceeds interest and fees charged.
STEP can get homeowners, who go through the process and are eligible, into a plan with lenders to get the monthly mortgage, principle, interest and insurance payment to as close as 31 percent of the gross household income as possible, Reagan said.
"Those who think they are eligible should contact their lenders and initialize the application process," she said. "We sometimes initiate the process for them and after that the homeowner would be put into a three-month trial plan with the payment reflecting closely what the 31 percent would look like."
At the conclusion of the third payment, the homeowner gets another packet stipulating what the permitted modification and interest rate will be, Reagan said. Should the interest rate lower to 2 percent, that would lock in for five years with interest not exceeding 5 percent.
The best advice, however, is for those confused and worried to drop by the STEP office and be persistent and stay the course, Reagan said.
Asked about the new mortgage foreclosure diversionary conference opportunity to forestall potential foreclosures in Lycoming County, Reagan said she was hopeful it will help a lot of people.
Those conferences will be especially important when conversations with lenders are unclear and/or are not successful, she said.
"It is an opportunity for the debtor to get something meaningful and get a fresh start with the mortgage process," she said. "Even if you are frightened with the process, call anyway."