Totally Free, Inc. was recently featured in the February 2016 Housing and Urban Development newsletter. See the article below or see the entire newsletter HERE:
A HERITAGE OF HOMEOWNERSHIP FOR DESCENDANTS
Founded in 2001, Totally Free Inc. is a HUD-approved housing counseling agency headquartered in historic Brunswick, GA. The City of Brunswick has a rich history of African American heritage and Totally Free, Inc. has a wide reach among African American clientele.
Many of the modern day residents are direct descendants from West and Central Africa. Originally enslaved on rice plantations more than eight generations ago, the population has overcome many inequalities. After the Civil War ended, many of the former slaves kept working on plantations and moved to townships around Brunswick such as Freedman’s Rest and Needwood. Over time, the demographics of African American residents increased to more than 60 percent. Today, while the city continues to experience growth, there still is a great need for area residents to obtain safe and affordable housing.
A SAFE AND SECURE HOME OF HER OWN
Totally Free, Inc. has assisted thousands of African American consumers who wish to acquire new homes. For example, Totally Free, Inc. client Dana Beckman decided she was ready to purchase a safe and secure home for herself and her daughter.
After attending a homebuyer education class for more than 24 months, Beckman stated, “The information we received concerning homeownership was invaluable…without the help of the organization, I may not have been ready to purchase a new home.”
Although mortgage readiness times vary for new purchasers and each case has a unique set of circumstances, Beckman is now in the process of obtaining a new home through a down payment assistance program sponsored by a community banking partner. With focus, goal setting and planning to overcome challenges, this is just one of the countless families Totally Free, Inc. has helped over the past 15 years.
OVERCOMING UNFORESEEN FINANCIAL CHALLENGES
An African American couple with Southeast Georgia roots had no idea what challenges they would face during their homeownership journey. The wife was a native of Brunswick and the husband, who served for over 20 years in the U.S. Air Force, worked on a lucrative defense contract post-retirement. This dynamic opportunity led them to purchase their dream home on St. Simons Island, GA. in 2006.
In 2007, they decided to adopt a foster child and focus on providing a stable two-parent household. This decision resulted in a reduction of income and an increase in expenses. This unforeseen financial challege led to falling delinquent on their mortgage and excessive credit obligations. Overwhelmed and not knowing where to turn, they contacted Totally Free, Inc. After many days of hard work and determination, the matter was resolved with a loan modification. This saved their home as well as thousands of dollars by lowering their monthly payment. Since this difficult time, the couple now has a financial surplus, which has allowed them to start saving and preparing for the future.
Although it has taken longer than expected to rebound from the economic downturn, people have made great strides with hope and perseverance. Client Neal Howard was hit extremely hard during the past few years. Pre-2008, he was a successful businessman in the construction arena. He and his wife Arlene purchased a home in Blackshear, GA. that is a replica of Thomas Jefferson’s house in Monticello, VA. As an entrepreneur, he was forced to scale back financially but stayed determined to keep his family home.
Totally Free, Inc. assisted the Howards, who were granted a modification with significantly reduced payments along with annual principal reductions down to fair market value. Now Howard is back to work with $120 million in projected contracts and employing a 50 percent African American work force. “I think people are so beat up about the economy they have lost hope, but I’m proof that it does exist,” said Howard.
Please view the attached link to enjoy our success story featured in FDIC’s Winter 2013 Newsletter recently published: