y've lost their jobs, their savings and sometimes their cars.
As unemployment insurance begins to run out, tensions rise and self-esteem lags. And then, the final blow hits.
The eviction notice arrives.
For many people hit hard by the recession and recent layoffs, word that they are about to be put out on the street is more than they can take, housing counselors say.
"Some people really come unglued," said Bertina A. Nick, a housing counselor with the Anne Arundel Community Action Agency. "Lots of peopleare frozen with fear. They try to avoid the situation."
"They're upset -- they're losing their homes," said James E. Holman, the county's supervising constable, who arranges two or three evictions every day. "It's emotional and some of them get violent. If it gets too violent, we have to call the police in."
According to statistics compiled at Anne Arundel District and Circuit courts, both evictions and foreclosures continue to climb as more people lose jobs and run out of savings and unemployment benefits.
Nick, who counsels families facing foreclosure, said she has seen a dramatic increase in the number of people wanting information about dealing with creditors.
"People are knocking down the door. I'm seeing six people a day," she said. "It's severe."
Nick said she is working with 138 county families facing foreclosure, most of whom have lost a job or had a reductionin their work hours.
In the past two months, 60 foreclosure notices were filed at county Circuit Court, a 150 percent increase over the same two months last year. A total of 171 notices were filed during1990; experts expect 1991 to top that by a significant amount.
Inthe first nine months of this year, almost 900 eviction notices havebeen filed in District Court, a 5- to 10-percent increase over the same period last year. As the recession moves into its second year, with no real end in sight, the numbers of people facing the loss of their homes continues to climb steadily.
The state's Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program, which provided short-term financial help to people behind in their mortgage payments, ran out of money Oct. 17, said Nick, making it even tougher for some families to stave off foreclosure.
"A lot of people were already in the pipeline and counting on that help," she said. As assistance programs run out of money, somefamilies are left with fewer options.
"We use local churches, andthey are running out of money, too," said Jan Holland, of the countyDepartment of Social Services. "It's bad and it's getting worse. Theresult will be a lot more homeless people."
A large part of the problem is that many families have been living closer to the edge, with less money in savings than in years past. Many do not have three orfour months' living expenses in the bank, including mortgage payments. Since both salaries are needed to pay for housing, if one person loses a job or has a reduction in hours, it may seem impossible to paythe mortgage and put food on the table.
But Nick said she believes most people can work out a plan to save their homes if they are committed. "I don't believe there are any hopeless cases. That's how I approach it," she said.
When people come in asking for help, the first thing she does is assess how bad the situation is. Then she helpsdevise a strategy to save their home.
Sometimes calling the mortgage company and setting up a payment plan to help the family get caught up is all that's
needed. Other times, people have deeper financial problems and need to seek guidance through professional credit counselors, like the Consumer Credit Counseling Service, a non-profit organization with offices throughout Maryland.
Nick said many banksand mortgage companies have been cooperative in recent months. With the increase in foreclosures, rising unemployment and the soft real estate market, banks don't want to take back homes they'll then have ahard time selling.
"There's such a crunch . . . they don't want all these houses back. What are they going to do with them?" Nick said.
Landlords also have been willing to give people some leeway, said Elizamae Robinson, a housing counselor who helps people facing eviction. Legally, however, landlords can start the eviction process after one rent payment is missed, she said.
By the time most people seek her help, she said, they are two to three months behind in their rent. Nick said homeowners tend to be at least three months behind in their mortgage payments, and she has counseled some who are as many as 10 to 12 months behind.
Both counselors stressed that as soon asindividuals know they will have a decrease in income, they should seek help. Many creditors are willing to reduce monthly payments if they are approached early, before the problems become severe.
Reorganizing debts and getting on a good budget -- stripped of everything but the most essential expenses -- can generally see a family through until they find work.