Offers of aid may save family's home Help includes money, clothes, even a house

September 23, 1996|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,SUN STAFF

Offers of financial and other help poured in yesterday for a Baltimore family about to lose their home because an injury to the family's provider left him unable to work.

Walter and Mary Wyatt, parents of three children, were told their bank will repossess their Northeast Baltimore rowhouse because they fell behind on the mortgage after serious back injuries forced Mr. Wyatt out of work. In April, Congress killed a federal program that would have helped the Wyatts keep their home.

Yesterday, as Mr. Wyatt recuperated from back surgery at Sinai Hospital, more than a dozen area residents and business people offered to help pay the mortgage, launch efforts to raise money, collect clothing for the children -- and even give the family a place to live.

"I feel horrible about what's happening to these people," said Sandy Hoffman, 39, owner of a home-based business in Pikesville and mother of an 11-year-old girl.

Hoffman said she has never before attempted fund raising. But the family's circumstances moved her, she said, and in the next couple of days she expects to set up a bank account for donations to help the family keep its home.

"This is a man who wants to work and he's young," said Sharon Miller of Bolton Hill, an architect and mother of two grown daughters who hopes to come up with one mortgage payment. "Like my own kids, I could see that happening to them."

Arnold Michael, a 71-year-old Randallstown gynecologist who said both he and his wife recently had back surgery like Mr. Wyatt's, said his wife and daughter decided that their family should help.

"We have the means to help," Michael said. "These people need it, and unless a lot of people get together, we don't see how they'll pull out of it."

Mrs. Wyatt, who brought her children to the hospital yesterday to visit with their father, choked back tears as she heard about the offers.

"It touches my heart," she said. "It shows there's still humanity in this world. There's still people out there that see others' plight and are human."

Mr. Wyatt, still groggy from his pain medication, said from his hospital bed that he appreciates the offers, but expects to repay anyone who makes a donation.

The offers came in response to a Sun story in yesterday's editions, detailing the plight of Mr. Wyatt, his wife, and three children, ages 6 months, 3 and 4.

The 32-year-old Mr. Wyatt, an employee of Victory Racing Plate Co., a horseshoe maker in Rosedale, suffered back injuries more than a year ago while repairing equipment. The injuries sidelined him, first for 2 1/2 months last year, then since May 12, after doctors discovered ruptured discs and nerve damage.

Both his employer and its insurer have challenged his workers compensation claim, contending that his injuries did not stem from the accident. But the state Workers Compensation Commission in Baltimore, in a February ruling, found that Mr. Wyatt had been injured on the job. Because of the appeals, the commission has rescinded disability pay it had initially awarded for the period since May. The Wyatts have been forced onto food stamps and Aid to Families with Dependent Children.

Five months ago, the Wyatts would have had a chance to reduce or postpone mortgage payments on their FHA-insured loan for up to three years. In Maryland, 800 to 1,000 homeowners had done so each year as part of the Federal Housing Administration's Assignment Program. In April, Congress eliminated the program, maintaining that private lenders could work more effectively with homeowners -- and at less cost to taxpayers -- to prevent foreclosures.

That never happened for the Wyatts, now six months behind on loan payments of $532 a month. NationsBank notified the family on July 24 that it would repossess the house in October. Bank officers would not comment on the case as of Friday and could not be reached yesterday.

The Wyatts have searched for an apartment but say no landlord will rent to them because of their mortgage problems, even though family members offered to help with the rent.

One man, who asked not to be identified, offered a possible temporary solution.

"I have a house that I would be willing, under the right circumstances, to let him live in until March," he said, describing himself as a corporate manager who "doesn't believe the government has to be available to help people when people are in need and can, to some extent, help themselves."

Jennifer Pearson, a 26-year-old community college teacher from Parkville who just bought her first home, said she and her husband hope to contribute to the Wyatts' mortgage.

"You just hate to see people in that kind of thing," she said. "I think people have given up their responsibility for taking care of people, and that might solve a lot of problems."

Pub Date: 9/23/96

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