Programs aim to help educate home buyers, prevent foreclosures

ALPENA – Northeast Michigan Community Services Agency is providing foreclosure prevention services, as well as two new education programs.

The organization received a $225,000 grant of National Mortgage Settlement money, Shannon McKinstry said. It’ll fund three programs in 11 counties across Northeast Michigan, including Alpena, Alcona, Montmorency and Presque Isle counties. One is for foreclosure prevention, another is to educate first-time homebuyers and the third is to teach financial capabilities.

McKinstry is NEMCSA’s financial coach, and will teach the classes. Unlike those for similar agencies, she can travel to meet clients closer to home.

“NEMCSA prides themselves on really reaching out to clients,” she said.

The mortgage foreclosure prevention services McKinstry can provide depends greatly on the situation of the mortgage holder, she said. There are a number of programs out there, including those specifically for loans through Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.

“If it’s a person who’s just behind on a payment, I might work with the Salvation Army or St. Vincent de Paul or (Department of Human Services) to get that payment caught up,” she said. “It really depends on that person’s situation on how I go about that.”

Foreclosure assistance from NEMCSA isn’t just for those in foreclosure, McKinstry said. Those who lost their job or are struggling to make their mortgage payments can seek help as well.

Either way, McKinstry’s services are free of charge, she said. They can be especially helpful for those going through tax foreclosure. It’s a three-year process, one that homeowners typically don’t understand.

“It’s a very confusing process, it’s different than going through a foreclosure through a mortgage company,” she said. “You don’t even have to have a mortgage to get the assistance for property taxes. I think a lot of people think if they’ve paid off their property, they’re on their own. That’s not the case.”

McKinstry will be meeting with Alpena Alcona Area Credit Union, Besser Credit Union and others to get first-time homebuyer classes set up, she said. She’s hoping to get experts on lending, real estate and home inspection to speak for these classes. Other topics include budgeting and saving to buy a home, and she’s even invited local chefs to talk about buying food on a small budget.

Financial capability classes are more in-depth, McKinstry said. She actually goes through the credit report of an individual client.

And for clients of these three programs, McKinstry said she can use NEMCSA’s large network of references to any other services they may need.

“Somebody might call for foreclosure assistance, but also, they need help getting propane or fuel oil,” she said. “We have access to referrals for that.”

Anyone interested in the three programs can find out more by calling McKinstry at 358-4627 or emailing her at:

Jordan Travis can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5688. Follow Jordan on Twitter @jt_alpenanews. Read his blog, A Snowball’s Chance, at