On Wednesday May 24, City of Ecorse residents gathered near and far to attend a foreclosure-prevention Town Hall meeting with guest speaker, Wayne County Treasurer Eric R. Sabree. When Mr. Sabree began his speech around 1 p.m., he encouraged residents that "there are solutions." Some of the solutions he offered were city-based. One program helps disabled veterans, another is a hardship program for those who have endured a trying year and have fallen behind on property taxes.
"We don't want you to lose your property," Mr. Sabree assured them. "Sometimes you give up when you don't have to give up."
Just by being present Mr. Sabree showed that the county wants to reach out to those struggling to pay their taxes. But, he went beyond by explaining how the Wayne County Treasurer office can assist. The first program he mentioned was the Distressed Owner Occupant Extension (DOOE). Another was the Interest Reduction Stipulated Payment Agreement (IRSPA). In this program, a resident can turn years of delinquent bills into one, low-interest payment plan. Sign-up ends June 7, 2017 and lasts through June 30, 2019.
Mr. Sabree also mentioned:
- the state-sponsored program, Step Forward, which offers a forgivable loan,
- the popularity of kiosks which has produced 31,000 transactions in the past five months, and
- $2,000 grant from the Department of Health and Human Services to prevent foreclosures.
Immediately following Mr. Sabree's speech, he offered the service of several of his skilled employees to help residents sign up for payment plans right on the spot.
Wayne County Treasurer employee, Felicia Tyler, and Treasurer Sabree assist taxpayers.
People were still walking in well after 2:30 p.m. as the Treasurer staff tirelessly worked to find solutions for each resident. Almost every one left with a smile.
"She gave me all the information I needed," one man said as he walked out the door.
"I really think it's great that he comes out and meets people," Gwen N., a struggling senior and widow said. "It made me feel good. For someone to sit down and [tell me] that I wasn't as bad off as I thought I was."
Manager of Community Relations Dept. for the City of Ecorse, Terri Capra, promoted the event for weeks. She called Mr. Sabree the "face of the county" for his hands-on approach of helping the community.
"He's approachable," Capra said. "He's not like 'the big bad Treasurer is going to come and take my house.' ...He cares."
In March, there were 80 occupied houses in Ecorse facing foreclosure. That number has decreased drastically to approximately 44. With the combined efforts and approachability of Treasurer Sabree, his staff, and City of Ecorse employees, over twelve Ecorse residents enrolled in payment plans.
Michelle Stone is a communication assistant and student at University of Michigan-Dearborn.
Supporting Editor- Amikka Smith