An "alarming rate" of Chattanooga home foreclosures has prompted officials to set up a hot line where people facing the loss of their homes can get help.
"Our job is to make sure families get the help they need," said David Johnson, president and CEO of Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprises.
CNE teamed with the city to establish the hot line, which will be manned from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, Mr. Johnson said.
The hot line was established because of what Mr. Johnson called an "alarming rate" of foreclosures in the city between November 2008 and March 2009 - 346 homes. One of the hardest-hit areas is Brainerd with 77 foreclosures, Mr. Johnson said.
During a five-month period between June 2008 and October 2008, 512 homes were foreclosed on in Hamilton County, according to the Hamilton County Register of Deeds. Countywide, 521 homes were foreclosed on between November 2008 and March 2009, records show.
Hard-hit areas in Chattanooga include Highland Park and Alton Park, officials said.
The city received a $50,000 community development block grant from federal funds to help set up and maintain the hot line. The city and CNE officials announced the initiative Wednesday at a news conference in front of the Brainerd Recreational Center.
Mayor Ron Littlefield said he had spoken to county officials and found there is no money available for homeowners facing foreclosure right now.
"Many people who are facing foreclosure will lose their homes," he said. "There's not much we can do about that."
But those facing foreclosure in the future still have a chance of saving their homes by talking with their lenders, he said. The people manning the phone line can assist those people, he said.
He said the worst thing a person can do is hide from creditors and "bury their head in the sand."
CNE officials said when a person calls the hot line they can make an appointment to come in for advice on how to avoid foreclosure. CNE representatives then will advise the homeowners on how to work with lenders to set up affordable payment plans and possibly forbearance options.
Councilwoman Carol Berz, who represents the Brainerd area, said she felt one of the reasons Brainerd was hit hard by the crisis is because of the amount of development going on and people moving into the community.
"They're buying good homes, and people are losing their jobs," she said.
Mr. Johnson said a lot can be prevented from the outset.
"Mortgage lenders aren't in the business of owning property," he said.