It’s cleaning day in the Wilson-Heard home on Wagner Avenue. The father is using the vacuum upstairs, as 7-year-old Bryant runs down the stairs of the well-kept row home. “Mommy, can I pour my own cereal for breakfast?”
They are the sounds that can be heard within any typical home on a Sunday morning, but sadly, they are sounds that could be short lived in this house.
“There’s a lot of stress in my life these days and to maybe be losing our home,” Cindy Wilson-Heard says. “It’s hard to think about.”
Last week, Cindy and her husband received a second notice in the mail warning them that because of late payments on their mortgage, the family’s home was at risk of going into foreclosure. The family could become part of the growing number of foreclosed homes in the Logan and Olney area—now currently at a staggering 963 units in that region alone, according to RealtyTrac—if the owners can not make their payments. Not surprisingly, the trouble appears to stem from the downturn in the economy that is affecting many homeowners as of late.
“Work is slow and the bills just don’t stop,” Wilson-Heard says.
Although the family has a fixed-rate mortgage—one that Cindy herself claims has always seemed, “pretty affordable”— her efforts to go back to school and a decline in the overall household income, has greatly affected the family.
Because of the considerable cutback on her hours as a medical clerk at Albert Einstein Medical Center, and her husband’s difficulty finding work in a dwindling construction business, the family is at risk of losing their home of almost 14 years.
“I get hours when I can, but it’s been a lot less lately,” Cindy says.
“We’ve tried to call that hotline, but they just keep telling us to call the mortgage company,” Wilson-Heard says.” I’m starting to get a little worried now.”
Wilson-Heard is referring to the hotline phone number that was set up through the city’s Mortgage Foreclosure Prevention Program, a plan that began in April 2008 to help fight the growing number of Philadelphia residents who were losing their homes. Although the program has seen some success through a number of activities— door-to-door programs through outreach teams and courtroom meetings—Cindy and her husband feel like they have been given the run around when they have tried to get into contact with someone.
“As far as we’re concerned, these programs have not been helpful in the least,” she says. “Luckily, the people at the mortgage company have been pretty helpful with us. Otherwise I don’t know what we’d do.”
Unfortunately, this block on Wagner Avenue is not new to foreclosure. A former neighbor of the Wilson-Heard family received the same notices about a year ago and was ultimately not able to save her home.
“One day she was here, and the next she was gone,” Wilson-Heard says. “I just hope it isn’t like that for us.”
The boards on the windows and the graffiti on the house near the Wilson-Heard home are what remain as a constant reminder of the tragedy that is foreclosure. It is something that this family is trying its best to avoid, but it’s something that could potentially disrupt the life that the family has worked hard to make for its members.
“We moved to this house almost 14 years ago from Germantown,” Cindy says. “We just wanted something better for our kids.”
This better life that the family has made throughout the years in the Olney area has been difficult, but it has been worth the hardships. The family has seen its income decrease—due in part to Cindy’s efforts in college—and now her ability to obtain the nursing license she has worked so hard toward is also in jeopardy. In order for Wilson-Heard to get her license, she first needs to take, “the boards,” as she puts it. This, however, is a feat in itself, due to the $200 fee that comes with the exam.
“We just can’t come up with that money right now,” Cindy says. “But we need for me to take those boards.”
The family has always seemed to be able to save money but now finds that to be a daunting task. “Saving hasn’t been happening,” Wilson-Heard says. ”Now we are struggling to just make ends meet.”
It is a struggle that many families are making these days, and unfortunately, it is one that is making the difference in whether a home can be saved or lost. For Cindy and her family, they are trying to stay optimistic that efforts through the mortgage company will be enough to get them past this difficult time.
“We’re still hoping, but that’s even getting hard these days,” she says.