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    Sunday, September 25, 2022

    New London nonprofit looks to bring housing counseling to the region

    New London ― A spinoff of the New London Homeless Hospitality Center is looking to become the first federally-approved housing counseling agency in Eastern Connecticut.

    Housing counseling agencies are authorized by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to help people get into homes, prevent foreclosure and become as financially stable as possible.

    The closest HUD-approved housing counseling centers to New London are in East Berlin, New Haven and Wallingford, according to the agency’s database.

    Homeless Hospitality Center Executive Director Cathy Zall and housing counseling coordinator Rain Daugherty said they created the Housing Resource Center to make the counseling services more accessible to people east of the river.

    Education and one-on-one counseling sessions are key parts of the housing counseling model, according to Zall. Another function involves connecting people with resources to help get them through tough times.

    Zall said services available through the homeless shelter – where she’s been at the helm since 2007 – currently kick in when people are “literally at the doorstep of homelessness.”

    She described the Housing Resource Center as an effort to be more proactive so people don’t get to that point.

    “I think we all recognize that it would make sense to be trying to be more creative and try to support people well before they’re just days away from being on the street,” she said.

    The hospitality center received $300,000 in pandemic-relief funds to launch the Housing Resource Center. The money is part of the $1.4 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds allocated to the city's Department of Human Services. The city received $26.2 million in total.

    In addition to referring clients to other groups or services that can provide assistance in accessing housing, food and jobs, Zall said the Housing Resource Center is in the position to offer “flexible financial assistance.”

    She gave the example of someone who needs help paying for car repairs so they can work enough hours to afford rent.

    “With the housing counseling agency and the ARPA funding, we can help a person with $500, let’s just say, toward fixing their car,” she said.

    Daugherty said the Housing Resource Center is currently seeking official recognition as a HUD housing counseling agency. She said the clock on the year-long process started ticking this month.

    First time homebuyer education class

    The center’s inaugural first-time homebuyer education class is slated for Saturday. Those who complete the class, plus a one-on-one sessions to follow, will be eligible for various mortgage and down payment assistance programs through the quasi-public Connecticut Housing Finance Authority.

    Financial assistance through the agency comes in various forms, with some programs targeted for specific groups including people with disabilities, residents of public housing, military families, police, teachers and those looking to purchase a mobile home.

    The free, six-hour class will include presentations from real estate professionals including a real estate attorney, mortgage lender, insurance agent and real estate agent.

    The class will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Saturday at the Housing Resource Center, 727 Bank Street. Contact Daugherty to preregister at (860) 501-9900 ext. 112 or Rain@NLHHC.org.

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