By Shawn Davis
RSI started running three foreclosure mediation programs in 2014, which means we’ve spent a lot of time over the last year thinking about how to make mediation services more accessible and increase program usage rates. Such issues can be a challenge and often require creativity, especially with limited resources. Here’s what we’ve learned:
Meet People Where They’re At
Reaching the homeowners who would personally benefit from our services is always a challenge. In an effort to spread the word about our foreclosure mediation program, we’ve attended countless city council meetings, real estate events, church events and even carnivals. While getting out into the community is really important for forging relationships with community leaders and getting press coverage about mediation services, it can be a difficult way to identify and connect with those we serve. The more that outreach efforts can directly target a pool of eligible program participants, the better. However, this kind of targeted outreach, such as going door-to-door to homeowners in foreclosure, can be extremely expensive and labor-intensive. The alternative, which we have found to be both effective and efficient, is to have homeowners referred directly into the mediation program when they come to court to appear for their foreclosure case.
Judges began referring cases on the court’s own motion on January 1st in our Lake County foreclosure mediation program, and the program has already felt the difference. When only traditional program entry was available, meaning that homeowners had to learn about the program from their foreclosure summons or a mailed postcard, nine homeowners entered the mediation program in October, eight entered the program in November and eight entered the program in December. In January, twelve homeowners entered the program through the traditional route and seven more have entered through the new method of court referral, nearly doubling program entry over prior months. If homeowners cannot be referred directly by the judge, there are still ways to connect with them when they come to court. For example, Kane County has had success with staffing a foreclosure help desk at the court where homeowners can learn about the mediation program’s services.