For Pamela Litzsey-Thomas, going into foreclosure on her Niagara Falls home was just another in a series of financial setbacks that included losing her job and getting inundated with medical bills after she was struck by a bus. “I just kept feeling like I was being slapped in the face,” she said.
But Litzsey-Thomas refused to give up the house where she lived with her young son, even as her attempts to get a loan modification were stymied. Like hundreds of homeowners across the state, help finally came in the form of the New York State Mortgage Assistance Program (NYS-MAP).
In 2014, the Office of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman launched NYS-MAP to keep families out of foreclosure. In less than three years of operation, the program has loaned $18 million to homeowners and prevented more than 650 foreclosures.
Litzsey-Thomas secured a NYS-MAP loan in 2015 that helped her to reinstate her affordable mortgage after receiving help from Legal Services for the Elderly, Disabled or Disadvantaged of Western New York, Inc. LSED is a member of the New York State Attorney General’s Homeowner Protection Program, a network of over 85 organizations dedicated to providing homeowners with free, qualified mortgage assistance relief services across New York.
For Litzsey-Thomas, getting the NYS-MAP loan was transformational. “I can breathe again,” she said recently in a phone interview.
Her story is all too familiar among NYS-MAP recipients: one marked by personal and financial challenges that threatened to spin out of control.
After going out on medical leave that year because of a difficult pregnancy, she was laid off from her job upon returning to work in 2011; temporary jobs weren’t enough to patch together a sustainable income. Before she could get caught up, she was impossibly behind on her mortgage.
In June 2012, she fell into further financial difficulties when she was struck by a bus and had to undergo a series of intensive surgeries. Her physician told her she wouldn’t be able to go back to work. Her family’s income is now limited to her Department of Social Services benefits, but she is able to afford her mortgage and bills now. She now subsists off of her limited Department of Social Services benefits.
“When the MAP program came along, I was like, ‘Wow.’ I said, ‘Okay, that was my blessing, my godsend, after all my patience,” she said. “I don’t have to worry about where we are going to sleep. I don’t have to worry about that. I have weathered the storm.”
The Center for New York City Neighborhoods and the Empire Justice Center administered the NYS-MAP program, which is currently closed to applications.