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Maria T.

Maria T. and her fiancé enjoyed life to the fullest. For a period of about five years they took in as many festivals, concerts, excursions and opportunities to entertain friends as possible. The freedom of the open road on a motorcycle repeatedly called their names.

Tragically, Maria found her fiancé dead in his bed in the spring of 2017. The discovery was traumatic for Maria and the experience haunted her. To add insult to injury, she found herself with no place to live and no legal claim to any of his assets. Luckily, she found shelter with a friend for about three months.

Maria began putting the pieces of her life back together, and by August of 2017, she purchased a home. “My house means stability, a sense of accomplishment,” said Maria. “It means I can do this on my own.” The home helped her through the loss of her fiancé, the depression and the post-traumatic stress she was experiencing.

Unfortunately, not long after buying her home, Maria lost her job. She feared losing everything again. She landed another job in sales, with her salary based entirely on commission. She was struggling to get by and eventually quit in the summer of 2018. That’s when she attempted to file for unemployment assistance.

Maria was down, depressed and depleted. She clawed her way back to pay for utilities, car expenses and credit card bills. However, she couldn’t come up with enough to pay the mortgage. By Christmas of 2018, she contemplated taking her life. “I didn’t want to be here, on Earth, alive anymore,” she recalled.

Though she was never able to secure unemployment relief, Maria finally landed a new job when 2018 rolled over into 2019. Through her job, she became licensed to sell life insurance, a goal she made to help others avoid the experience she faced after the death of her fiancé.

However, she was still way behind on her mortgage. Her bank gave her every opportunity to get caught up, but she simply wasn’t able to make enough money to fulfill her obligations. She received a notice of foreclosure in the fall of 2019.

Maria told herself, “I can’t lose my house. I’ve worked really hard.” Maria didn’t want to move back in with my parents; she hadn’t lived with them in over two decades.

She attempted to sell her house. That’s when Maria’s real estate agent suggested she reach out to Jamie Smith at the City of South Bend, an IFPN partner. Maria left Jamie a message.

“I was in panic,” she said. “I was sitting in my office when she called back. She was very calm and told me what the process was. She was very nice and didn’t make me feel like a beggar or loser. She was kind and empathetic.”

To qualify for assistance with Indiana’s Hardest Hit Fund, Maria had to secure a more stable income, so she took a job as a bus driver for South Bend School Corporation. As Maria waited for the process to play its course and for approval from the Hardest Hit Fund, she received a letter in October that her home would be listed in a sheriff’s sale in November. She had 40 days.

Maria contacted Jaime who reassured her that everything was in place and that she shouldn’t worry about the sheriff’s sale. With some communication between Jamie and the lender, the sheriff’s sale was halted.

“I felt so relieved and thankful,” Maria remembered. “I had prayed that whole time, ‘Please God, don’t let me lose my house.’ I had so much faith that I was going to keep my house.”

Soon enough, she was approved for Hardest Hit Funds. “Looking back, I wonder how I survived, how I made it. I didn’t realize God had me. There was no way I should’ve made it through that whole time.”

Maria encourages others who are struggling with their mortgage to keep the faith and seek help. “Be diligent – if there’s anything needed in the application process, provide it quickly. Be cooperative. Having faith is everything – it’s a mindset, an attitude.”

Today, Maria reports that life is very good and she has a new perspective on things. She wants to help others, even financially, when she is able. She hopes she can help others with the motivation they need to get through tough times.

She knows painful times will come and go. “Life is going to happen to you,” she said. “But those are just chapters in our life. We each get to write the rest of the story.”

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