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$500,000 in grants to address foreclosure crisis

Housing counseling, legal aid groups to benefit from Silicon Valley Community Foundation funds

Seven organizations will receive $500,000 from Silicon Valley Community Foundation to help homeowners stave off home foreclosures, the nonprofit announced on Friday.

The grants will provide legal services, information and loan counseling to homeowners and renters facing foreclosure or eviction in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties and will double the number of trained housing counselors and legal advisors at the organizations. Bi-lingual personnel will also increase, to help residents hit hardest by the foreclosure crisis, according to foundation officials.

"Too many families in our region have already lost their homes and this crisis is far from over. People need expert legal help, housing counseling and assistance working out arrangements with lenders. These grants will help organizations assist more homeowners and renters to avoid the pain of losing their homes," Emmett D. Carson, foundation CEO and president, said.

Professionals familiar with the crisis said the impact of foreclosures extends to entire neighborhoods.

Three housing-counseling agencies and four legal-services groups received grants ranging from $50,000 to $75,000.

The recipients are:

• Bay Area Legal Aid, Santa Clara County office: $50,000, to train local government and faith-based groups to recognize eviction cases involving violations of federal and state law. The grant will also help the agency provide additional legal advice, counseling and referrals.

• Community Legal Services of East Palo Alto: $75,000, to provide direct legal help to more homeowners. Demand for its foreclosure services nearly triple since 2007. The agency had to stop accepting cases because staff could not take on more legal work. The agency will again accept new cases. The organization plans to help attorneys and loan counselors analyze loan documents and negotiate with lenders.

• East Palo Alto Community Alliance Neighborhood Development Organization: $75,000, to support Next Step Housing Assistance Center and foreclosure intervention and prevention counseling.

• Housing and Economic Rights Advocates: $75,000, to help expand into hard-hit parts of San Mateo County and provide foreclosure-prevention counseling, avoid foreclosure-rescue scams or transition out of ownership without becoming homeless.

• Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County: $75,000, to prevent homelessness for tenants at risk of eviction due to foreclosure.

*Neighborhood Housing Services Silicon Valley: $75,000, to assist homeowners threatened with foreclosure or to reduce its impact.

• Project Sentinel, Inc.: $75,000, to provide individual, one-on-one counseling for homeowners facing foreclosure in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.

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