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Housing workshop draws hundreds

By Staff | Jan 12, 2009

A housing workshop in Cape Coral Saturday attracted people from all over Southwest Florida, as cars packed the City Hall complex and spilled out onto the adjacent SE 10th Street.
More than 300 people attended the workshop, held by the Florida Department of Financial Services, to talk to lenders, get credit advice, receive employment assistance, or to seek help with their small business.
“The goal of the program is to get the book open on the process and get people on the road to recovery,” said Terry Cerullo, a representative of the Department of Financial Services in Fort Myers.
Lenders, along with other financial help organizations, set up booths all over the City Hall complex – upstairs and downstairs – and a credit seminar attended by at least 75 people was held in city council chambers.
Judy Pultro, a business analyst with the Small Business Development Center at FGCU, said small business owners who are struggling in the current economic climate are worried about losing their homes.
“They’re concerned about, obviously, any loans they’ve taken against those homes to finance their business,” Pultro said.
She also helped counsel those who want to start a business after coming up empty in their job search.
“People are looking to start a business because they can’t find employment, and we’re making sure they have a feasible business model,” Pultro said.
One Fort Myers couple, who asked not to be named, said they are in danger of losing their home to foreclosure, and came to the workshop looking for a way out.
“(We came) to see what we can do to save our house,” the husband said.
The couple bought their Fort Myers home in the summer of 2004, just as home values were beginning to spike.
They paid 10 percent down and have an adjustable rate mortgage with their lender, Countrywide.
After the husband was laid off in November from his job in the construction industry, the couple has struggled to make mortgage payments.
“Countrywide, they weren’t willing to work with us. They said we don’t qualify for any program out there,” the wife said.
The couple said they are regular people who got caught in an economic squeeze, but who hold out hope for turning things around.
“We’re hard-working people,” the husband started, “and we’re not willing to give up,” the wife finished.