Crystal Wooden started working in the Housing Department at Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic six months ago. But the first time she came to our offices was not as a Housing Counselor, aiding those attempting to stave off foreclosure in the face of unexpected medical and financial hardship. In fact, before Crystal sat behind her desk, she sat in front of it—as a client. She found herself out of work and lacking the resources to maintain her mortgage and so she sought assistance. At the time, there was no relief to be had through the State or through a mortgage modification, but the Clinic was able to walk with her through the process of letting her home go.
A fiercely faithful woman, Crystal simply sees all of these things as part of the larger plan. Now, she has a good job and can offer some very real perspective to the clients she serves. “It’s a very hopeless situation when you know you don’t have $15,000 to pay to a mortgage company,” she says. And she wants everyone to know that this kind of hardship can sneak up on a person—on any person. “Anybody could be in a situation where you couldn’t make your mortgage payments,” she says.
For this reason, one of the things that Crystal most cherishes about her position is the opportunity to minister to those who are in crisis. “It’s a very interesting dynamic working at the Clinic,” she says. “Having the liberty to share my faith…is just a lot different than what it had been in corporate America.” She loves being able to pray for those who want prayer. And when there is relief to be had for one of her clients, the joy is immense. But even when there are no remedies, apart from letting the home go, there are still positives. She says, “I’m honest with the client. I tell them, ‘I’m here to have a real conversation with you.’ It’s not about sugar-coating it.” And sometimes, these honest, yet difficult conversations are the most important thing Crystal can give to a client.
Indeed, education is part and parcel of the work that the Housing Department does. Crystal wants to make certain that her clients do not wind up in the same position again a year down the road. “I think there’s a big need for education in homeownership, understanding what it takes,” she says. “The industry has created a lot of challenges for people who wanted to buy a home, but didn’t really understand it, and now they can’t afford it.” Therefore, Crystal helps her clients to recognize some of the barriers they face and how to overcome them.
“I’m proud to be able to work alongside people that are concerned about the wrong that happens, the injustice, families being separated, people that need help that show up at the door,” she says. “I’m glad to work in an organization where I feel like people really care.” And those moments when she is able to help save a home are momentous. “It’s like snatching someone from the gates of hell.”
If you’re currently struggling to pay your mortgage and would like to receive assistance, please fill out our Foreclosure Prevention Contact Form.
Categories: Staff Highlight