HPF Q&A With: Rochelle Nawrocki Gorey of MortgageKeeper Referral Services
In addition to assisting homeowners with their mortgage needs, HPF’s counselors often refer homeowners to other community resources such as job training, food assistance, and utility aid. HPF accesses information on these additional resources through a company called MortgageKeeper Referral Services, which was created by President and Co-Founder Rochelle Nawrocki Gorey to link consumers who are struggling financially with local community services that they might not be able to find on their own. Here is a recent Q&A with Ms. Gorey:
Q: HPF uses the MortgageKeeper service to direct the distressed homeowners who call our HPF HOPE Hotline at 888-995-HOPE (4673) to local community services that can help consumers get back on track with their finances. Can you explain how you came up with the idea for MortgageKeeper and how it evolved into the business it is today?
A: I worked in community development for many years. One of my frequent collaborators was Dr. J. Michael Collins, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who had been researching consumer behavior for the housing and mortgage industry. We knew from our experience that more should be done to connect homeowners in need with local services that could assist. Too often, people did not know where to go for help and ended up in the hands of unscrupulous actors offering to “help.” Servicers didn’t have the bandwidth to know the local markets for each of their delinquent homeowners. MortgageKeeper (MK) was the logical solution to both problems, and in 2005 we put it together.
Q: What are the services that homeowners are most often referred to?
A: Currently our top three service categories are food assistance (which tells us that people are facing some big financial challenges), utility payment assistance, and housing counseling, which is the referral most used by HPF. These have stayed pretty consistent over the past year.
Q: What is the largest trend you’ve identified in terms of how the MortgageKeeper system is being used?
A: We’ve seen an increase in demand for rental housing options that wasn’t really expected. MK was created to help more homeowners stay in their homes, but it was gratifying to learn our local resources can help anyone, regardless of their housing status. Since some homeowners have to transition from ownership to affordable rental housing, our services are still very much needed.
Q: You recently reported that 900,000 homeowners were referred to local assistance via MortgageKeeper in 2012, which was a 34% increase from the year before. Can you tell us what you attribute that jump to?
A: More organizations are turning to MK to help them connect their customers to local help. In addition, times continue to be tough and more and more people need assistance as their income remains low and they look for suitable employment. Last year also brought a new release of our desktop application, which made using MK easier for our clients.
Q: In November, military resources were added to the MortgageKeeper database to help struggling veterans. What are other resource categories that you have recently added or plan to add in the future?
A: In partnership with HPF, a recent addition was state-by-state foreclosure law summaries for counselors. We’ve also added rental housing because unfortunately not everyone is able to stay in their home, and we want to make sure that their transition from a house to a rental goes as smoothly as possible. Next up we will be adding a disaster relief category. Our clients will be able to easily refer a homeowner to the appropriate agency or service provider. With that framework in place, we will be able to quickly upload assistance resources that spring up to serve the need when disaster strikes.
Q: In your experience, what is the most surprising thing that you’ve encountered in terms of how the referral system is used?
A: It has to be the consistent usage of our products. Month-to-month, year over year, our subscribers are logging in. Every day they access the tools and refer consumers to support and options they previously did not know existed. Even after many years, most subscribers today see their usage hitting all-time highs. And while this is surprising, it’s also tremendously gratifying to know that people are getting connected with organizations that can help them. It’s why I love my job.
Rochelle Nawrocki Gorey, President/Co-Founder of MortgageKeeper Referral Services, has more than 20 years experience in housing policy research—research made practical by applying it to issues like homeownership, mortgage default and foreclosure, and financial literacy. She has co-authored various publications and training materials related to foreclosure intervention strategies and loss mitigation best practices. Rochelle is also sought out as a speaker, most recently at the Annual Meeting of the American Bar Association.