Hope for Homeowners This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

December 7, 2010
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“Hope is the power that gives us the power to step out and try.” – Unknown

I felt like I wanted to puke, scream, or cry on my mom's shoulder as I looked around our house, remembering every detail. That's where my sister combed the gum out of my hair with peanut butter, that's where I always stubbed my toe, that was my favorite hiding spot for hide-and-seek, that's where I wrote my first story – the memories kept flooding in.

Panic ran through me as I looked at the paper in my lap covered with numbers. Surely we must have made a miscalculation. I ran through the figures again and realized we just weren't going to make it. We couldn't pay the mortgage and the bills, and it would only get worse as late fees were added on. I sank into the couch, barely hearing my mom babbling about how we could move into an apartment or live with my sister until we got the finances worked out. I couldn't imagine losing the house I grew up in, the house that held all my cherished memories.

My mom knew better than to attempt to reason with me; instead she got on the phone to see what she could do about the mortgage. I was not really listening, but I tuned in as her tone went from depressed to a hint of happiness.

When she hung up, she explained there was a government program called Hope for Homeowners. Hope – that was exactly what I needed to hear. The program was designed by President Obama to help families struggling financially to stay in their homes by reducing their mortgage payments. This gave my family hope.

After a number of months, we were finally enrolled in the program. We barely qualified given the tight restrictions on ­income, house value, and assets. Without Obama's program, we definitely would have lost our house. Despite all our trials, I realize how fortunate we are compared to thousands of other families who don't qualify for government programs.

Hope for Homeowners is just one program that helps families in need. Other aid programs such as welfare and food stamps support families until they can get back on their feet. They give millions hope for their future and their children's.

But the hope that these programs provide is in jeopardy. Many middle- and upperclass families who have the ability to support themselves think that we should cut government programs; they believe these programs allow people to become dependent and lazy. Have they ever had to wonder if they were going to be able to pay their rent? Have they ever felt dread in their stomach as they had to choose between feeding their children and paying the mortgage? Have they worn hats and winter jackets inside their house because the heat was off? Have they ever felt the despair and hopelessness that comes in a white envelope with red letters reading “Final Notice,” “Past Due,” or “Pay Immediately”? Have they breathed the sigh of relief that millions of families do when they receive their welfare check, or swipe their food card at the grocery store?

The answer is no. Anyone who wants to destroy the security and hope these programs provide cannot have experienced the emotional roller coaster of financial hardship.

In 2009, 35 million people – almost 12 percent of the U.S. population – received some type of food support. Most who get help from the government do not take it for granted. They don't want to be dependent, and understand that the system cannot function that way. However, there are some who grow lazy and lose motivation, ultimately relying on the government to support them long term.

The few who cheat the system should not be allowed to ruin it for those who really need help. Instead, government programs need to be redesigned so they help people get back on their feet. We shouldn't just distribute money to struggling families. We should focus on why these families are struggling, and determine what will help them get back on their feet.

Tightening the restrictions won't help anyone. This will only cause families to end up right back where they started: jobless, penniless, and hopeless. We need to create government program to be a step-by-step process for helping families turn their lives around. They cannot just be a shoulder for unemployed Americans to rest on; they need to be the push that gets them back in the world.

Hope for Homeowners gave my family hope for the future; that shouldn't be taken away by a politician who thinks he knows what's best for my family. These programs, and the people who depend on them, are pleading for help. We need reform, but not the kind that Congress wants to enact. We as a country need to fix these programs so that they offer motivation, support, and most of all hope.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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Treefiddy said...
May 31, 2011 at 9:59 pm

Obama and the 111th Congress have spent more money than any previous administration. It has just been announced today that housing prices are the lowest they have been in 5 years. We have officially reached the national debt limit as of half a month ago. We have an enormous budget deficit due to the problems created by runaway entitlement spending. Government has proven itself to have no competence, at least in regards to economics.

As for your family's current financial predicam... (more »)

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