Keeping Families in their Homes via Foreclosure Prevention

Anna and Nicholas Fiocca own a home in South Philadelphia and had always been able to afford their mortgage payments. Anna’s job of 30 years plus Nicholas’ monthly social security covered most of the couple’s expenses. When Anna was laid off, the Fioccas financial situation changed abruptly and they were soon unable to pay their mortgage.

Anna was unable to find other work despite her daily efforts, and the small pension she received from her former employer was not enough to cover the couple’s monthly housing expenses.

When they came to Intercultural for assistance, the Fioccas met with housing counselor Mary Campbell, who guided them through the foreclosure prevention and loan modification process. Ms. Campbell helped them complete a “Making Homes Affordable” package, which they then submitted to the mortgage company for approval. The Fioccas were approved for a loan modification which reduced their monthly mortgage payments by $400+ per month and substantially lowered their interest rate.

A Housing “Life-line” for Struggling Families

With a steady job as a unit secretary in a hospital emergency room, and a roommate to help pay the rent, Gwen Smith did not think she would have to worry about meeting her monthly rent payments. However, when her roommate moved out, the 3 bedroom unit she lived in with her 15-year old daughter became too much for her to handle, and she fell behind in her rent. Gwen soon faced eviction, and had to seek help. She was referred to the ?Homelessness Prevention Program or Housing Counseling Program (HCP)? at Intercultural, and was assigned a housing case manager who determined her eligibility for rental assistance. Gwen’s application was processed quickly, and she received the support she needed to stay in her home.

For now, Gwen is managing, and working hard to make ends meet. One day, she would like to own her own home, and has enrolled in one of Intercultural’s First Time Homebuyer Workshops to learn how she can improve her financial situation for a future home purchase. Commenting on the assistance she received, Gwen remains grateful and stated “it was a blessing, and kept me from being evicted”. To others she offers this advice “Don’t get discouraged, there are things you can do for yourself, and organizations (like Intercultural) to help you”.

Evelyn Hidalgo, MS

Evelyn Hidalgo, CEO of Intercultural Family Services, Inc. (Intercultural) began her work with the agency in1981. For over 35 years, her leadership has provided the steadfast foundation for its continued success. Intercultural has evolved into a family-focused, multicultural and multi-purpose organization that provides a variety of public health and human services to first generation Americans and life-long Philadelphians alike.

Mrs. Hidalgo is an influential motivator, mentor and champion for others.   She is strategic, yet pragmatic. She is a community bridge builder, while also very able at leading the day to day operations of the agency, rolling up her sleeves alongside the team. She brings expertise in organizational development, agency operation, non-profit fund raising, financial management, program development & design, and cultural competency training.

Prior to joining Intercultural, Mrs. Hidalgo was a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) practitioner in the Philippines where she had a successful career prior to migrating to Philadelphia, USA. She serves on several local boards and committees. She considers her greatest accomplishment to be building an organization that embodies its motto of Diversity in Action®.

Mrs. Hidalgo earned a Master’s Degree in Organizational Dynamics from University of Pennsylvania. She also completed the Executive Management Training Program at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.   She earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration, Accounting major from the University of the Philippines.

Unexpected Life Events and the Possibilities  

We all understand expected and unexpected life events that come our way. In May 2010, a young woman, 17 years old named Courtni Matthews was completing her junior year in high school when she discovered she was expecting a child. Courtni has two sisters that have completed college and a devoted mother, who unfortunately was battling a serious medical condition. The financial preparation for Courtni’s college education had to be put on permanent hold. In February 2011, she gave birth to a healthy baby boy.

After completing high school, Courtni struggled as a new single mother to balance her desire to be a great parent with her dreams to finish higher education. In July 2012, via a referral by a family friend, Courtni enrolled in the Enhancing Parenting Skills Program (EPSP) with Intercultural. It offered a village of supporters. Those in her network of parents with similar struggles provided a way for sharing; Intercultural counselors guided through counseling and teaching life skills; community partners (such as CHOP and PECO) extended support and opportunities; and invited speakers from the community offered their possibilities.

As fate would have it, while Courtni was still in our program, a representative from Harcum College, came to speak with the class to offer a fantastic education opportunity. The school was accepting applications and offering a tuition free Associates Degree. Even though the school is located in Bryn Mawr, the classes for this particular degree opportunity was offered in the West Philadelphia area, which was perfect for Courtni and her situation.

Courtni has expressed her gratitude for the Enhancing Parenting Skills Program, stating, “this program has allowed me to become the best mother I know how to be and has allowed me to see a better future for myself and my son”. Courtni’s journey shows that with the right help, everything is possible.