Two years ago, when the Massachusetts-based Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America came to Sacramento offering the possibility of mortgage relief to distressed homeowners, an estimated 10,000 people were lined up for a half mile outside Cal Expo when the doors opened.
When NACA's five-day "American Dream" event opened Thursday at the Sacramento Convention Center, organizers said about 200 were standing in line.
That in itself is an indication of how much the Sacramento area has bounced back from the recession and accompanying housing meltdown.
But as NACA organizers and the hundreds who entered the Sacramento Convention Center on Thursday pointed out, things are not better for everybody.
"There are still a lot of people hurting, needing help. For too many, things are not getting better. That's why we're back," said NACA spokesman Ricardo Herrera. "It's not just here. This is the 96th (NACA event) nationwide in the last four years."
NACA is a nonprofit organization that does not charge for its services. It sells its own mortgage product, and published reports say it gets money from lenders whose customers complete successful loan modifications. Thursday's crowd attended orientation meetings and waited to meet with NACA counselors and bank/lender representatives who have the power to modify loans, mortgage terms and even offer new loans at favorable rates to qualified applicants.
Some attendees said they were hoping to avoid losing their homes to foreclosure.
While the crowds were not nearly as large as two years ago, business was nevertheless brisk.
Pauline Watts was there with her husband, seeking a reduction in monthly payments.
"It's not easy. We've had some medical bills. Our daughter has been sick," Watts said. "We don't want a handout, but we could use some help."
Herrera, who was at Cal Expo two years ago, said Watts' story is typical. He said he's already encountered people who were at Cal Expo in October 2010.
"People's lives change, and what worked two years ago might not be working now," Herrera said. "People retire, they get laid off, they get hurt, they have accidents, they get divorced, they're distraught, their pay is cut.
"We see all these things and try to help people trying to adjust to changes. These are not lazy people. Many of them work hard."
The NACA event at the convention center runs from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily through Monday. There is no charge to attend.
To register or obtain more information, visit www.naca.com. NACA said walk-ins are welcome, but all are encouraged to bring financial documents and all documents related to homeownership.