Video: Thousands descend on Gillette Stadium for help with their mortgages

Jack Encarnacao

David and Elizabeth lugged folders full of mortgage documents across the massive parking lot at Gillette Stadium and caught sight of a line of hundreds of people snaking out of a clubhouse entrance.

They were not alone.

The Mansfield couple were among the 3,000 homeowners who turned out Tuesday for help with understanding why they can’t afford their mortgages and how to hang on to their homes.

The couple, who did not want their last names published, met with counselors from the Boston-based Codman Square Neighborhood Council. They got a realistic assessment of how to get out from under their daunting adjustable-rate mortgage, which they took out when David was laid off and injured his back.

“They explained to us basically what happened with the mortgage that we got when we refinanced,” said Elizabeth, who used to manage a halfway house in Quincy. “They basically told us the facts of life, and they told us the options that we have.”

Such answers appeared to be just what the thousands who turned out Tuesday were searching for when they sat down with representatives from about 20 banks and mortgage lenders.

Ken Wade, CEO of NeighborWorks America, a 30-year-old nonprofit organization that brought housing counselors together for the event, said bypassing convoluted customer service lines is half the battle for struggling homeowners.

“It takes you 10 minutes if you want to talk to a human,” Wade said. “Many consumers are a little bit intimidated by that.”

Attendees were assigned a number prior to meeting with a lender, and listened to speeches about how to manage credit and budget their money. The crowd was a diverse flock, speaking several languages and coming from as far away as Connecticut.

A NeighborWorks spokeswoman said that of the roughly 15 foreclosure workshops her group has done across the country this year, the Gillette Stadium event was the most extensively marketed. The 3,000-person turnout well exceeded the group’s prior record of 600 – the estimated turnout at a June event in Dallas, Texas.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston teamed up with the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation to stage the seven-hour event, with help from NeighborWorks and the HOPE Now Alliance.

Jeff White, a counselor for Citizens Bank who manned a table at the event, said attendees were mostly trying to get their bearings in understanding their options.

“Many of them are upside-down dealing with their mortgages right now,” White said.

David and Elizabeth got a little closer Tuesday to understanding what exactly happened when their mortgage rate adjusted. For the first time in a while, the couple has some hope that they could keep their house.

“(The counselor) is going to really work on our behalf to try to change (the mortgage),” David said. “That kind of thing might very well make it something that we could live with, and possibly we would not have to sell it. ... That’s like way out on the horizon, a little glimmer of hope.”

Jack Encarnacao may be reached atjencarnacao@ledger.com.