12/08/2010 05:32 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Ohio Nonprofit Pulls Out All The Stops To Prevent Foreclosures

Struggling homeowners who face foreclosure, like the nearly 4 million who stand to lose homes this year, rarely have places to turn for help. According to The New York Times, one Ohio nonprofit is changing that.

Empowering and Strengthening Ohio's People (ESOP) is a Cleveland-based nonprofit whose mission is to keep homeowners in their homes, reports The Press.

ESOP takes a civil approach, but stops at nothing to get lenders to negotiate options for homeowners who face foreclosure.

An honest intermediary is often necessary in foreclosure cases, especially on the heels of the "robo-signer" scandal, in which mortgage lenders allegedly signed off on hundreds of thousands of foreclosures illegally to repossess homes on the cheap -- and illegally foreclose on homeowners.

According to The Times, ESOP eliminates such risks:

[ESOP] has gotten several large companies, including Bank of America, CitiMortgage, Ocwen Financial Corporation, and Litton Loan Servicing, to sign "fair lending agreements" which spell out the terms of their working relationship...lenders provide a single point of contact, someone with decision making authority.

Last year the Obama administration launched the Home Affordable Modification Program to reduce mortgages for struggling homeowners, but nearly half who initially enrolled in the program have since fallen out, according to the Associated Press.

ESOP's approach is perhaps more effective. It is a free service, and can tell unbiasedly whether a lender is offering a good deal. And, according to The Times, they practice tough love when dealing with borrowers:

The goal is to help clients take control of their lives, not to cushion them from reality. If three phone calls to a client go unanswered or a document requested fails to arrive within five days, the file is closed. The tough love approach works. In 2009, 5,011 homeowners walked into ESOP's offices and 63 percent complied with all information requests.

According to The Press, funding primarily comes from state and federal grants, though a significant portion is privately funded.

To donate, visit ESOP, or read more about its efforts at The New York Times.