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BRISTOL -- For Terry Gonyon -- officially booted from his Elkhart home just an hour or so earlier -- it's time to reflect and re-evaluate.
He's in the living room of his new digs, a Bristol mobile home crammed with stuff that still has to be sorted and unpacked. Two of his and wife Desiree's nine children are wandering amid the piles.
"We can kind of refocus, regroup and come up with another plan," he says.
Sure, the foreclosure means he and his king-sized family no longer have their own home. They're renting. And the mobile home is a sardine can compared to the old, spacious place in Elkhart.
But at least they have a roof over their heads. And the hassles are over with the banks and mortgage companies that had been breathing down their necks, spearheading the foreclosure proceedings.
"It's a big weight lifted off."
The number of mortgaged homes in foreclosure or headed in that direction in Elkhart County is up, from 6 percent of the total in January 2007 to 9.1 percent in February, according to First American CoreLogic, a California firm that tracks such data. The figures -- the result, in part, of the reeling economy -- mirror national trends.
It's one thing to consider the figures in the abstract. It's another to consider the impact to the real folks behind the stats, people like Gonyon and his family.
We wrote about Gonyon in March as he struggled to deal with the looming foreclosure of his Elkhart home, and we caught up with him and his family on Tuesday. That's when an Elkhart County Sheriff's Department official showed up to formally evict him. A subcontractor assisting the mortgage company that'll try to re-sell the home was also on hand, there to clean out the place and change the locks on the doors.
Gonyon's isn't a unique story, unfortunately. As the economy has dried up, so have his work opportunities, slashing his income. He's a construction worker, does independent jobs, and his wife recently took a job at a Subway sandwich shop.
At the same time, Gonyon's monthly mortgage payments skyrocketed, the result, at least in part, of not-entirely-aboveboard dealings by his lender and mortgage broker, he thinks. That made it hard to keep up and he finally stopped making payments on the Main Street home in late 2007. His lender filed suit last May, and an Elkhart County judge formally foreclosed on the property last October.
The Gonyons hung on, though, until late last week, when Don Poore, the Valparaiso subcontractor helping the mortgage company, knocked on the door of the Elkhart house. He told them -- not without sympathy -- that they had until Tuesday to clear out.
Knowing their days were numbered, the Gonyons had already rented the Bristol mobile home. But they still hadn't removed many of their belongings. A mad scramble ensued to get the stuff out.
"What's going on?" It's Tuesday morning now, and an Elkhart County Sheriff's Department officer has been called in to make sure there are no problems as the Gonyons leave and Poore and his crew get to work.
Gonyon, there with wife Desiree and their 3-year-old son, Zachary, has no intention of causing Poore any grief. He just wanted to see the foreclosure process through to the bitter end.
He asks the sheriff's official why he never received a piece of paper, a formal notice, officially telling him he was getting the heave-ho. The sheriff's official says he'll get back to Gonyon on it, and leaves.
The Gonyons, meanwhile, take one last peek inside the 4,800-square-foot house, littered with trash and miscellaneous stuff they don't want -- toys, a computer monitor, an unfinished bag of Doritos. With its lofty, 11-foot ceilings, red brick exterior and ornate but deteriorating wood trim, the structure, built in the late 1800s, has the feel of an aged mansion hanging on for dear life. Bats have turned the basement into their living quarters.
"I'm ready to go," says Terry. "I'm ready to walk away from all this."
Desiree is also ready, though she knows the kids, ranging from 22 months on up, will miss the space. "They could run and play, ride their bikes in the house," she says.
Poore feels bad, especially for the kids. "I'm sorry what happened to you," he says.
Later Tuesday, at the Bristol mobile home, Terry, in good spirits despite it all, ponders the future. His credit is shot and it'll probably be five years before he can attempt to buy another house.
In the meantime things will be tight, financially and physically. His mother-in-law and sister-in-law will occupy one room, two daughters will take another, and the two youngest children will share the master bedroom with Terry and Desiree. Two others will have to use the living room and/or an oversized closet for their sleeping quarters, while three kids Terry and Desiree have from earlier marriages live with other parents.
"Everybody has to make a sacrifice," he says.
The economy has got to turn around at some point, though, and Terry still has trickles of work here and there. Moreover, there's always someone who's got it worse, he figures, and he and his family will soldier on.
"I'm just thankful that we've got this place," he says.