When Loretta Cael stood before a buzzing room of representatives from the Women’s Council of Realtors on June 2 in Spokane Valley, she started with a brief sound check.

“I was asked if I needed a microphone,” Cael said. “If any of you have heard me speak before, that’s a ‘no.’”

loretta_caelCael started working in the real estate and mortgage lending industry over 30 years ago. Her knowledge and expertise in the field allow her to give the best information she can to those in need of both financial and educational assistance. She has been with SNAP’s Housing Counseling program since 2011 and now holds the title of SNAP’s Housing Counseling program manager.

In attendance at the WCR meeting were representatives from numerous realty firms including John L. Scott, Keller Williams and Exit Reality to name a few. Cael had the room’s full attention as she outlined the various financial aid options that are available to those in need.

“I learned a ton about SNAP,” said Azley Thorpe, WCR president-elect. “I didn’t realize all the different programs SNAP has to offer.”

SNAP’s Housing Counseling program is focused on educating people to help themselves rather than just providing handouts. Cael believes the investment in education helps create long term solutions rather than just temporary assistance.

This investment in educating both homebuyers and homeowners was Cael’s main message to the WCR contingent. The relationship between Realtors and the people they sell houses too should be ongoing, she said. Cael explained that most of the homeowners who are defaulting on mortgage payments will seek help from the person who sold them the house in the first place. She emphasized the importance of Realtors knowing about the programs SNAP has to offer in order to provide effective, reliable support. It was also emphasized that SNAP works with lenders and servicers to help negotiate short sales, a service which is offered to every homeowner in the State of Washington at no cost or obligation.

Last year, SNAP saved 284 homes in Spokane County from foreclosure.

Cael explained that while all counseling and classes through SNAP are free and available to all local residents, regardless of income, there are certain stipulations when it comes to qualifying for other lending resources. Those earning above 80 percent of area median income ($50,100 annual income for a family of four) would not qualify for SNAP’s foreclosure prevention loans or down payment assistance loans, but would qualify for other down payment assistance programs through Washington State Housing Finance Commission.

For Cael, SNAP’s nonprofit description doesn’t suit the work that they do. Cael described SNAP as being a “for purpose organization” rather than a nonprofit.  This was a phrase that she heard SNAP’s CEO, Julie Honekamp, use in a presentation and has since adopted it for use in all areas of outreach.

“It is amazing what people don’t know [about SNAP],” said Cael. “There are more people out there that we can help who don’t know about the Foreclosure Fairness Act or that this program exists.” Cael also wanted to make it clear that “SNAP doesn’t just serve poor people” but rather “all people in poor situations.”