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Dover woman who lost her home after heart attack seeks options

PORTSMOUTH - With the weather getting even colder, an 82-year-old Dover great-grandmother wonders where she'll live since she lost her home after suffering from a heart attack.

Janet Vardaro, who bought a home in a community for 55-year-olds and above at Dover Brook Estates in 2004, thought she would not have to move again. Unfortunately, her situation changed when a heart attack struck late August.

While recovering from two surgeries, Vardaro said she fell behind on her mortgage payments, which caused her lender - St. Mary's Bank in Manchester - to foreclose on her.

Don St. Germain, executive vice president and chief of lending, said the bank is very proactive about reaching out to people who fall behind on their payments and working out options, including modifying payments or counseling.

"We take it very seriously - it's a tragic, bad day when someone loses their home," St. Germain said, adding the bank's foreclosure rate is low.

Despite the fact she lost the home and the money from previous mortgage payments, Vardaro seems to have accepted her fate."The house is big for me now," Vardaro said. "I just need a little corner now."

Vardaro, who retired after working for the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health, receives a pension and Social Security. Even before she lost her home, Vardaro, like many others living on a fixed income, said she already sought assistance to help with heat, electrical expenses and meals from the food pantry.

"The woman in CAP (Community Action Program) was very good, but I didn't qualify for much," Vardaro said, adding she plans to contact them again. Additionally, Vardaro said she still owes the person who previously mowed her lawn and couldn't afford to have someone shovel her driveway.

"It was just one thing after another," Vardaro said.

While she was recovering at Clipper Harbor of Portsmouth Care and Rehabilitation Center, Vardaro said her kids - who live in different states around New England - packed up most of her things and put them into storage. She added she will miss the baby grand piano she donated to a church in South Berwick, Maine.

Vardaro expects to leave the center by next week unless her social worker can convince her insurance to extend her stay. Eventually, she added, she will have to find a place to stay."I'm looking for a place to live - I have no place to go," Vardaro said, considering about staying with her family in Maine after being released from the rehab center.

Vardaro needs a place to live with her two Shizh Tzus, who are staying with one of her daughters.

Depending on a person's situation and location, there are several services which could provide assistance to people who are homeless or who are in danger of losing their homes, according to Greg Schnieder, of Southern New Hampshire Services.

"There are plenty of services willing to help," Schnieder said, adding there are agencies and organizations which help older residents, families and people with physical or mental needs. Schnieder, who deals with homeless issues in Hillsborough County, suggests Vardaro calls the state hotline at 211 and contacts someone from the Community Action Program of Strafford County.Strafford County CAP works to find safe places for people in the area to live, but there is a waiting list for housing and many shelters, according to Executive Director Betsey Andrews Parker.

If possible, Parker said the organization tries to keep people in the same are as their friends and family. She added if someone already received fuel or electrical assistance, they are still eligible for it even if they lost their home.

Jane Law, of the New Hampshire Housing Authority, said Vardaro should also contact the local housing office as they know available options in the area, based on a person's income and situation. She added people without phone or Internet access can visit their local library. For more information, visit the websites of Strafford County Community Action Program at straffordcap.org or the housing authority at nhhfa.org.

jquinn@newstote.com


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