When two Tribal members in different parts of the country fell on hard times and their homes were in danger of being lost, they found assistance through Citizen Potawatomi Nation.

CPN’s Mortgage Assistance Program is available to CPN tribal members who need financial help with a mortgage, homeowner’s insurance, property taxes or HOA fees.

Jamie Harbert, a member of the Peltier family living in Crestview, Florida, has lived in her home for 11 years but needed some help about three years ago.

Jamie Harbert is pictured with her son, Harry. (Photo provided)

Harbert was working at Eglin Air Force Base as an engineer technician and manager of the Engineering Data Service Center, assisting in the design development of weapons systems, aircrafts and vehicles.

“I had a heart attack with complications and then had to be in and out of the hospital,” she said. “And COVID had hit, and because of my heart situation, I could no longer go into work and had lost my job.”

Though Harbert had enough to carry her and her teenage son through for a while, as her savings dwindled, she ran into a time when she couldn’t make payments for about six months. It was then that she found out about assistance from the Tribe.

“It saved my life,” she said. “It saved me from losing my home. I don’t know what I would have done.”

Malisha Robertson assisted her through the process, and Harbert said she was compassionate and understanding about all the stress and pain she was going through.

“She was very kind and patient and helped walk me through everything step-by-step. She kept me in the loop on the status of my application, making the process easier and stress free,” she said. “I will forever be grateful to her and my Tribe for taking care of me and my son in our time of need.”

Harbert, who is originally from Shawnee, Oklahoma, said her father, James Leslie Schimmel, was a Tribal member who passed away when she was 16 years old, and that receiving help from CPN is especially meaningful to her.

“I always feel like he’s looking down, and when my Tribe helps me, I feel like my dad is helping,” she said.

Kathijo Bourassa, a Bourassa family member from Glendale, Arizona, also spoke about help she received through the Mortgage Assistance Program.

With the fallout from COVID, Bourassa said things ended up snowballing as she worked to find a new position and went almost 18 weeks without being paid until that position was in place.

“I had my son and daughter-in-law and granddaughters living with me. It wouldn’t have only displaced myself, but two generations of family,” she said.

They, like many families, were struggling to pay for the mortgage and groceries and to keep it all together. And then, after praying about what to do, she saw an advertisement for mortgage assistance in the Hownikan.

Once in touch with the Mortgage Assistance Program, she said they set everything up very nicely and walked her through the process for getting help, making it user friendly and even emailing lists of what documents were needed and a synopsis of how things were going.

“It was so nice to speak to someone who understood and made me feel like they completely understood how someone could end up in this situation,” Bourassa said. “That alleviated any stress or nervousness immediately.”

She added that once she informed her mortgage company that she was receiving help from her Tribe, the mortgage company said that was all they needed to hear and stopped calling and sending letters.

“When someone feels hopeless and you have all these people you need to take care of, that feels so amazing,” she said. “You just feel like you have the whole Tribe on your side. You’re not alone.”

For anyone who needs to reach out for help, Bourassa said the process is easy and she never felt like she was being judged or treated badly.

“When you’re feeling totally lost, call on your people,” she said. “Whatever they tell you to have, get all your ducks in a row. You’re helping them help you. If they tell you they need a, b, c and d, put those together, and there is no waiting on the Tribe. They’re right there to help you.”

Bourassa especially spoke highly of Denise Wiley, who helped her through the process.

“She’s been part of our daily prayer and part of our Thanksgivings,” Bourassa said. “All of the Tribe has, of course, but when you’re a woman that takes care of everything then all of a sudden find out you can’t take care of this, and someone treats you with that sort of kindness and professionalism … she’s part of our Thanksgiving now, always.”

Tribal members in need of help can apply online through the CPN Portal, by emailing cpncares@potawatomi.org or by calling 1-833-481-0638.

“It makes our hearts full to assist the CPN citizens in need,” Malisha Robertson, who works for CPN’s Mortgage Assistance Program, said. “All of the Tribal members have been very grateful for the assistance that the Tribe has provided since COVID.”