On Friday, 11 former employees of the Home Ownership is Possible Through Education (H.O.P.E.) Project call center in Grand Rapids voiced their frustration after being abruptly laid off.

WZZM 13 reviewed two voicemails from the company’s owner, Joe Delfgauw, where he said the call centers closed due to a lack of profit and his health issues.

The employees said they were caught off-guard by the decision, announced to them Wednesday, because of a program the company was promoting to improve sales and processes.

They said they were offered a $400 severance, but only if they signed a letter of resignation. They feared if they signed, they wouldn’t be able to receive unemployment benefits.

The company, which consults clients on how to gain positive credit and work with lenders to purchase homes, made this statement Tuesday, August 1:

"This was and is nothing more than a reduction in work staff. The call centers portion of the H.O.P.E. Program had been losing money for several months. The stress associated with operating these call centers and the financial burden created by them manifested [themselves] as health issues for the company owner. Thus, the decision was made to reduce staff and focus on the profitable areas of the business."

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