Published: May 23, 2011 5:13 PM EDT
Updated: May 23, 2011 5:13 PM EDT

FORT MYERS, Fla.-Homeowners in Southwest Florida can soon get free financial counseling and mediation before the foreclosure process begins.

The Collins Center for Public Policy announced Monday it partner with Conant Mediation Center to offer the service in the 20th Judicial Circuit, which includes Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry, and Glades Counties.

It's called the Pre-filing Mortgage Mediation Program and starts on the 65th day of delinquency, rather than at the time of foreclosure filing.

The center will offer troubled homeowners financial counseling and serve as a go-between for homeowners and lenders to help avoid a foreclosure.

"It is an early intervention model," said Ned Pope, with the Collins Center.

"It's something where we can interact at an early stage in the process before people are even close to be foreclosed upon."

According to Jonathan Conant, of Conant Mediation Center, there were 300 foreclosures in the 20th circuit last month. He expects an increase in number through June and July.

Homeowners interested in the program can see if they are eligible by calling (877) 843-7605.