'A terrible triggering event with feelings of helplessness'

A series of free classes created by Rogue Valley counselors, bankers and home builders is welcoming people who are in or near foreclosure so they can learn to deal with the often frightening process, both financially and emotionally.

Called "Building Hope," the three workshops are sponsored by the Home Builders Association of Jackson County, Rogue Federal Credit Union and KDRV-TV.

The classes, which run from 6 to 8 p.m., start Monday with RFCU giving lessons on budgeting in a financial crisis. On March 9, RFCU will cover steps to preventing foreclosure. On March 16, attorney John Hanson will discuss consumer rights. To register, call 858-7328. To download a brochure, visit roguefcu.org/building_hope or www.kdrv.com.

People in or near foreclosure may also register to get free personal and family counseling from volunteer therapists, including Jan Harrell of Ashland, who calls foreclosure "a terrible triggering event with feelings of helplessness."

Those facing foreclosure are very tense as they try to hang onto as many assets as they can, while dealing with a sense of failure and shame, said the workshop's organizer, Pete Cislo.

Struggling homeowners also get lots of calls from scam artists, including some posing as lawyers offering to find loopholes that can void a mortgage contract or, for large sums, offering to sue the lender, he noted.

Fraudulent Web sites abound in times like these, said Cislo, which offer to refinance your home for more favorable terms but at great cost. Students at the seminars will be informed about dependable Web sites where they can get information, such as www.hope.gov.

Homeowners in foreclosure need guidance dealing with a host of menacing feelings, said Cislo, including feeling like a failure before one's family, and answering scary questions, often asked by children, such as, "Where will we live?" "Do I have to change schools?" "Will I lose my friends?"

Homeowners will also learn how to deal with the situation of being unable to negotiate partial payment or refinanced mortgages because their loan has been sold to a faraway bank that will not entertain such strategies, Cislo said.

More than 780 homes were foreclosed in Jackson County last year, with greater numbers expected this year. Foreclosure can cause "psychological trickle down," such as increased substance abuse, spousal and child abuse, depression and school problems for children, he added.

Harrell said the trauma and disorientation around foreclosure can resemble catastrophes of nature or war, with feelings of vulnerability and being unable to control your own destiny, as well as feelings of worthlessness for being unable to provide for and protect your family.

"I see nothing wrong with people in this situation. They are victims to external events and they can't be so alert and aware as to prevent the suffering," said Harrell. "When people feel vulnerable, they turn it on themselves."

Kerrie Davis, community and education outreach coordinator with RFCU, who will be teaching the first class, will discuss goal-setting, using your resources, prioritizing your spending and how to "survive and thrive" by budgeting.

"Many people in financial difficulties don't know how to start and to use resources. They get behind," Davis said.

The second class will teach people about their rights in a mortgage, how to negotiate with creditors and how to spot scams. The third class will go over federal mandates that protect home owners and how to rebuild finances.

To get free personal or family counseling, call the Home Builders Association of Jackson County at 773-2872. All classes are at RFCU Education Center, 1085 Royal Court in Medford. The classes will be repeated in May and July.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

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