Irvington Herald /

Seminar Discusses Foreclosure

Irvington Herald / — Thursday, March 12, 2009

By Chris Sykes, Staff Writer

IRVINGTON, NJ — Stefanie Rubin works for the New Jersey Citizen Action organization and her job is to travel around the state letting distressed and troubled homeowners who are having trouble keeping up with their mortgage payments or staring imminent foreclosure in the face know that there is hope for them.

To better illustrate her point and drive home her message, Rubin tells the story about a friend of hers who ended up in the hospital after he fell ill. When the doctors asked him if he had been experiencing pain and for how long, he responded that he had been in pain for three years before he was forced to seek help.

Unfortunately, Rubin said, her friend died.

"He ended up being diagnosed with cancer, but the tragedy of it was that he had a form of cancer that could have been treated if it had been caught early," she said last week at the Irvington Branch NAACP's "Avoiding Home Foreclosure and Addressing High Property Taxes" event. "The best way to avoid foreclosure is not to avoid the mortgage lender. If you are having trouble, don't just avoid it and hope that it will go away.

Rubin and representatives from other organizations working to stem the rising time of home foreclosures mortgage defaults that is threatening to engulf New Jersey were on hand at Greater Newpoint Baptist church on Paine Avenue on March 4 to spread the message of hope. She was joined by Krishna Garlic, the executive director of Brand New Day who also happens to be the leader of the Elizabeth Branch NAACP, and Yaritza Candelaria

Collectively, they urged anyone in trouble due to unemployment, balloon mortgage payments or any of the other fiscal challenges symptomatic of the ongoing economic recession to "speak up" and seek help wherever and whenever it is offered legitimately. But they also warned them about predatory lenders who helped cause the economic recession and mortgage crisis and wolves in sheep's clothing who offer a helping hand but in reality are just trying to scam them and take their money.

Rubin also said there is no shame in having fallen victim to the housing and mortgage crisis, losing your job, or being otherwise unable to meet your monthly mortgage and other finance responsibilities.

"We're HUD certified and headquartered in Elizabeth, but we're in Irvington town hall every Wednesday from 2 to 4 p.m., and 4 to 6:30 p.m. on the fourth Thursday of every month," Garlic said. "This is a national crisis, not a personal failing, so people don't need to be ashamed. There is help, just don't give up."

Garlic also said there is hope after foreclosure. The thing distressed homeowners need to do, she said, is look for help from the people with the power and connections to give it to them.

"It's not the end of the world because you have lost your house even though it might feel like it," she said. "Come see us and we can help you get your credit and mortgage and other things together. There are government lease buyback programs, grants and even new laws that have been passed to help homeowners and force banks to renegotiate their mortgage rates before they foreclose, all to give people a chance to keep their homes."

Candelaria warned everyone at the forum against thinking too much or reading too much into the mortgage aid and foreclosure programs they see on TV and hear on the radio. She said the reason help is available is because the government, private lenders and other organizations want as many people as possible to apply and take advantage of them.

"There are guidelines that need to be followed, but you don't hear something on the radio or hear what the program requirements are and decide that it is not for you because you're not eligible," she said. "Don't pay anyone to come in and help you either when you could get the same service for free."

Ironically, Garlic said, even though the country is in the midst of the biggest economic recession since the Great Depression and people are losing their jobs and homes "left and right," there is still a lot of opportunity and room for advancement for people with the resources and business savvy to take advantage of the situation. She said housing prices are at their lowest points in years, and anyone who has money to spare should be out there buying while the prices are right.

"The flip side of this is that it is a weather-changing event for us as black people," she said. "A lot of the opportunities that have not been available to us in the recent past because they were prohibitively expensive are now open and available to us. If you have the money and resources then you can take advantage of the low prices and opportunities to buy houses or property cheap."

Kathleen Witcher, the president of the Irvington Branch NAACP, said she was thankful that all the presenters participated in the forum she organized. She said that was especially the case with Rubin and Garlic.

"Garlic is a former student of mine from my teaching days, and I'm so proud of her and I'm taking all the credit for her success," she joked. "The New Jersey state chapter of the NAACP has partnered with New Jersey Citizen Action. We share a lot of the same interests and similar goals of empowering people to make positive changes and contributions in their communities, and we both believe in educating people and sharing information so they know what's going on around them."

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