Home sweet hope

Foreclosure workshop attendees may be losing both

A presidential candidate is making a lot of noise on the tele about bringing hope back to America. Hope’s pulse barely beat inside the North Highlands Community Center the evening of February 20. Basked in the ominous red glow of a lunar eclipse, the faces 50 or so people carried out of a home foreclosure workshop were not splashed with sweet hope. No, they carried more the looks of confusion, disillusion, even resignation.

One fellow’s plight seemed common here. He just paid his mortgage using his American Express card. His AmEx balance is jacked up to about $30,000. He now can’t afford the minimum monthly payment on the card. Meanwhile, next month’s mortgage is due in 10 short days. He’s already emptied his personal savings account.

As he was being directed to another agency farther up Watt Avenue, a flash washed across his face. A congressional staffer had just snapped a photo of Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento), aligned rigidly next to one of her financially ailing constituents. Look for that shot in her next newsletter or on her Web site, if you haven’t already hocked your computer to pay your ballooning mortgage or maxed-out AmEx bill.

Matsui valiantly joined representatives from city agencies, Washington Mutual Bank and various housing coalitions in presenting the workshop aimed at helping struggling Sacramentans keep their American dreams intact. Everyone’s hearts were surely in the right place, but there seemed to be too much “blah, blah, blah” for many folks desperate for answers. Someone repping FHA Secure Loans was explaining how they’ll take 97 percent of the appraised value of one guy’s home and then blah, blah, blah. A salt-and-pepper-haired chap with Senior Help Line was losing his battle to get an older lady to understand the kind of loan he was suggesting won’t save her house but can reduce her other debt, which obviously sounded like so much blah, blah, blah to her. Another lady hiding her rollers beneath a pink scarf finally pounded the WaMu table when the blah, blah, blahs became too much to bear.

As frustration mounted like so much bad debt, two beefy guys bolted for the exit. One did not believe the advice he’d received will help stave off a lender demanding more money yesterday. His buddy concurred, characterizing the assistance as too general for someone with his specific problem.

Hopefully, on their way out into that freaky moon glow, they jotted down the phone number on a placard resting on one workshop table. It was for the Hope hotline.