Group offers help to area homeowners

ENCINITAS — The increasing number of foreclosure signs in front of once tidy lawns and businesses around the country offer little hope to those who are on the edge of losing their homes. However, a local group is intent on providing assistance to distressed homeowners in San Diego County.
The Housing Opportunities Collaborative, working with the county library system, is hosting monthly clinics designed to address the specific needs of homeowners who are behind on their mortgage payments and feel overwhelmed by the enormity of their circumstances.
Vino Pajanor, the group’s executive director, said the services are needed in every area of the county. “We are finding that the economic situation has touched every area in San Diego County,” he said.
The comprehensive clinic brings together attorneys, real estate and mortgage professionals and housing counseling agencies to provide information to the community. “We are a nonprofit and none of these professionals are charging a fee,” Pajanor said. “There are a lot of for-profits out there that prey on distressed homeowners.”
The group began holding clinics as early as 2007 in order to educate homeowners on their rights and obligations. “If people are educated then they can make a wise decision,” Pajanor said. Susan Moore, the county’s principal librarian for adult library services reiterated the need to provide adequate resources for the community. “The library used to be just a place to come and check out books,” she said. “But it’s always been a gathering place and we want to help people gain access to information.”
The five-hour clinics are designed to counsel homeowners in varying degrees of financial crisis. “We want them (homeowners) to stay in their homes,” Pajanor said. “We want to make sure they have the right tools to make the right decisions.”
The one-on-one aspect of the clinic is unique. “We’ll review the homeowner’s documents and give them guidance on what their options are based on their particular circumstances,” Pajanor said.
“I think it can be overwhelming when you are struggling to find information,” Moore said. “We want people to know that the library is a place you can come for information and help.”
For Samantha King, an Oceanside resident two months behind on her mortgage payments, the clinic represents the possibility of saving her home. “I signed whatever paperwork was put in front of me to buy this place,” she said. “I should have done more research but I trusted that the value of my house would go up and that everything would remain stable.” King lost her job as a physical therapist six months ago and has exhausted her savings.
The first free event is scheduled for Jan. 24 at the Encinitas Branch library at 450 Cornish Drive.
Registration is required for all of the clinics. Please visit www.HOMEclinic@housingcollaborative.org or call 1 (800) HOC-0503.

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