Kristy Theilen
Kristy Theilen, 26, is the lead organizer for Tucson ACORN. While the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now has its hands in numerous projects--its goal is organizing low- and moderate-income neighborhoods--the nonprofit organization is making a big push to help people in foreclosure trouble. Every Tuesday at 7 p.m., ACORN is holding a foreclosure-avoidance class at its office at 1924 S. Fourth Ave. (just south of 29th Street; look for the little red building on the west side). The goal of those classes is to set up homeowners in need with a housing counselor from ACORN Housing, which works with 43 lenders/loan servicers and recently received a $7.8 million grant to help with foreclosure-avoidance. For more information, call ACORN at 623-9389 or (800) 67-ACORN. Jimmy Boegle, jboegle@tucsonweekly.com

Let's say I am a homeowner in trouble. What should I do?

Call ACORN. We will tell you what you need to bring to the foreclosure-avoidance class. We'll also give you tips. We're a national organization, and we network ... so we find out what the lenders' latest tricks are. (One trick is that) once you have a housing counselor, the lender will often call you and say, "You don't need a housing counselor."

What should homeowners do if they get a call like that?

We have a little tip script that we give everybody, so they're armed with information when the lender does call. A lot of these people have been trying to reach their lenders ... and they never seem to want to return calls (before the homeowner gets a counselor).

Devil's-advocate question: Why should someone trust ACORN over their lender?

We're a nonprofit organization. We don't have any motivation to do anything negative.

What kind of expertise does ACORN have?

ACORN Housing has been doing this for a long time; they're (Department of Housing and Urban Development)-certified, and their grant is through NeighborWorks and was approved through Congress. ACORN Housing is our sister organization; they (assist) first-time homebuyers, and they do debt counseling, but most of all right now, they're doing mortgage-delinquency counseling.

Let's say I need to come to your foreclosure-avoidance class. What do I need to bring?

Bring your most recent mortgage statement, your foreclosure notice, if you've gotten one, and ... a month's worth of pay stubs or any sort of income verification.

What should I expect to happen at the class?

You should expect to fill out paperwork, to provide all of the info the counselor needs to work on the case, (so we can) get all of the options available to you, based on what your situation is. ... You'll get information about all of the options, a tip sheet on what to do, and other information. Basically, we just don't want you to give up hope, because a lot of people are giving up hope.

I understand you're having a celebration because of a success that ACORN Housing has had.

Yes. Lupita came into our office just three weeks ago, and said her (foreclosure auction) sale date was in three weeks. ... She's very sweet; you can feel the love around her. She was crying, and everyone was moved. ... We told her, "So, let's turn in your paperwork and see what the counselors can do." She got in her paperwork really quick, and ... two days before the sale date, the counselor tried contacting her, but due to some miscommunication, she didn't get the message. She contacted us, and was upset and didn't know what was happening. She said, "I've lived in this home for 31 years." So we had a group all ready to go to the auction and fight for the house together.

What could you have done to fight for the house at the auction?

We could have caused a ruckus, and yelled and shouted. In other cities, this has stopped a sale, and postponed it so there's more time for the counselor and the lender to work something out.

But that ended up not being necessary.

What happened was the counselor finally got a hold of her and told her they'd gotten the sale postponed.

That's great. But it doesn't mean Lupita's in the clear.

No, but it gives more time to arrange something and work stuff out.

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