Foreclosure support group offers resources

NEWBURY PARK The list of foreclosures grows longer every day. And the crisis is taking a financial and emotional toll. Now one couple in Newbury Park is trying to help people cope by setting up a peer network. The network is helping people get through the tough times.

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From alcoholism to cancer to divorce, every issue seems to have some sort of support group. But good luck trying to find one for foreclosures. It can be one of the most stressful things in a person's life. That's why one Ventura County couple is looking to change things by starting their own support group.

For more than 40 years, his house has staked its claim in Newbury Park. The last six it's been home to Mike and Kristin Bertrand. Then Mike lost his job.

"I'm now working again, but our new income is not even close, it's not even half of what my old income was," said Mike. "So we can longer afford to pay the mortgage."

For nearly a year, the Bertrands struggled unsuccessfully to save that mortgage. But now they're turning it over to the lender. During that time they quickly learned that losing their house created as many emotional problems as financial ones.

"This is our home, this was the place where my kids were brought up," said Kristin. "This was memories. This was everything. This was our home. And so it was very, very dark."

When that emotional help couldn't be found, the Bertrands decided to use their firsthand experience to start "Moving Forward," a non-profit support group designed to help those that may be facing foreclosure. They meet twice a month at a Newbury Park church. The cost? Nothing.

"What we wanted to do is to create a safe environment where people can get together and talk about the process, and at the same time, give them tools and resources so that they can be better prepared to make good decisions," said Mike.

"Mike sees this as really therapy for everybody, including himself," said Todd Kaufman, Alta Community Investments.

Real estate investor Todd Kaufman is one of the experts who consults with the Moving Forward support group. He says most of the people going through a foreclosure often avoid dealing with the problem until it's too late. And that, he says, is where Bertrand's group can help.

"It can have a dramatic impact on your future," said Todd. "Your credit, where you live. You know, that kind of stuff, and people aren't generally making decisions, they're making them under duress and without information. This kind of helps that, I think, a lot."

Ventura County is rife with potential members for that support group. Last March alone saw nearly 800 foreclosure filings in the county.


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