Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘NHSOC’


SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO (CA)-Ray Brewer, a HUD field director, led the assembled 400 people or so, in the pledge of allegiance, and it was at that moment that what should have been a Norman Rockwell scene turned into something more like Alice in Wonderland.  The atmosphere had been building up to that time and I wondered what would happen next.  The city of San Juan Capistrano had offered the Community Center to host a foreclosure prevention workshop with the participation of HUD, the FHA, California Home loan Lenders (Wells Fargo, HSBC and Chase) along with various NGO organizations like the OC HOPOC, the NHSOC, and the Orange County Legal Aide Society.

Congressman Ken Calvert (R-44) appeared to greet the attendees and while Calvert’s demeanor was genuinely in awe with the turnout, his presence brought a communal low growling buzz that started when they began the announcement with “Congressman.”  Thankfully, everyone remained calm but just barely so.  Curiously, the organizers were very relaxed and easy to work with although very direct in that they insisted on the utmost respect and consideration for participants.  It wasn’t a point too far away for me as the parent company for The Orange County Register, Freedom Communications, and for whom I was freelancing today, was in the middle of bankruptcy proceedings.  The intimate mechanics of trying to hold onto one’s home was obvious to me and deserved any matter of compassion and understanding I could give.

I did not originally think that there would be that many people at the event.  Foreclosure isn’t something that happens in America, even if national news said it was up, besides, watching it on national news is something that happens to people everywhere else like, snowstorms, tornados and hurricanes. 

Peter Scheldon, a staff reporter, was to write the story and so I waited outside the entrance, looking for a photo angle of the crowd.  My assignment was to shoot interviewees that agreed to have their photo taken for the article.  It didn’t take long for people to notice my cameras and a calm un-easiness carried itself back through the line.  A man walked out from the line seeking an empty bench at the side of the door and exclaimed:

“…Oh look, we can get our picture taken and they’ll put us in the crime blotter…”

 

It was impressive that so many people had brought their children although I wondered if it meant that the current economic downtrend would continue and instinctively, parents had thought to make it a learning experience.

Most people, obviously tense and in different stages of grief and uncertainty, were relieved to get some help and direction; it seemed likely that not everyone expected good news but at least something was being done and they were not alone. 

Scheldon, the reporter, arrived and in the midst of his interviews, I shot their faces as they poured out the months and years of dealing with struggle, stress and wonder.  It occurred to me that the people I saw were a mix of all the people I would usually see at any event I was assigned to shoot.  In fact it was not hard to imagine the people I would shoot this day were overwhelmingly the same people I would see helping out at any other assignment at a church, community or sports event.  This was the middle class and not what anyone would assume to be an “at risk” group of people.

There was one gentleman interviewed that sat silently and patiently waiting for his turn with a counselor.  He was not scared nor afraid but simply concerned and clear in his intention to get some help; this was not a man that was used to having an issue like this and having to share it.  He had been interviewed  by Scheldon and so I asked permission to keep shooting him, which I did.

He sat in the main room, waiting his turn, listening to the speakers that talked about anything from the government’s position on loans, fraud and bankruptcy.  I noticed he was not as talkative as several others that were interviewed but he was an old tree; confident, gracefully proud and sadly curious to what had to be for him, a new experience.

I followed him to where he sat down and spoke with a counselor.  I got a few shots, trying to be as unobtrusive as I could with two huge cameras and a blinding flash.  He held firm, wavering a bit beneath uncomfortable questions from the counselor but answered unblinkingly.  He had my attention and more importantly, my respect; this man is tough I thought as I imagined what it would be, to look across a pile of papers and face the help he needed.

I was done with my shots and I waited to catch his eye.

Thank you and good luck.” I said, and I meant it.

 

“Thanks!” he said, looking up for a moment before setting his eyes back on the attorney sitting before him and without bothering to look up he added, “I’m going to need it.”

Advertisements

Read Full Post »