We constantly see and hear about the bad economy nationwide and this affects many of us in Atlantic County. Although we are falling on hard times and we may feel there is nowhere to turn, think again. I heard recently of a program within Atlantic County called R.E.AL. Help, which stands for Realty Experts Aligned to Help. Originally formed at a meeting between local real estate agent Geoff Rosenberger and chief of staff for the Atlantic County Sheriff’s Office, Stephan Jackson, the idea was initially to provide a way for people to get help with their mortgages. Jackson took the idea back to Sheriff Frank Balles, and with a few tweaks and additions they had a model for a program that would incorporate the skills of local real estate, mortgage, finance, legal and service organizations to offer reputable services for the residents of Atlantic County.
The program would address the reality of a sheriff’s sale and incorporate links with state organizations such as the New Jersey Housing Mortgage Finance Agency and the Department of Banking and Insurance, along with numerous local agencies in Atlantic County.
According to Jackson, over the past year and half, the program has provided services to over 800 inquiries for help. He also notes that many people are referred to the R.E.AL Help services from local legislators and that the concept has been presented to almost every municipality in the county. Jackson says that with the continuation of the foreclosure problem, they are now seeing a second wave of home related issues that vary in severity.
If you go to acsheriff.org, click on “Programs” and then “R.E.AL Help.” It will route you to a page with contact information for services such as legal help, veterans assistance, mortgage assistance, housing assistance, foreclosure mediation, the homeowner preservation foundation and money management international, just to name a few. Also midway through there is a PDF document of foreclosure fast facts that share prevention resources. I love that everything is all in one place and easy to find.
When asked about choosing the specific people and businesses to participate in these programs, Jackson assures that everyone is carefully screened and those who participate in the R.E.AL Help program as counselors have an understanding that this is driven by assisting those in need. He believes that when we connect a resident with the proper help for their specific situation, it’s a win-win for everyone in Atlantic County.
Over the past year about 15 seminars and several expos have been held county wide. (The latest is at the Shore Mall on Thursday, Oct. 28, from 11am-7pm and the topic is the Economic and Energy Assistance Expo, in partnership with the United Way of Atlantic County.)
Jackson also notes that he is available to provide and/or sponsor training as needed. You can contact Jackson via the link on the aforementioned Web site.
According to statistics found at realtytrac.com, in September 2010 alone Absecon, Egg Harbor Township, Mays Landing, Atlantic City and Pleasantville experienced the most foreclosure activity in Atlantic County.
The information here is just a small part of what is out there, but it’s good to know that there is a place to start. Being in this type of predicament is definitely not a fun thing and it can be embarrassing, however, just remember that many of us are in the same boat so don’t be afraid to reach out for help.
As a freelance writer, Whitney's columns were published in multiple press outlets including: GoJaneNews.com The Atlantic City Weekly New Jersey Lifestyle Magazine & The Boardwalk Journal just to name a few.
She is the former host of the Entertainment Minute which aired on the NBC40 News and was featured twice on FOX's Chasing New Jersey.