In 1929, my maternal grandfather was a logger in Northeast Washington. The physical demands of his job required the assistance of several horses. My grandfather grew very attached to these animals, and as a young father with a growing family to support, their labors were especially appreciated. In spite of these efforts, after the stock market crashed in October of that same year, my grandfather was faced with a difficult change in circumstances. With the downturn in the nation’s economy, all his efforts in Washington were for naught. The logging business was abandoned to search for paying work, and with that, the horses sold.

It was the auction of one specific horse, Buster, which hurt my grandfather the most. Three times my grandfather saved Buster’s life, and my grandfather always believed Buster knew this. He told the men at the auction about Buster’s merits and expressed concern over his horse’s future treatment. My grandfather wrote in his journal that when the auction gavel finally dropped, he bowed his head and wept. Two older, worktoughened farmers put their arms around his shoulders. One kindly consoled, “It’s ok Skinny. We all know what it’s like.”

After leaving Washington, my grandparents decided the Willamette Valley in Oregon might be able to support their family. They settled into the beautiful countryside but things were far from easy. To make ends meet, my grandmother sold yeast starter in jars. One of her customers, Anna, was a recent Swedish immigrant with a large, rambunctious brood of step -children and two more children of her own. Twenty years later, my grandparents’ oldest daughter would marry the youngest of these children.

My grandparents’ adversity created the ability for my parents to meet and ultimately, have children. Without the loss of the horses and many other things, my existence in present circumstances could not be. Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone, said, “When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.” At HELPS, we have learned to look for the open door. Often problems can be resolved. There is always enough time for hope.

At HELPS, we hope to help others wherever they are, hence our motto “sharing the burden.” You can help us by sharing what HELPS does with others. When you are done with this newsletter, please don’t throw it away. Leave it at your doctor’s office, senior center or pass it on to a friend. Many seniors don’t know where to turn for help with their debt struggles. If you know anyone in need of our help, please let them know what we do. We are here for any and all in need of our services. My sincere thanks to all of you..

Testimonial From HELPS Client

“Thank you so much for all your help. Words cannot express the relief and peace of mind we have experienced due to your taking charge of these matters when we had no where to turn.” ~ James & Sharon T.

Testimonial From HELPS Client

“I am so thankful for this service. This will make a huge difference in my quality of life. This is an answer to my prayers. Thank you and God Bless.”

~ Dona Jean E.

Finding a Place to Rent With Poor Credit

Occasionally we get calls from clients that are having difficulty finding a place to rent because of their credit. HELPS clients are generally on limited income, insufficient to maintain debt and also pay for basic needs. Their income, social security and pensions, are protected under federal law. Because they are represented by an attorney, HELPS Nonprofit Law Firm, the collectors cannot call or send letters. However there may be negative entries on credit that possibly could impact the ability to rent. The landlord might require a credit report, see a negative entry and decline the application. If this happens, we are here to help. HELPS has prepared what we call the "landlord" letter. It explains to a prospective landlord that your income is protected. That even though you may have old debt or a negative rating, all your income is available for your needs. It can't be taken from you and therefore is available for your rent. This letter has been very successful. When a landlord understands your income is protected and you will have the money to pay rent, any hesitancy is normally resolved. We supply this letter to any HELPS client who needs it. In fact, it may be beneficial to show it to the landlord before you apply and pay an application fee. Some apartments are governed by corporate rules that cannot be changed. Therefore, if you are told there will be a problem after you show the landlord letter to the person taking the application, you will have saved the application fee.

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So You Need To Buy A Car?

Inexpensive transportation can be a real problem on a limited budget. A car payment takes a big bite out of the income. And this is before the cost of collision and comprehensive insurance.

Letting a car go back to the lender can be a wise idea. Remember, even if you are left with a balance owing after returning it to the lender, you won’t have to pay it. The debt can be added to HELPS. But what about transportation? The first question is, is a car really necessary? Sometimes the budget simply won’t allow it. Fortunately alternate transportation can be arranged, such as taxi cabs or public transportation. Sometimes, however, a car is necessary. What can be done then? With some searching, reliable used cars can be found, often at accessible prices. The internet offers many options for used vehicle searching, not least among them Craigslist.

I always suggest searching Craigslist, owner only, not a dealer. Type in “runs good” on the search bar. An owner will seldom advertise a car that runs good if it doesn’t. Why? He doesn’t want you calling in a couple of weeks. Now a dealer is a different matter. They always sell less expensive cars “as is.” A dealer will also try to push you toward a loan, making payments, and ultimately losing money on interest from the whole process.

Older Hondas and Toyotas with nearly 200,000 miles can be very reliable even after that many miles. In the unlikely event the car only lasts a year and you paid $1,000, you will still have paid less money than you would have with a $200 per month car payment. In addition, you will only need liability insurance for a car you own outright. This will save more money. It is true for many people, a lump sum payment of $1,000 feels nearly impossible. With HELPS, however, the money freed up from paying unsecured debt may be used toward more important things. Ultimately, it is our goal to help our clients find as much financial freedom as possible. We want your money to be used for you, and not feeding big banks.

Incurring Debt After Enrolling In HELPS

It is common for HELPS clients to incur new debt after they enroll in HELPS that they might have difficulty paying. The question is what to do. First, remember that your Social Security and pension are protected. Therefore, this new debt does not have to be paid if you are struggling financially.

Many times, new debt arises from medical bills that are not covered under Medicare. If it is difficult to pay these bills, you can do one of several things. First, there is absolutely nothing wrong with paying a very small amount each month ($5-10-20 per month). Remember the medical provider receives most of the amount owed from Medicare and perhaps even some funds from supplemental insurance. The portion you owe is a comparative drop in the bucket compared to what they have already received. In many cases, a token payment will keep providers happy.

If your token payment does not appease the provider or you cannot afford a payment of any amount, you can always contact HELPS. We will add the new debt. It does not cost anything to do this. You might want to wait to do that after the bill is sent to a collection agency. Most medical providers don't actively collect their own debt. We'll send out a new letter and any contact will stop.

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