Financial Advisors Offer Free Help To Help Katrina Victims

An organization that helps give people the financial tools they need to rebuild their lives after disasters, is expanding its Mississippi operation. On Wednesday, Operation Hope held a grand opening for its new Pascagoula office and an open house at its Gulfport location. The group provides free financial counseling.

"How are you looking on your house?" Pass Christian alderman Anthony Hall asked resident Leon Roberts.

Hall says most of the obstacles keeping residents from getting into homes center around money. Roberts told the elected official his rebuilding plans were postponed by some unexpected expenses.

"I was told I had to move some more concrete, so there goes some more money," said Roberts.

These days, Ward 2's Joseph Piernas says he's hearing too many stories about unreliable contractors leaving people in financial limbo.

"I think we need a lot of financial counseling," said Piernas. "A lot of people are trying to find ways to get money and when they get the money which avenue to take, what's the right way to invest your money."

The director of Operation HOPE told Hall, Piernas and others that his organization is dedicated to helping people impacted by Katrina develop their own financial recovery plans. Advisors then come up with a strategy that could include negotiating with creditors, and assisting people in getting grants, loans, and insurance payments.

Operation Hope Director Fred Smith said, "Many individuals, because of these disasters, will have a check or a combination of checks which will equal more money than they've ever had at one time in their lifetime, and may never have in the future. After a disaster, it is unfortunately well known that there are a number of individuals and corporations that attempt to take advantage of individuals after any kind of tragedy. Without good financial advice and good financial information, the chances of an individual misusing or misspending those funds is pretty great."

The two Pass Christian aldermen believe learning how to better manage resources is a lesson, that could benefit most everyone.

Advisors also offer advice on how best to go about finding a contractor. Some of that information is given in an extended interview.

To make an appointment with an Operation Hope financial advisor call 1-888-388 HOPE.