New Program Helps Asian-Americans Buy Homes

FEMA trailers still dot the landscape in East Biloxi. Hundreds of Vietnamese-Americans once lived in the area. Some families are rebuilding. But for others, achieving the American dream is just that -- a dream.

"Before the storm, I owned a mobile home. But I rented the lot," Nghia Dao said. "Katrina came. It destroyed my mobile home."

Nghia Dao lives in a trailer in Gulfport now. He has no credit history, and very little money to start over. Many other Asians face the same homebuying barriers.

"There are reasons such as unverifiable income, and a lack of credit. Those two are the primary reasons," said Thao Vu, branch manager for Boat People SOS. "There's definitely a language barrier. They have difficulty understanding all the technical information that you need to know to become a homeowner."

That's why Boat People SOS and Freddie Mac launched Credit Smart Asian on the Mississippi Coast. Though a series of bilingual books and workshops, the program shows families how to establish good credit, the steps to owning a home, and the responsibilities involved.

"We would like them to get into a more stable, permanent housing situation and this will really help that," Vu said.

Nghia Dao has signed up for the classes. He just bought some land with grant money, and is ready to turn his dream of building a house into reality.

"I'm in the process of sponsoring my wife from Viet Nam to come over here. I want to have a home ready for her to come over so she could live with me. I want to have a family," Dao said.

The guidebooks are also available in other languages, including Chinese and Korean. The workshops begin October 16th. For more information about the program, call Boat People SOS at (228) 436-9999.