Program offers free financial advice to survive economic crisis

By Trang Pham-Bui - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - "You have to ask yourself, what can I change to decrease my expenses?" a financial expert told a group of people.

Dozens of people came to the Biloxi Community Center to seek advice that will help them navigate through these rocky economic times. They all face the same anxieties being felt across the country.

"Their mortgage is falling farther and farther behind. They're having to look at other places to live," said Sarah Walker, Director of Visions of Hope.

On Thursday, the non-profit organization invited local banks, housing experts, and social service agencies to a financial workshop and community resource fair. Together, they taught families how to avoid scams, bankruptcies and other financial pitfalls. Participants also learned about affordable childcare options, free after-school programs and where to turn if they have legal questions.

"Foreclosures without a doubt is going to get worse," said Walker. "In addition to your regular household bills, things that you would normally deal with, the holidays are also approaching. So, that's adding a lot of extra stress to a lot of families."

Rhonda Walker appreciates all the tips about budgets, credit and savings. The mother of seven was laid off from Beau Rivage back in April, but she still dreams of owning her own home.

"Just to set a foundation for my kids, so that one day they can have a home," said Rhonda Walker. "I'm trying to get all the knowledge I can. If there's any more knowledge I can get, I want it."

Walker's financial picture is looking up. She got a call last week from her former employer.

"Right now, they're doing background, and I'm rehired," said Walker.

Now, Walker and dozens of others are armed with knowledge that will help them on the road to financial success.

To help families learn about saving money, "Visions of Hope" held a drawing at the end of the day. Five people received $50.00 each to deposit into a newly-opened savings account.