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Foreclosure clinic going international

Participants in a Nassau County Bar Association monthly

Participants in a Nassau County Bar Association monthly foreclosure prevention clinics in August in Mineola. Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

A Nassau foreclosure prevention clinic for homeowners is on its way to sounding more like the United Nations.

The Nassau County Bar Association, which runs the monthly sessions, contacted several embassies and consulates last year to ask them to spread word of the clinic to their communities, said Gale Berg, the bar association's director of pro bono attorney activities. About eight representatives came and that has resulted in more immigrants coming to the clinics, she said.

"What we needed is for the consulates to publicize it as something they endorse so their constituencies will come to us for help," she said. "For many ethnic communities that may show up in court, just getting a flyer that says we speak your language is not enough. What they really need are people within their communities, telling them, 'Yes, it's free, it's a good place, and they can help you.' "

The clinic has made bilingual attorneys available at the clinic, starting with Spanish-speaking attorneys last year, then Creole after the Haiti earthquake in January 2010 and now Russian. There's also a translation service by phone for those who speak other languages.

Even for people whose native language is English, it's hard enough understanding the language of mortgages and foreclosures.

Non-native English speakers, whether they speak English well or not, prefer having heavy-duty conversations in their native tongues, Berg said: "Even though they understand English, they're talking about their home, and I think they're more comfortable talking in their native language."

On call are attorneys who can also speak Korean, Chinese, Hindi and other languages, bar association officials said. They can request them when reserving spots for the monthly clinics.

The next one is from 3 to 6 p.m. April 14 at the bar association Mineola headquarters, 15th and West streets. Contact the bar association at 516-747-4070 for details and appointments.

Homeowners can get free, one-on-one advice at the clinic from volunteer attorneys, including bankruptcy specialists; county housing officials, nonprofit housing counselors and credit counselors.

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