Chapter Two

Advocate and Serve

A school bus driver walked into Self-Help’s offices in Durham, North Carolina, one day in 1998 looking for some advice on refinancing his mortgage. A recent widower, the man was raising his only daughter in a house he had built with his now-deceased wife. But with only one modest income, he was struggling to make his payments and was only a month away from losing his home.

Several Self-Help staff members examined the man’s financial documents. They were puzzled: he had a $44,000 mortgage, financed at a fairly high interest rate of 14 percent.1 But that wasn’t all. When they looked closer, they discovered that his actual loan amount was only $29,000. The lender had tacked on $10,000 in “credit insurance” and $5,000 ...

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