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Faces of foreclosure

It’s a national problem that can be told from thousands of towns, including Elkhart, Ind.

The faces of foreclosure include Karla Funnell of Elkhart, Ind. “I really miss living at that house, I really want to have that life again,” says Funnell, seen here on Sept. 25 admiring the home she had called hers for 18 years.

Laid off from her job, eventually her unemployment benefits ran out and then she lost the home to foreclosure in 2007.

After 30 years in the RV industry, Funnell, 52, now delivers pizza part-time and lives in a fifth-wheel camper with her son on her daughter and son-in-law's property.
Looking back, Funnell says she might have been able to get a loan from family members had she told them sooner. Her advice: "Try to get help as soon as possible. Don’t be ashamed." James Cheng / msnbc.com
Terrie Vavrek, 42, moves out of her home of eight years on Sept. 25 after declaring bankruptcy and walking away from her mortgage. Having lost her job in January and getting $1,200 a month in unemployment, she quickly got behind on mortgage payments of $1,400 a month. Vavrek and her daughter are now staying with a friend.

She'd worked at the plant that builds H2 Hummers for General Motors and hopes to get the job back after GM recently completed a deal to sell the brand to a Chinese company. "I am waiting now to hear something positive about my job since the contract has been signed," she says.

Would she do anything differently if she were shopping for a home today? "I'd make sure I could afford the house payment even if I was unemployed," she says. James Cheng / msnbc.com
Johnny Warren and Brenda Carpenter talk about their mortgage headaches outside their Elkhart home on Sept. 30. They've lived here since 1998 and never missed a payment, Carpenter says, until both became RV industry casualties -- Warren after 17 years and Carpenter after 20. They're getting help from La Casa, a local nonprofit, which is helping file paperwork to reduce the mortgage payments.

Carpenter says they're always looking for jobs but are regularly turned down, because they're told they are "too old to qualify."

Carpenter's advice is to not miss mortgage payments. "Make sure that gets paid first no matter what," she says. James Cheng / msnbc.com
Rebecca Christner reflects outside the Elkhart County home she lived in for 24 years before losing it. Each room has memories, she says, "and they can't take that away." Christner, 55, spiraled into foreclosure after she quit her nursing job due to stress and then her husband died. "His death precipitated a lot of emotional problems for me," she says,"and part of how I dealt with it was making purchases" -- especially on credit cards.

"Seek advice from people other than the bank, like a financial adviser," she says to anyone in similar straits. James Cheng / msnbc.com
Roberto and Patricia Negrete play with their son Roberto Jr., 1, in the backyard of their home on Sept. 27.

Roberto, 38, expects to walk away from the home since he can't keep up with the mortgage. He lost his RV job and was unemployed for 10 months before getting back into the industry but at a much lower wage. "I don't make anything compared to what I used to make," he says.

"I know I can't keep up (with the mortgage)," he says, "so we're going to get into an apartment" once his mortgage holder decides to foreclose. James Cheng / msnbc.com
Bertha Garcia sits on the steps of her Elkhart home on Sept. 22. Having lost her RV industry job a year ago, her bills, especially medical ones, piled up and now she faces foreclosure at the end of October.

"The job was gone, the health insurance was gone," Garcia, 39, says of the double blow that eventually led to her skipping mortgage payments after five years in the home.

A single mom with three kids, she paid a legal firm $1,600 for advice on trying to get her mortage holder to modify the loan, but that still hasn't happened.

Her advice: "Try to make payments any way you can. Because of one missed payment you can lose everything -- dreams and everything." James Cheng / msnbc.com
An aspiring singer, Rowena Gutierrez poses for a portrait in the backyard of her Elkhart home. After losing her job as a nurse and seeing her variable mortgage jump to 13 percent, she had a heart attack in June and could lose her home if she doesn't find a job soon.

She takes unpaid singing gigs on the weekend, hoping to be discovered and hired. “I calm myself by singing, you know, it gets me grounded,” she says.

Gutierrez attributes her plight to an aggressive mortgage agent and her own giddiness. "I didn't understand that it was a third party thing," she says of the loan. "All I cared about was I was going to be a homeowner... I was in Disneyland." James Cheng / msnbc.com
Janet Berrier stands outside her Elkhart home on Sept. 23, ready to move at a moment's notice if she can't get her mortgage modified. “Most of the house is packed up in boxes," she says, "that way if the modification doesn't work I’ll have enough time to get everything packed and get out" before foreclosure.

Berrier took out the mortgage in 2006, and says she thought it was a fixed-rate. Two years later, not only did her monthly payments jump by $200 but she lost valuable overtime hours at her job.

"I can make half a payment or a little more,' she says she told her bank, "and they said they wanted all of it." James Cheng / msnbc.com
Terry Gonyon paces outside the Elkhart home that he and his family had lived in for four years until it was foreclosed on last March.

He works in construction, but rarely more than 10 hours a week these days. He, his wife and most of his nine children now live in a trailer in nearby Bristol.

Gonyon put $20,000 down for a 30-year fixed mortgage but then saw his payments jump by $400 when his regular insurer refused to cover the house and his lender then tacked on "forced-placed" premiums.

Gonyon, 38, says he's learned to work with people he knows and trusts. "Get a loan from a local bank," he offers as advice, "don't go through a broker." James Cheng / msnbc.com