RN Contributes to Home Court Advantage
By Heather Stringer
Lisa Epstein, RN, was working as an oncology nurse in Florida when she started noticing something new — and unsettling — as patients talked about their struggles. More and more of them were losing their homes, and many were overwhelmed when it came to understanding the legal jargon in their paperwork.
Then it happened to her. She had been following instructions from her mortgage servicer in order to qualify for a loan modification for her home when someone knocked on the door and handed her foreclosure papers. “I had prided myself on the fact that I had worked my whole life and been fiscally responsible, and then overnight I was pigeonholed into the role of a deadbeat, irresponsible person who was a bad credit risk. I was so embarrassed and ashamed,” says Epstein, who was working at the Palm Beach Cancer Institute at the time.
After recovering from the emotional shock, Epstein’s training as a nurse kicked in. She started visiting the courthouse during lunch hours and days off to study the court records. The more she investigated, the more she uncovered — signatures for the same person that looked different, dates that didn’t make sense, varying titles for the same person.
Epstein’s findings were so alarming she decided to dedicate herself full time as an activist fighting foreclosure fraud with other activists to shed light on what she believes is a national crisis. The group’s efforts were instrumental in spurring the Florida attorney general to launch an investigation of Florida’s largest foreclosure law firms. “This cause appealed to my nursing instincts because I feel that food, water and shelter are basic needs, and shelter is being taken from people in a way that I feel is immoral and unethical,” Epstein says.
Whether as a nurse or foreclosure fighter, Epstein feels compelled to help the people with whom she is in contact. During her 20 years as a nurse, she would do whatever she could to assist patients — sometimes fighting insurance denials or visiting families on her days off who were struggling emotionally as their loved ones were dying.
“Nursing is hard because facilities are so understaffed and there is so much to do, but we can do a lot just by providing the space for someone to talk about their struggles,” she says. “This is a very tough time with the economy and stresses people are under, and it is important to let people know they are not alone.”
She created a website, ForeclosureHamlet.org, the equivalent of a foreclosure support group where people can share concerns and information with one another. Now Epstein works full time as a volunteer combing through court files, online records and other data to gather information for the hundreds of homeowners to whom she is connected. She encourages any nurses facing foreclosure to educate themselves about foreclosure fraud and defend their homes if they suspect they are being treated unfairly. She hopes to eventually see a national moratorium on foreclosures and more regulation of the financial industry.