Houses of Blues
The extreme stress of Merced's foreclosure epidemic

About this project

The foreclosure of a home is more than a financial transaction. It also is a hidden human drama. Merced County ranked first in California for foreclosure filings in 2009, and sixth among counties nationwide. With one in seven county homes foreclosed on since September 2006, we examine the psychological problems, including anxiety, sleeplessness and depression, wreaked by the local foreclosure crisis, which shows no sign of abating.

Findings

  • The foreclosure of a home is more than a financial transaction. It also is a hidden human drama.
  • Merced County ranked first in California for foreclosure filings in 2009, and sixth among counties nationwide.
  • With one in seven county homes foreclosed on since September 2006, we examine the psychological problems, including anxiety, sleeplessness and depression, wreaked by the local foreclosure crisis, which shows no sign of abating.

Stories

Impact of "Houses of Blues"

“Houses of Blues,” a two-part series running in the Merced Sun-Star Jan. 28 and 30, 2010, provided one of the first in-depth portrayals of the mental health effects of the California foreclosure crisis. The 12-story project delved into how...

Clinging to hope and home

Elected and appointed officials said the psychological trauma spawned by home foreclosures in Merced County poses a serious challenge, but that recent cuts to state mental health funding makes treatment hard to get.

Foreclosures by the numbers

Barely a block in Merced is without a For Sale or For Rent sign, or an empty home or two with the tell-tale signs of foreclosure. The visual cues reflect a tsunami of statistics that show a county where many homeowners are suffering:

Know the signs

Someone who is depressed has feelings of sadness or anxiety that last for weeks at a time, according to the Centers for Disease Control. He or she may also experience: - Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism

Problems can start small and pile on quickly

Elizabeth Morrison, clinical director of behavioral health at Golden Valley Health Centers, sat down to answer a few questions about our community's foreclosure and mental health crises:

U.S. senators say they're focused on foreclosures

In Washington, the state's two U.S. senators issued statements in response to the Sun-Star series.

Where to find help

For health issues: If you are in crisis, or worried about a relative or friend, please seek help immediately: - Call 911

Champagne to crowbars: Realtor Krotik shifts from selling dreams to tending empty homes

Wedding dresses, baby pictures, drapes, puppies and live pigs. A short list of some of the items Atwater Realtor Andy Krotik has found in the lifeless rooms of foreclosed homes.

Falling Down: Woman, 66, faces fears day and night as foreclosure looms

It became clear when the fall from her bed left a gaping hole in her mouth: the stress from imminent foreclosure had taken over her thoughts -- day and night.

Foreclosures take heavy toll on hearts and minds

Two weeks ago, a retired telephone company worker named Ethelda Lopez watched as her dream retirement home was auctioned off on the lawn outside a county courthouse in downtown Merced.

From courthouse steps, woman sees dream dissolve

ATWATER -- Ethelda Lopez, her husband, teenage daughter and two dogs still live in their four-bedroom, three-bath brown ranch home in Atwater's countryside -- but much has changed.

Out of job, out of home?

"I knew just looking around my neighborhood that a lot of people would be losing their homes. I never thought I'd be one of them." Then, the unimaginable happened: she lost her job.

Renters, beware of trapdoor

For the Matthews family, it's already a tight fit. But it promises to get tighter -- and more stressful.

Authors

Deborah Schoch

Senior writer Deborah Schoch reports on hospitals and health care delivery, nursing homes, environmental health and food. Her most recent articles have examined patient safety andhospital infections. She was a founding writer with the Center’s pilot project. Schoch spent 18 years as a staff writer at the Los Angeles Times, covering public health and the environment. She was a member of the Times newsroom teams that won Pulitzer Prizes for breaking news in 1992 and 1994. Schoch graduated from Cornell University and was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University in 1999-2000, studying science, law and policy. Her work at the Center has won several honors, including first place in the 2010 Awards for Excellence in Health Care Journalism, from the Association of Health Care Journalists. She sits on the AHCJ board’s Right-to-Know Committee, which works to improve access to public health records.

Project Partners

© 2014 California Healthcare Foundation Center for Health Reporting

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