New “Virtual Counselor Network” Offers Professional Housing Counseling & Expands Services to Residents in Westminster, CA

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Developed by the Housing Opportunities Collaborative (HOC) and supported by US Bank, Citi Foundation and United Way, this new "Virtual Counselor Network" provides free “real time” access to 1-on-1 housing, credit and financial counseling from trusted nonprofit partners.

The counselors helped me with filing my taxes virtually through the VCN and they are also helping me budget my income, it's a really good thing.

The Orange County Housing Opportunities Collaborative (OC HOC) announced today that Westminster’s Abrazar SparkPoint OC Program will receive a Virtual Empowerment Center as part of a network of strategically-located stand-alone computer terminals stretching 120 miles from Santa Ana to San Diego, and as far as San Bernardino. This network uses an innovative new technology, the Virtual Counselor Network (VCN), developed by HOC, to transform and expand access to professional housing counseling ranging from rental counseling to home buying, foreclosure prevention, legal and credit counseling.

The VCN is being formally launched at a press event on Wednesday, May 27, 2015 at 12:30pm at the Abrazar Community Center (7101 Wyoming Dr, Westminster, CA). The event will include a live VCN demonstration as well as client and partner interview opportunities, with flexibility in media scheduling throughout the day. To view a short 1 minute video on VCN, go to

“We are excited to partner with Abrazar and bring our innovative VCN technology to a new area and continue to provide the community with immediate online access to nonprofit counselors who can assist with credit, legal and housing solutions,” said Connie Der Torossian, OC HOC Program Manager. VCN centers are already in place in 24 remote locations in Southern California, Der Torossian said. In addition, more than 120 Virtual Counselors have been trained to counsel clients via the VCN and services are offered in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Korean and many other languages.

The VCN has been in use in San Diego, Oceanside, Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties since March 2013 and in Orange County since July 2014, through a generous grant from Citi Community Development. Since its inception, the VCN has already assisted more than 3,430 clients. Rosario Casas, a single mom with 2 kids, is currently working with Abrazar’s SparkPoint in Schools Program in Anaheim and is one of the thousands of clients who has been assisted by the VCN. "The counselors helped me with filing my taxes virtually through the VCN and they are also helping me budget my income, it's a really good thing," Casas said. Casas was able to connect to the VCN to virtually file her taxes through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program without having to drive to the Abrazar office in Westminster. Casas was able to get a $4,000 tax refund to help her improve her financial situation and save hundreds of dollars in tax filing fees by not having to go to a professional for-profit tax preparer. Casas said she plans to use the refund to pay off her debts and student loans to get our financial situation back on track.

OC HOC received funding from US Bank and the Citi Foundation via Orange County United Way to support the launch of the VCN at Abrazar’s SparkPoint OC, which offers low-income individuals the opportunity to increase income, manage credit and build assets through one-on-one counseling from a financial coach. Orange County United Way created SparkPoint OC as one-stop financial empowerment centers where hard-working low-income residents can access a full range of free services. The first VCN in Orange County was launched in July 2014, and is located at the SparkPoint Office at the Delhi Center in Santa Ana. OC HOC worked collaboratively with all of these partners to launch the VCN in Orange County and the organization is currently seeking support to continue creating access points for the VCN and to bring its technology to smart phones and tablets as soon as resources permit.

Local residents and homeowners can learn more and access the Virtual Counselor Network now at or by calling 800.826.1502.

About the Housing Opportunities Collaborative
Housing Opportunities Collaborative is a 501(c)(3) tax exempt HUD approved counseling intermediary, established in 2005 by a coalition of HUD approved housing counseling and fair housing agencies, other housing related nonprofit organizations, business organizations, and government agencies that support all aspects of housing rights and responsibilities. It was created to serve as an information clearinghouse by consolidating housing and related information, making it easily accessible to the public and partners. To improve the delivery of services to the community, the HOC developed the Virtual Counselor Network in 2013 to digitally connect social services agencies and partner organizations to the community using the power of technology. OC HOC is the Orange County branch of the HOC. OC HOC Nonprofit Partner organizations who have signed up to have Virtual Counselors on the VCN include: Affordable Housing Clearinghouse, Consumer Credit Counseling Service of OC, Fair Housing Foundation, NeighborWorks OC, Legal Aid Society of OC, Public Law Center, Shalom Center, Springboard Credit Counseling and SparkPointOC at Delhi and Abrazar.

About Abrazar
Founded in 1975, ABRAZAR, Inc. is a California 501(c)(3) non-profit community service agency dedicated to promoting the general welfare and prosperity of very poor to medium income seniors and families in Orange County through programs that improve health and nutrition, socialization, life long learning, and economic self-sufficiency in culturally sensitive ways. Abrazar is a multicultural, multigenerational community-based agency whose core work serves economically challenged and fixed-income populations access quality health care, dental care, food, education, housing, translation and transportation services. ABRAZAR’s compassionate, holistic approach has resulted in a collaborative support network of food banks, school districts, adult day/health care centers, and health care agencies that result in an accessible safety net of services. The agency’s two community centers offer computer and financial literacy classes, parenting classes, after-school tutoring program, affordable housing, Spanish and Vietnamese translation services, door to door transportation for seniors to health and wellness services, emergency food and clothing, congregate and home delivered meals, English Language Development (ELD). The on-site Dental Clinic in Westminster is a full service dental facility and available for patients 5 years and older. ABRAZAR has particular expertise in serving immigrant and non-English speaking populations, most notably Hispanics and more recently Vietnamese. The agency has a proud history of flexing to meet the changing needs of its community and clientele. Today, ABRAZAR provides a comprehensive and wide range of services to clients who range in age from birth to 98!

About SparkPoint OC
Orange County United Way launched SparkPoint OC: one-stop financial empowerment centers where hard working low-income residents can access a full range of free services. Families are teamed with a one-on-one financial coach who assists them with creating a step-by-step plan in three areas:

  •     Increasing income, from accessing public assistance to free tax prep, to job training and placement
  •     Managing credit, including improving credit score, managing debt, and creating a household budget
  •     Building assets, including matched savings accounts, and first-time home buyer programs

SparkPoint OC’s two financial empowerment centers have helped more than 200 families in the last year. Services may vary per location. Listed Below are the 2 Orange County locations:

  •     SparkPoint OC at Delhi Center in Santa Ana. For more information, please contact Director of Special Projects, Jeanette Valencia, at 714.481.9600
  •     SparkPoint OC at Abrazar in Westminster. For more information, please contact SparkPoint OC Program Director, Leslie Aguilar, at 714.893.3581 (EXT: 129).

About the Citi Foundation
The Citi Foundation works to promote economic progress in communities around the world and focuses on initiatives that expand financial inclusion. We collaborate with best-in-class partners to create measurable economic improvements that strengthen low-income families and communities. Through a "More than Philanthropy" approach, Citi's business resources and human capital enhance our philanthropic investments and impact. For more information, visit

About U.S. Bank
U.S. Bancorp, with $410 billion in assets as of March 31, 2015, is the parent company of U.S. Bank National Association, the 5th largest commercial bank in the United States. The Company operates 3,172 banking offices in 25 states and 5,016 ATMs and provides a comprehensive line of banking, brokerage, insurance, investment, mortgage, trust and payment services products to consumers, businesses and institutions. Visit U.S. Bancorp on the web at

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Connie Der Torossian
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