Beginning this Saturday, and running through Oct. 22, Loretto Hospital, located at 645 S. Central Ave., will hold a comprehensive workshop to encourage more African-Americans to take the plunge into homeownership.

“We want to inspire African Americans to take advantage of the current property market and get more interested in real estate,” said Ralph Franklin, coordinator of the With Ownership Wealth (WOW) program in the 7th congressional district.

The course is offered free of charge every season except summer to instruct participants on how to obtain a free copy of their credit report, speak with professional lenders, Realtors, attorneys, insurance agents, and home inspectors who come to the classes to lecture.

Usually the fall classes have the most registered participants with about 50 signed on. Winter and spring classes tend to be more available for registration. There are no summer sessions offered.

Vera Davis, executive director of the Westside branch of the NAACP, is overseeing the project.

The program began as a Black Caucus-touted initiative in 2001 with the goal of creating 1 million new black homeowners. However, the plan was later outsourced to the various branches of the NAACP and a new goal was set: To increase the growth of African-American ownership from its current rate of 48 percent to 50 percent within the next few years.

Though admittedly a modest goal, it may plant the seeds required to emphasize the importance of building wealth through real estate.

“It is the hidden gold mine,” said Franklin. “And this workshop is part of Congressman Davis’ plan to adhere to this absolutely vital initiative. Creating these workshops is the first step.”

During the 6-week course, which consists of 2-hour sessions every Saturday, each participant will learn about Down Payment Assistance Programs, free grant funding programs, below-market interest rate programs, and closing cost assistance programs. Classes are in session from noon until 2 p.m.

The first session of the course will provide an overview of the 12-step process. Participants will become familiar with the project Partners. Then, without much delay, the class will move quickly into understanding mortgage concepts and understanding credit scores.

“Students will begin to gain more clarity into the mechanisms involved in determining their credit score and its relevance to the other qualifying criteria for mortgages,” said Franklin. “Then an authorization will be made available for them to receive a free copy of their credit report. They have an in-depth discussion of credit repair in the second session.”

As any real estate professional will assert, location is the crucial criterion in determining the investment potential of a particular property. But how does a potential homeowner know which area would be best in making a purchase that will lead to the greatest return on their investment?

“Location is very important,” said Franklin. “You generally like to buy properties [near] main streets in areas that are building up. Most of the time this property will greatly increase in value since it’s located in places near spots for business development.”

As the class progresses, participants will also be versed on the relevance of purchasing as opposed to continuing renting, all the programs that are available for first-time homebuyers, avoiding credit pitfalls, using a “pie chart” to assess the extent of any credit repair needed and deciding whether to maintain homeowner’s insurance after the mortgage has been paid.

The 12 steps are broken down by course hour. They include:

? Post Purchasing Counseling,

? Know The Lender – The Man With The Money, and

? Affordability and Budgeting when looking for a home.

For more information and to register, call the Chicago Westside Branch NAACP at 773/261-5890. The office is located at 1140 N. Lamon Ave.