Next, begin rebuilding your credit. If you have current accounts with good payment histories, or even some previous late-payment-blemishes, make sure you continue to pay those accounts on time. If you do not have any existing credit accounts then you'll need to establish several in order to create a viable credit history.
I have found that CONSUMER ACTION is an excellent resource for objective advice on all things credit related. You'll find free and sincere advice on everything from settling collection accounts to rebuilding credit to building credit from scratch on their website. http://consumer-action.org/
Beware of anyone offering to "repair" your credit! The Federal Trade Commission issued a stern warning last year that such offers are scams. Find more from the FTC HERE. http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre13.shtm
The best way to buy a home is to have a decent credit history combined with sufficient Income and Assets for a home purchase.
The best way to have a decent credit history is to settle negative outstanding obligations and pay all your bills on time for at least two years.
If you have a card that charges almost no interest it maybe that is one to keep open with a bigger balance. But the rest, pay off and save your money. From now on, it will be like getting a 18% or more pay raise.
Your credit is scre.wed for another 1-2 years anyway. So pay down your credit cards, use them all like one a month just for gas or groceries, Pay them off in full. That will help your fico score.
But do one other thing before you do this. Talk to a local lender or non-profit counseling service. Ask them what things you could and should do to improve your fico score. Consolidating debts is NOT one of the good ideas now. Paying it off would be. But you may have other issues that are more important than your credit cards are now.
After that, I don't think the secured loan is going to help if you have the maxed credit cards, in fact it'll probably hurt more. Tackle your smallest debt first, get that out of the way to start gaining momentum (Ramsey's Snowball Effect), and take it from there. I agree with the others about keeping the accounts open but I'd work on getting them to the point where you could easily pay them off on a monthly basis.
I don't agree with everything they say, but Dave Ramsey and Suzy Orman both have really good simple strategies for this sort of thing, and they both have books that should be available at your local library. Good luck!