Q: The Hope Hotline is for people who are trying to avoid foreclosure, not refinancing. We are not able to direct the people to any lender for assistance with HARP!

You need to advise your readers and radio show listeners to wait for approximately a month to allow the lenders to get their systems in place to processing these refinances. As with all of these new programs, the early applicants are going to face many problems until all the bugs get worked out.

As a housing counselor working the HOPE calls, these refinance calls are really taking our time away from people who are in a desperate situation and need our assistance, so please stop sending us people who do not need foreclosure prevention help.

A: Thanks for your input. There are various government programs out there to assist homeowners in these trying times. One program you mention is HARP or the Home Affordable Refinance Program. This program is set up for homeowners seeking to refinance their home loans with the ultimate aim to avoid the foreclosure process.

The government has set up a specific site to inform homeowners of their choices and to assist them in the home preservation process. This site is www.MakingHomeAffordable.gov. It’s at this site that homeowners are told and given information about HARP and are told that “Help is only one phone call away.”

Well, the phone number that is given out on the Making Home Affordable website is to the Homeowners HOPE Hotline. Unfortunately, the information about keeping people in their homes, avoiding foreclosure, modifying their loans and other foreclosure avoidance measures has become blurred.

Your point is well taken that it would be helpful to have the right callers for the right program. However, the site specifically states that “As you enter a process that can sometimes be overwhelming, it would be in your best interest to engage a housing expert to help you along the way. Let a HUD-approved housing counselor help you understand your options, prepare your application, and work with your mortgage company.”

Your site also says that you are there to provide “assistance with questions you might have about getting help with your mortgage and to see if you are eligible for the Making Home Affordable Program.” The Making Home Affordable Program encompasses both HAMP and HAMP (that is refinancing and loan modifications).

It would appear from the information available on these websites that the HOPE Hotline is there to lend a helping hand to all those that need assistance in staying in their homes or finding programs to help them stay in their homes, whether through HARP or HAMP.

Perhaps the HUD-certified housing counselors are not being given the proper training on how to deal with borrowers in different circumstances, which is why you seem uncomfortable helping out people who need HARP. If so, that is a serious oversight by those who are running your organization.

However, it’s worthwhile giving a brief rundown of what people should do if they are seeking help.

If your lender has filed to foreclose on your home, you still can try to work with your lender on a loan modification through HAMP (Home Affordable Modification Program) or through any other loan modification program your lender may offer. More information is available about HAMP at www.MakingHomeAffordable.gov. But you have to make sure you are viewing the pages that discuss loan modifications.

If you are looking to refinance your existing home mortgage and you are underwater with your mortgage, you can seek help through HARP (Home Affordable Refinance Program). At the MakingHomeAffordable.gov site you can find information to help you through the process. But again, make sure that you are viewing pages about refinancing your existing mortgage and not a loan modification.

Here’s our correspondent’s most salient point: It’s going to take lenders awhile to ramp up HARP 2.0. Those who apply first will face the most problems and have the worst experience. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. Just go in prepared and make sure you keep a solid paper trail.