Last week, the Bush administration unveiled initiatives designed to battle the worsening mortgage crisis, including a voluntary interest rate freeze for subprime mortgages. In the days immediately following the administration's announcement, the HOPE Hotline (888-995-HOPE), which was established to provide foreclosure prevention assistance from HUD-certified counseling agencies, logged an average of 15,000 calls a day, according to the coalition that offers the service.

The hotline, operated by the Homeownership Preservation Foundation, is affiliated with the HOPE NOW Alliance, a coalition of mortgage service companies, counseling agencies, investors, and trade organizations. The group worked closely with the Bush administration to come up with solutions to address the nation's skyrocketing foreclosure rate.

"The HOPE Hotline is a great resource for homeowners in distress," said Faith Schwartz, executive director for HOPE NOW. "However, those who want to inquire about the program announced by the administration should call their lender to see if they qualify under the plan."

According to coalition officials, even if a borrower does not qualify for the rate freeze program, help is still available.

"Our HOPE Hotline counselors have been working for years to help homeowners in crisis," said Colleen Hernandez, president of the Homeownership Preservation Foundation. "The key is reaching out early, either before trouble strikes or as soon as you know there's an issue."

So far the White House plan has received mixed reviews. One criticism has been that a voluntary rate freeze is just that-voluntary. And although the program has the support of major lenders (and HOPE NOW members) such as Citigroup, Countrywide Financial, and Bank of America, many homeowners have mortgages from smaller lenders that are either out of business or have not indicated whether they would comply with the program.

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