While there are a range of government and bank programs to help struggling homeowners avoid foreclosure, actually getting help can be tough for many people.

While there are a range of government and bank programs to help struggling homeowners avoid foreclosure, actually getting help can be tough for many people.

Take Erin Murphy, 35, who fears she may lose the Whitman home that she and her fiancé own.

The house’s first mortgage is fixed at $520 a month, Murphy wrote in an e-mail. The problem is the second - a sub-prime mortgage taken out in July 2005.

A year ago, they were paying $1,995 a month. But in February the monthly payment jumps to $2,400, Murphy said.

Murphy, an office manager for a construction company and the mother of a 6-year-old, said she and her fiancé ‘‘will not be able to keep up with the increases. We find ourselves deciding on paying the mortgage, buying oil to heat our home or putting food on the table.’’

Neither the federal government nor her mortgage company has been helpful, according to Murphy.

‘‘We have tried to refinance with the mortgage company and several banks and (they) all say the same: ‘Sorry, we can’t help you,’’’ she said.

Now the couple faces a double whammy: Although they have let other bills go unpaid to stay current with their mortgage payments, they owe more on the house than it is worth.

‘‘I feel as if we are in a losing battle, and it’s a matter of time before our house is foreclosed on, because we’ve asked for help and no one is really willing to do that,’’ Murphy said.

Owing more than a house is worth is an unfortunately common situation, said Janice Tucker, director of the Home Ownership Center at Neighborhood Housing Services in Quincy.

Tucker said she has fielded about 200 calls for help since July, referring homeowners to the HOPE national hotline, MassHousing’s Home Saver program, charities and food banks.

‘‘It’s sad,’’ she said. ‘‘A lot of people are in this boat right now, and unfortunately we can’t help them all.’’

Jacqueline Grissett of Randolph is one such person. The working mother of three has tried to refinance before her mortgage goes up.

Grissett said the HOPE hotline connected her with Tucker, who put her in touch with Eastern Bank in Quincy. Grissett paid $350 for an appraisal, but it showed that her home is ‘‘underwater’’ - the house, for which she owes $314,000, was appraised at $265,000 - and that is preventing her from refinancing.

‘‘So now I’m kind of stuck with this adjustable rate, because the market is down right now, said Grissett, a 39-year-old business analyst with Blue Cross Blue Shield. ‘‘If you don’t have any equity in your home, there’s no way you’re going to be able to get out of those loans.’’

Grissett said she isn’t facing foreclosure, as she’s not behind on her mortgage payments.

‘‘I’ve never been late,’’ she said. ‘‘I just want a fixed rate.’’

Town-by-town foreclosure deeds

Foreclosure deeds filed by town for 2006 and 2007:

- 2006 - 2007

ABINGTON - 6 - 18

BRAINTREE - 7 - 21

CANTON - 2 - 11

CARVER - 10 - 12

COHASSET - 0 - 4

DUXBURY - 4 - 5

HALIFAX - 6 - 11

HANOVER - 3 - 4

HANSON - 4 - 9

HINGHAM - 1 - 5

HOLBROOK - 2 - 23

HULL - 4 - 13

KINGSTON - 4 - 13

MARSHFIELD - 8 - 29

MILTON - 6 - 17

NORWELL - 3 - 2

PEMBROKE - 11 - 18

PLYMOUTH - 40 - 85

QUINCY - 26 - 77

RANDOLPH - 19 - 62

ROCKLAND - 3 - 13

SCITUATE - 1 - 8

SHARON - 6 - 22

STOUGHTON - 8 - 38

WEYMOUTH - 14 - 38

WHITMAN - 3 - 16

Source: The Warren Group

Edward Colby may be reached at ecolby@ledger.com.