Housing Assistance Corporation Blog

NOAH Classes Offer Tools for the Cape's Homeless

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Wed, May 25, 2016 @ 10:51 AM
NOAH_Life_Skills_Photo.jpgNOAH's Deborah McDonnell (left) with shelter director Greg Bar. McDonell led an 11-week class that gave NOAH guests the tools and confidence to be successful after leaving shelter. 

This year, Deborah McDonnell will graduate from Plymouth State University in New Hampshire with a master’s degree in social work.

When she does, she will have practical experience that shows work in this field can provide tangible benefits to those most in need thanks to her time at the NOAH Shelter. McDonnell has been at the shelter since last July when she was hired as direct care staff.

She has combined her work at the shelter with her academic studies to provide Cape Cod’s homeless men and women with real-life skills that can help them once they move out of NOAH and into permanent housing. Last fall, McDonnell designed an 11-week course titled “It Gets Better” as part of a capstone project aimed at providing shelter guests with useful tools they can draw on when they achieve self-sufficiency. It’s a course she plans on bringing back to the shelter, in some form, in the future.

“I wanted to reintroduce guests to what their goals and dreams are and reconnect them with aspects of their community,” she said in December when she was handing out certificates of completion to 26 men and women who had taken part in the course. “It’s really shoring up their skills and giving them special strategies to work with anger management, conflict resolution and accumulating stress in their bodies.”

Reawakening NOAH Guests

To that end, she led participants in a variety of activities – meditation, physical exercises that included ping pong, charades and writing poetry – that tapped into parts of their mind and body that may have gone stagnant as they coped with homelessness.

Shelter director Greg Bar said the classes seemed to reawaken many shelter guests who became actively engaged in McDonnell’s lessons. “What I hope is that they realize life can get better,” Bar said. “And that it gave them some practical tools to move forward in life. Some people who started the group in October are gone, are housed and employed which is pretty cool.”

McDonnell hoped that NOAH guests would draw upon their experiences in the class to help them during life’s tougher moments so “that they keep reaching with the best they have to achieve all they want to achieve.”

Lou, a 62-year-old at NOAH, said McDonnell’s sessions were useful in helping him to better control his emotions. While his goal “is getting out of here, that’s step number one,” he said that NOAH has helped keep him both sober and safe, especially during the colder, winter months.

Both he and Doug, another guest at the shelter, admitted being homeless has been difficult. “The loss of self,” is the worst part, said Doug, who arrived at NOAH in November.

His message to those who may have negative attitudes towards the homeless spoke to the underlying concept behind McDonnell’s class: “I’d tell them to open their hearts to the possibility of helping somebody who is homeless,” Doug said.

Support the NOAH Shelter

Tags: homelessness, NOAH Shelter, Greg Bar

HAC Hosts CHAPA's Spring Regional Meeting

Posted by Laura Reckford on Fri, May 20, 2016 @ 03:10 PM
chapa.jpgEric Shupin (left) and Brenda Clement (right) of CHAPA and William Dunn (middle) of MassHousing talk with talk to Gael Kelleher, HAC’s director of Cape Community Real Estate. 

The continuing struggle to create affordable housing throughout the Commonwealth was the focus of a meeting of regional housing advocates last month in HAC’s Hyannis office. HAC hosted the Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association (CHAPA) spring regional meeting on April 1.

“You can’t do affordable housing without subsidies,” HAC CEO Rick Presbrey said to the more than two dozen people gathered for the session. “There is no return on the investment for rental housing for even middle income levels.” That was just one of the issues discussed at the meeting, as CHAPA officials outlined their priorities for the coming year.

Each year, CHAPA officials travel across Massachusetts to meet with housing professionals, advocates, community members, elected officials and other stakeholders that want to expand access to safe, quality, and affordable housing. 

The meeting in HAC’s conference room was an opportunity to hear updates on affordable housing and to help CHAPA develop its agenda for public policy, research, and programming for the year.

Besides affordable housing, two areas of focus for CHAPA are homelessness prevention and community development. Those top the list of capital budget priorities that CHAPA is working on with legislators on Beacon Hill.

Seeking State Support

Among the state-financed programs promoted by CHAPA that HAC provides access to for its clients is the HomeBASE program, which offers families an alternative to shelter by providing stabilization funds. State funds for the program have been severely cut in the past several years, from a high of $88 million in Fiscal Year 2013, to a low of $25 million in Fiscal Year 2015, according to figures from CHAPA. This year, CHAPA is asking state legislators for $39 million for the program because of the rising need for the funds.

Another state-funded program, Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT), also helps families who are at risk of homelessness remain housed. CHAPA is asking for the state to fund the RAFT program at $18.5 million, a significant increase from this year’s $12.5 million in funding.

In the area of foreclosure prevention counseling, another program HAC offers to its clients, the state has provided an average of $2.5 million over the past several years. This year, CHAPA is requesting $3.6 million.

Among the initiatives outlined by Brenda Clement, CHAPA’s Executive Director, was the National Housing Trust Fund, which CHAPA officials believe will help create lower income rental housing. The state’s Department of Housing and Community Development will be holding hearings on the fund.

Eric Shupin of CHAPA gave a legislative update on several bills that have been filed including a zoning reform bill that is a major priority of Cape & Islands Senator Dan Wolf. The bill would encourage more housing and mixed use developments, as well as promoting land conservation and incentivizing growth.

Tags: CHAPA Regional Meeting Cape Cod, affordable housing, CHAPA

Rick Presbrey's Editorial: Embarking on a New Era

Posted by Rick Presbrey on Wed, May 18, 2016 @ 10:02 AM

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A couple of months ago we began the search for a new Chief Operating Officer (COO). Our very capable COO Michael Sweeney will be retiring in the fall, unless I can talk him into staying longer. We advertised in thirteen places with social media being eleven of the thirteen. Our expensive ad in the Boston Globe produced nothing while social media brought us a pool of incredibly talented people. The abundance of talent, much of it local, surprised me and made me feel pretty good that so many people are interested in working at HAC.

The COO position, in simplest terms, supervises all the division directors except finance leaving the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), me, to concentrate on internal and external policy issues, external relations, Board relations, raising money and developing new programs. We don’t do it exactly that way now, but we will when the retirements of our three most senior people take place.

For me the process is scary because the future of the agency, which I founded more than 40 years ago, depends on our making good choices. The core qualities that I look for in employees are integrity, commitment, and intelligence. In considering each candidate we try to determine their strengths in these three areas and are less concerned about their specific experience in the job for which they are applying. I believe that if a candidate possesses these three qualities they will figure out how to get the job done well, since this is a management job not a technical one. Of course there are other attributes we look for as well, such as confidence, writing and speaking skills, sense of humor, compassion, and so forth.

Another surprise is that we are finding people who seem to fit other positions within the agency as well. An unexpected hard part is choosing the top candidate among several who could do the job well. Throughout the process of looking for a COO, the fit within the agency, the compatibility with me, and the compatibility with an as-yet-unknown new CEO have all been concerns.

After filling the COO position, the search for a new CEO will begin. On all of our minds is the fact that 80% of the time after a founder leaves, the selection of a new CEO doesn’t work out well. We are doing all we can to make sure we end up in the successful 20% where the transition works out well.

Tags: HAC, Rick Presbrey, succession planning

Annual Meeting Celebrates Those Making a Difference

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Mon, May 16, 2016 @ 12:47 PM
Annual_Meeting_16-Web6.jpg2016 Volunteer of the Year Ron Winner (second from left) with Tony (from left) and Lorraine Shepley and Ron's wife Wendy Winner.

Nearly five years ago Diane Barry came to Cape Cod at one of the lowest points in her life. She was homeless and struggling with substance abuse.

Her destination was HAC’s Angel House shelter in Hyannis. “I was looking for a new start,” Barry told nearly 300 attendees at HAC’s 42nd Annual Meeting & Volunteer Recognition last month. “At Angel House I got the support that I needed and I was loved when I couldn’t love myself.”

Today, Barry is happily married, with three children, including a daughter she was able to reconnect with thanks to the support of Angel House. She will be five years sober in November. And she lives in a HAC-owned apartment in Hyannis, calling herself “blessed to be able to stay here on Cape Cod.”

Last year, HAC helped hundreds of people not unlike Barry, making a difference in their lives when they needed it most. At its Annual Meeting, HAC took time to honor those assisting the agency in that effort.

“We help everybody,” CEO Rick Presbrey said in speaking about the importance of HAC’s work. “We spend time with them. We care about them. We try to show them they are important to us and they are important to themselves and they have lots of potential and there are solutions to their problems.”

To that end, 784 volunteers donated 17,835 hours assisting staff in showing clients that they matter. One of those volunteers, Ron Winner, has done so by preparing meals at HAC’s NOAH Shelter and for mothers and their children at Angel House.

HAC recognized Winner with the Volunteer of the Year Award. “Ron shows other people he cares and that gives them hope,” HAC’s Deanna Bussiere said in presenting the award. “Sometimes hope is just what people need to try to change their lives.”

A Challenge to Others

This year’s Business Partner Award was given to Bill and Linda Zammer, owners of Cape Cod Restaurants, who have been longtime supporters of HAC. Mr. Zammer challenged other businesses to step up and help those in need. “That is what it’s all about,” he said. “It’s about us doing it.”

In presenting John and Kathy Ohman, co-founders of FORWARD (Friends Or Relatives With Autism And Related Disabilities) with the 2016 Human Services Partner Award, HAC’s Housing Development Project Manager Kate Ferreira said, “What I admire most about Kathy and John, among other things, is their commitment to their community and their perseverance in seeing things through.” HAC is working with FORWARD to build housing for adults with autism or related disabilities in Dennis. Two of the Ohmans three children are on the autism spectrum.

Annual_Meeting_16-Web11.jpgJohn  (left) and Kathy Ohman (second from right) with HAC CEO Rick Presbrey and HAC Housing Development Project Manager Kate Ferreira. The Ohmans were the recipients of the 2016 Human Services Award.

The Transitional Living Center Committee was the recipient of the Make a Difference Award. The committee is working to find a new site for the living center that will eventually replace HAC’s NOAH Shelter. Its members include Chair Elizabeth Wurfbain, executive director of the Hyannis Main Street Business Improvement District (BID); Deborah Krau, vice president of the Greater Hyannis Civic Association; Barnstable Police Chief Paul MacDonald; Heidi Nelson, CEO of Duffy Health Center; Paula Schnepp, the regional network coordinator for the Cape & Islands Regional Network to Address Homelessness; Abbott “Sid” Davidson of the Lyndon Paul Lorusso Charitable Foundation; and HAC’s Rick Presbrey.

“We all wanted to recognize this group for the work they’ve done so far and say, you know, let’s keep this going,” Presbrey said. “Let’s keep plowing along and get it done and let’s get something we’re all happy with.”

The meeting ended with HAC paying tribute to former employee and volunteer Mitzi Holmes who passed away at the end of last year. Mitzi’s sister-in-law Margaret and sister Johanna were in attendance with the latter proudly saying, “my sister talked nonstop about HAC and her passion for your work.”

Click this link to see more photos of this year's Annual Meeting & Volunteer Recognition. 

Tags: HAC Annual Meeting, Annual Meeting, NOAH Shelter, Housing on Cape Cod, The Transitional Living Center, Transitional Living Center of Cape Cod Committee

HAC Helps Client Turn Her Life Around

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Thu, May 12, 2016 @ 03:05 PM
Jillian_Prudeaux_Photo.jpgJillian Prudeaux and her soon-to-be five-year-old daughter Adria in their apartment at Melpet Farm Residences. 

Five years ago, when Jillian Prudeaux had nowhere else to go, she turned to HAC. “When I met her, she was at the lowest point in her life,” said HAC’s Housing Specialist AnnMarie Torrey. 

It’s an assessment that the 29-year-old Prudeaux agrees with. “I was pretty down and out,” she said. “I was being evicted and eight and a half months pregnant.”

And so Torrey, who works with families to connect them to housing, housing assistance, training and job opportunities did the same with Prudeaux at a time when she needed it most. “I do anything that I can to help people become self-sufficient,” Torrey said.

Prudeaux was admittedly lost, lacking the skills she needed to not only live independently, but care for a child that was on the way. “I had my daughter in the midst of my life being in turmoil,” she said.

But with Torrey’s help, she slowly was able to make changes so the turmoil began to subside. “I think a lot of people in my life doubted my determination, but AnnMarie was always there,” Prudeaux said. “She always helped me.”

The first step was to find Prudeaux housing. Torrey did just that, identifying a one-bedroom apartment in Dennis that Prudeaux lived in for nearly four years. It was relatively small, but with HAC providing rental assistance Prudeaux was able to find stability. 

Driven to Succeed

Still, Prudeaux wanted more. “She told me she was going to make me proud and she was going to succeed,” Torrey said.

Initially, that meant making sacrifices that included taking public transportation from Dennis to Hyannis – she did not have a car at the time – with her daughter Adria, dropping her off at daycare before heading to work. “She was really putting a lot of effort into it,” Torrey said. “She was very motivated and sincere and determined and she was full of life.”

That effort eventually paid off. Today, Prudeaux is the manager for the Subway in Dennis Port, providing her with enough income to support her family so she no longer relies on HAC for rental assistance.

Last year, she reached out to HAC for help once again, this time with the agency’s real estate department. Prudeaux put her name into a lottery for a rental apartment at Melpet Farm Residences, an affordable housing development in Dennis built by HAC and the Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH). Her name was picked and she moved into her new apartment with her daughter in December.

Looking at far how she has come, Prudeaux was proud of all that she has accomplished. “Four years ago, I would cry myself to sleep because I wouldn’t be able to eat,” she said.

She credited HAC for helping her gain the one thing she did not have when she first met Torrey – self-sufficiency. “I thank HAC for giving me the tools to succeed in life. They really helped shape me into an adult,” she said. “HAC is like a little group of angels.”

Give Hope to a HAC Client

Tags: affordable housing, Rental Assistance, Melpet Farm Residences, AnnMarie Torey

Crane Appliance Donates Refrigerator to NOAH Shelter

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, May 06, 2016 @ 12:49 PM

 

NOAH_Refrigerator1-small.jpgCrane Appliance's Eddy Guerrero and Angel Medina deliver a new refrigerator to the NOAH Shelter in March. 

Imagine having a refrigerator that sometimes stopped working. On the women’s side of the NOAH Shelter, staff and guests didn’t have to imagine because it was a reality.

“I’d get calls that it just wasn’t working,” said shelter director Greg Bar. “You’d have food in there warming up. The milk would be turning to cottage cheese.”

So in January, Bar put out a request for a new refrigerator that went to HAC staff. Deanna Bussiere, HAC’s resource development coordinator, reached out to several contacts to see if anyone would be willing to donate one.

In March, that request was answered thanks to the generosity of Crane Appliance in Falmouth, which donated a brand new, black refrigerator to the shelter. As delivery drivers Angel Medina and Eddy Guerrero worked to unload the appliance from their truck, Bar and Jan Rogers, direct care staff at the shelter, commented on how sorely needed the refrigerator was needed.

“This is very generous,” Bar said. “You know it sounds silly, but when people donate something really nice or new like this to the shelter, the people here feel a little more valued.”

This type of philanthropy is not out of the ordinary for Bob and Paula Crane, owners of Crane Appliance, who regularly support local schools on Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard. After receiving Bussiere’s letter and a follow-up phone call, Bob Crane said, “I felt like this was the right thing to do… You know at the end of the day it is about giving back to the community.”

Tags: homelessness, Philanthropy, NOAH Shelter, donations, Crane Appliance

A Barn Raising at Community Green with Cornell Students

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Thu, May 05, 2016 @ 12:04 PM
Cornell_Day_4-7.jpgCornell University students were joined by guests at the NOAH Shelter and HAC staff in building a barn at the agency's Community Green property. 

A little more than a week before five Cornell students visited Cape Cod at the end of March, a small patch of land in Sandwich where a miniature donkey named Cooper, some goats and chickens roamed lay vacant.

With the guidance of HAC’s maintenance supervisor Keith Trott, those students helped transform that vacant land into a barn on the agency’s Community Green property where the goal is to one day build 60 affordable apartments.

The project was tackled as part of Cornell University’s alternative spring break, giving college students an opportunity to give back and learn about the impact social service agencies make in the lives of others. Over the past 12 years Cornell has sent a contingent to Cape Cod where they have assisted HAC in its mission to ensure all have access to safe, stable, decent housing.

“I guess I wanted to spend my time and energy away from school doing something valuable,” said Cornell freshman Evelyn Shan as to why she signed up for the trip. It was a similar response for those who joined Shan, including seniors Kentaro Asai of Yokohama, Japan, and Ben Kennet of Silver Spring, Maryland; junior Stacey Kim of Anaheim, California; and freshman Kyle (Eliot) Huang of Salta Lake City, Utah.

Over the course of four days, the Cornell students focused on building the barn while also taking time to visit the NOAH Shelter, to bowl at Ryan Family Amusements in Hyannis with children staying at The Village at Cataumet and to speak with staff about the work they do at HAC.

NOAH Guests Assist With Project

At Community Green, the group was joined by four guests staying at the NOAH Shelter – George, Gayla, Mike and George, all of whom lent their talents to the barn project. Shelter director Greg Bar expressed his appreciation for HAC giving the four the opportunity to help. “I’m just so proud of you guys,” Bar said to the NOAH guests at a farewell dinner for the Cornell students held at Shepley Showcase. “I saw the results after the first day. You just looked brighter.”

Kim, who served as the trip leader, spoke to the passion that staff like Bar have for the work they do and the people they serve. “I guess the really impressive thing about HAC are the people who are invested in housing and homelessness,” she said. “There is a lot of heart that goes into what you do. It is so moving and it really touched me.”

Cornell_Day_4-9.jpgTrip leader Stacey Kim (left) and Evelyn Shan show off some of the tools used in building the Community Green barn. 

HAC’s volunteers bring a similar sense of energy to supporting the agency, something that Kennet spoke to as he mentioned the more than 44,000 meals they serve on an annual basis to those at the NOAH Shelter. “I think it is good to know that volunteers are valued and their work means something and it is important,” he said.

The goal at HAC, CEO Rick Presbrey told the students, is to create a welcoming culture, particularly for “the people we serve because they often aren’t welcomed where they go.” That extended to the group from Cornell who he praised for their efforts as he urged them to continue to be charitable, leaving them with this piece of advice: “something magical happens when one person helps another.”

 

Tags: alternative spring break, Cornell University, Community Green, Community Service, volunteerism

Art Therapy at Angel House

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Tue, Apr 26, 2016 @ 11:12 AM
Angel_House_3.jpgAngel House mothers and their children outside the Cultural Center of Cape Cod where their artwork was displayed last month. 

Art is not only an outlet for expression, it is a way for people to communicate and connect with one another. At HAC’s Angel House shelter, mothers and their children did just that thanks to a 12-week course that allowed them to tap into their creativity together.

The classes were taught by artist Brooke Eaton-Skea, a trained therapist, who met with mothers every Monday over the winter, educating them on some of the greats – Pablo Picasso, Alexander Calder and Piet Mondrian – that provided the inspiration and the foundation the women would use when working with their children. On Wednesdays, the mothers would then apply those lessons as they helped their children create their own collages, all under the watchful eye of Ms. Eaton-Skea.

Angel House director Lin Rohr said the exercise served as a form of art therapy for shelter clients. “There was no right or wrong way,” Rohr said. “It is another avenue for them to release the stress and the pressure they are going through, whether they are an adult or a child.”

The Cultural Center of Cape Cod funded the classes through its Rise and Shine program which provides art instruction to at-risk youth, directly tying into Angel House which serves mothers, and their children, overcoming addiction and homelessness.

The end result was an exhibit of the completed artwork held last month at the Cultural Center in South Yarmouth. There were over two dozen pieces that ranged from a depiction of Batman’s mask to an assortment of animal pictures cutout into a collage on poster board to a drawing of a locomotive making its way down train tracks.

Angel_House_Art1.jpgArt teacher Brooke Eaton-Skea in front of the Angel House artwork exhibited at the Cultural Center of Cape Cod last month. 

Ultimately, Rohr said, it was not about the finished product, but the journey the families took to get there.

Ms. Eaton-Skea’s favorite part was “seeing the women enjoying the children and enjoying the work.”

Wendy, who helped her nine-year-old son Dakota create the Batman piece, said she enjoyed the opportunity to bond with her child during the classes. “I think it was really nice for us to do something together,” she said.

Amy Neill, the director of education for the Cultural Center, said there is a real benefit to art for people that may have experienced trauma like those at Angel House. “It is just a good way to shut yourself down and find that happy place and use a different part of your mind,” she said. “Art education is very healthy for a person’s well-being.”

There is a good possibility Angel House mothers and their children will continue to benefit from this type of art therapy thanks to another Rise and Shine grant. And that, Ms. Eaton-Skea said, will only serve to help mothers looking for a positive outlet to channel their emotions. “Art is a great stress reliever,” she said. “That’s one of the reasons I love it. And it’s a good model for their children who can take out a pen or pencil and draw if they feel stressed out.”

Donate to Angel House

Tags: Angel House, Cultural Center of Cape Cod, art therapy

HAC Awarded $150,000 in Tax Credits

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Mon, Apr 25, 2016 @ 02:41 PM

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Are you thinking about donating to HAC? There’s an exciting opportunity for you to make your donation go even further while putting additional dollars in your pocket next tax season.

This opportunity, provided through the state’s Community Investment Tax Credit (CITC) program, offers incentives to individuals, businesses and foundations that donate over $1,000 to organizations like HAC.

Here’s how it works: if you donate $1,000 to HAC, you will receive $500 in tax credits that will be refunded to you in your taxes. If you donate $5,000, you would receive $2,500 back. And for a $10,000 donation, you would receive $5,000.

This credit is on top of the federal tax deduction you are allowed to deduct from your taxes.

HAC currently has just over $177,000 in tax credits - $150,000 of that was awarded to HAC last month – that are available to those looking to support our housing programs on Cape Cod and the islands.

If you are interested in learning more about the tax credit program, click this link or contact Margaret Benaka at 508-771-5400 ext. 272 or at mbenaka@haconcapecod.org

Tags: Tax Credits, donations, Community Investment Tax Credit Program

Fifth Grader Gives Back to NOAH Shelter

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Apr 22, 2016 @ 01:17 PM
NOAH_Blessing_Bags_Cropped1.jpgRyan (from left), Jeff, Renee and Kristine Monast with NOAH Shelter Director Greg Bar.

When 10-year-old Renee Monast of Wareham, was writing her Christmas letter to Santa this past December, she did something unusual. She thought of those in need.

“She didn’t put anything on there for herself,” her mother Kristine said. “She only asked for things for the needy.”

So when Christmas came, Santa delivered a bag full of practical items – toothpaste, deodorant, lotion – that homeless men and women could use. Renee then filled up plastic bags for 10 men and 10 women that she brought to the NOAH Shelter during her school vacation in February. Inside each was a handwritten note from Renee.

She called the gifts blessing bags.

Joined by her father Jeff and brother Ryan, 12, Renee handed them out to those at NOAH, but not before shelter director Greg Bar introduced her and explained what she had done.

Several NOAH guests shouted out, “thank you,” and afterwards Bar commended the fifth grader attending Hyannis’ St. Francis Xavier Preparatory School for her thoughtfulness. “You know when I was 10 or 11 it was never even in my mind to help other people,” Bar said.

Her mother said she has come to expect this type of charitableness from Renee. “She’s always been a giver,” Kristine said.

“It makes me feel good,” Renee said, as to why she does it. And because she did not have enough bags for everyone at the shelter, she promised to come back with more.

A few minutes after the Monasts had left, John, a 47-year-old homeless man staying at the shelter, marveled at Renee’s generosity. “The world needs more kids like that,” he said. “For a child to come in and want to give to the less fortunate, that is phenomenal. You don’t see that nowadays.”

Support the NOAH Shelter

Tags: Philanthropy, NOAH Shelter, donations, blessing bags