Housing Assistance Corporation Blog

Take Advantage of HAC's Tax Credits This Holiday Season

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Mon, Dec 05, 2016 @ 01:10 PM

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With the holiday season here, donating to HAC is one way to ensure those in need are cared for at a time of year when they could use it most. Especially with colder temperatures coming, HAC’s work can make a major difference in the lives of those struggling to get by and who may be working two or three jobs just to remain in their apartment or home.

Thanks to HAC’s tax credits, you can make your holiday gift to HAC go further this year. The tax credits are for those who donate over the $1,000 threshold and are either new donors or who double their donations from last year.

In return for your donation, you will receive half back in tax credits. This is on top of the federal tax deduction you are allowed to declare for charitable giving.

Aside from the tax benefits, you can be confident that your gift may be helping a neighbor in need, someone who may be one paycheck away from homelessness. Your gift could help them remain in their apartment and off the streets. And isn’t that what the holiday season is all about?

For more information about HAC’s tax credits, click this link or contact Margaret Benaka at mbenaka@haconcapecod.org or 508-771-5400, ext. 272.

Tags: Fundraising, Tax Credits, Community Investment Tax Credit Program, charitable giving, holiday giving

Prevent Homelessness on Cape Cod While Doing Your Holiday Shopping

Posted by HAC Staff on Wed, Nov 30, 2016 @ 06:30 AM

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The Dennis-Yarmouth Ecumenical Council for the Homeless (DYECH), which supports HAC’s Project Prevention, has gift cards available for purchase to over 100 stores, restaurants and movie theaters (from Amazon to Zappos). When you purchase gift cards through this program, merchants give a percentage of the sale to homelessness prevention. For example, if you buy a $25 gift card for the Gap, your gift card is worth the full $25, but the Gap donates 14 percent ($3.50) to Project Prevention.

All of the money raised through this program is given directly to families in need, providing them with emergency funds so they can remain in their homes and off the streets. To purchase gift cards, go to www.shopwithscrip.com. The enrollment code to help DYECH and HAC is 561B698219989.

Cards can be picked up at Yarmouth Appliance Clinic at 61 White’s Path in Yarmouth one week after you place your order. Don’t forget to place your order early!

If you have questions about the program please email DYECH at dyech@comcast.net

Tags: DYECH, Project Prevention, homeless prevention, Gift Cards for prevention, holiday shopping

HAC's Scattered Sites Help Region's Homeless

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Tue, Nov 29, 2016 @ 12:03 PM
Katie Geissler Photo-1.jpgKatie Geissler has been at HAC for nearly 10 years. Earlier this year she was named director of the agency's Scattered Site program which are used to house homeless families on Cape Cod. 

When it comes to HAC’s homeless programs, the agency’s shelters – Angel House, Carriage House and The Village at Cataumet – tend to receive the most publicity. For that reason, many may not know that HAC also runs a scattered site program that essentially operates the same as its shelters. The primary difference is instead of a congregate setting, homeless families are placed in individual units in Barnstable and Yarmouth that HAC rents with funding provided by the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development.

In recent years, HAC has placed an emphasis on this program that started with an expansion from 10 to 17 units, following a request from the state. This spring, HAC continued that growth, tapping longtime staffer Katie Geissler to serve as the director of HAC’s scattered sites. Geissler had previously served at HAC’s Carriage House shelter for five years, the last two as its director.

In her new role, Geissler oversees two case managers, Antoinette Bills and Geoffrey Gagnon, who are also recent additions to the program. “With the case managers, their ultimate goal is housing,” Geissler said. “They work with families to help them become self-sufficient and look for housing to get them out of shelter.”

The state refers families into the units at which point Geissler and her staff will begin to work with them, providing each with the services they need to eventually transition into permanent housing. Cindi Maule, HAC’s director of leased housing and family services, said the average stay for clients in scattered sites is typically between six and eight months.

Maule said that part of Geissler’s responsibilities are to provide more structure to this program. It’s a challenge that Geissler is relishing as she helps those most in need. “I believe there is hope in everybody,” she said, noting that those in HAC’s scattered sites have gone “through trauma and I’m a big believer you can overcome those things. You’ve got to believe in yourself and have the power to do it.”

Geissler and her staff are assisting in that effort as they ensure each client in the program has access to the services they need to eventually move out of shelter. Many attend workshops which focus on basic life skills, budgeting, stabilization, parenting and nutrition. They also are provided counseling and medical care, all as they are connected to employment and housing opportunities.

“I hope I can instill and empower them to believe in themselves that they can have a better life for them and their children,” Geissler said, of her program’s ultimate goal.

Support HAC's Homeless Shelters

Tags: homelessness, Katie Geissler, homeless shelters, Scattered Sites, Cindi Maule

Shop on AmazonSmile and Support HAC This Holiday Season

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Wed, Nov 16, 2016 @ 03:50 PM

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If you plan on shopping for holiday gifts on Amazon this year, you can help support HAC’s housing programs without any additional cost to you.

All you have to do is head over to AmazonSmile, log in using your Amazon or Amazon Prime account and designate Housing Assistance Corp. as your charity of choice. Then you can start shopping for the same products, at the same prices, as you normally would on Amazon. 

The best part is you will be helping your neighbors in need at a time of year when they need it most. AmazonSmile will donate a small portion (0.5%) of your purchase price to HAC. By shopping on AmazonSmile, you will essentially be giving a gift to our clients, some of whom may be struggling to survive on Cape Cod. Your gift may be just what they need to turn the corner this holiday season.

So what are you waiting for? Start shopping!

Tags: Amazon, AmazonSmile, Philanthropy, donations

HAC Turns Dreams of Homeownership into a Reality

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Wed, Nov 16, 2016 @ 12:23 PM
Troy Beth and Julian Smith Edited-2.jpgTroy and Beth Smith with their 17-year-old son Julian. Now that they are homeowners, Beth said, "I feel like we're a part of the community. I feel like we really belong on Cape Cod." 

This past summer, Troy, Beth and Julian Smith sat outside in their Centerville backyard watching “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” playing on a movie projector. They were joined by friends and family and there was music playing, a fire pit blazing and tiki lamps burning, adding warmth to the festive gathering.

It was an idyllic setting, evidence that the Smiths have settled into this place called home. “For now, it’s our little thing. Our little moment,” Troy said of the summer movie night which, in its second year, is becoming a family tradition.

It is a moment made possible by HAC’s Housing Consumer Education Center (HCEC). Between the two of them, Troy and Beth took HCEC’s First-Time Homebuyer workshop three times.

The couple, who have been together for 32 years and married for 28, had briefly lived on Cape Cod in the mid-80s before moving to Boston. In 2001, they returned to the Cape with their then-two-year-old son Julian. “We loved Cape Cod and always knew we were coming back,” Troy said.

They had originally planned to rent for a year and then buy a house. “We didn’t realize it would be a 14-year odyssey,” Troy said.

The initial step towards homeownership was taking HAC’s class geared towards first-time homebuyers. “The first time we took it was great,” said Beth. “It showed us we weren’t ready… It helped us fix our credit score, plan accordingly for what might lie ahead and we started thinking realistically about savings and investments and what it means to be a homeowner.”

A little more than a year later, Beth opted to take the class once again. And Troy took the online course.

A Better Understanding
Taking the class multiple times allowed the Smiths a chance to understand what questions to ask Cheryl Kramer, HAC’s HCEC manager, as they moved forward with their dreams of homeownership. “No one tells you the exact things that are going to happen and all the steps involved until you take the class,” Beth said. “Then you meet building inspectors, insurance people and bankers. It seems overwhelming at first, but when you put the pieces together, it’s doable if you’re organized.”

After finishing the second round of classes, the Smiths

started looking for a home in Barnstable in early 2015. They eventually found a two-bedroom ranch that happened to be just one block over from the house they had been renting the past 14 years.

Thanks to the help of HAC’s Karin Bar, the couple qualified for $10,000 in down payment assistance that went towards the purchase of their home. HAC administers the funds through Barnstable County’s HOME Program.

When they finally closed on the home last year, Beth said, “we screamed and yelled and cried.”

“We had always hoped and dreamed of buying a home,” Troy said.

“But we never thought it would be a reality,” Beth said.

Today, the Smiths could not be happier and they give a lot of credit to HAC. “We knew everyone at HAC was going to help us and they did every single time we called,” said Troy.

As to what owning a home means, Troy said, “there is a certain degree of pride involved that you accomplished something. It was a difficult journey to buy a house and some people don’t make it or quit, or do it foolishly and have their home foreclosed on. But I’m grateful we listened to the advice HAC gave us. It paid off tremendously. We wake up happy every day.”

To learn more about HAC's First-Time Homebuyer Workshop, click this link. And to help families like the Smiths experience the joy of homeownership on Cape Cod and the Islands, click this link

Tags: HCEC, homeownership, First-Time Homebuyer workshop, Down Payment and Closing Cost Assistance Program

Shelter Telethon Addresses Homelessness on Cape Cod

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Mon, Nov 14, 2016 @ 10:00 AM
Matt Pitta and Lin Rohr-1.jpgTelethon host Matt Pitta from Cape Cod Broadcasting Media interviews Lin Rohr, the director of HAC's Angel House shelter. Pitta will be returning, along with WCAI's Mindy Todd, to serve as hosts of this year's telethon. 

For the 13th straight year, HAC will be holding its Shelter Cape Cod Telethon during the season of giving. The telethon, which takes place on Thursday, December 8, from 5 to 9 pm, at the Cape Cod Community Media Center in Dennis Port, helps place a spotlight on the region’s housing and homelessness issues. It also raises funds to support HAC’s homelessness programs which include its three family shelters – Angel House in Hyannis; Carriage House in North Falmouth; and The Village at Cataumet in Bourne – as well as its scattered site units, homelessness prevention for individuals and families and its outreach services for the homeless living in the streets and woods of Cape Cod.

Laura Reckford, HAC’s director of community relations and fundraising, said the lineup will be similar to last year’s, featuring HAC staff, board members and volunteers as well as public officials and representatives from a variety of businesses and organizations that are working to address homelessness and improve housing on Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.

Those interested in sponsoring the telethon should contact Deanna Bussiere, HAC’s event and resource development coordinator, at dbussiere@haconcapecod.org or at 508-771-5400, ext. 270.

HAC also relies on volunteers to serve as phone fundraisers to ensure the agency can continue to address the region’s homeless issues. The event is ideal for businesses or groups, serving as a way for them to give back to the community in a meaningful way during the holiday season. To sign up, click the Santa icon below. 

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Tags: homelessness, Shelter Cape Cod Telethon, Fundraising, Matt Pitta, volunteerism, Laura Reckford

Editorial: Day One

Posted by Rick Presbrey on Fri, Nov 11, 2016 @ 03:06 PM

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It is Monday morning and the office next to mine is empty. Looking in, there are lots of reminders of previous occupancy. A yellow pad with familiar handwriting. Family pictures not yet removed. Paint rubbed off the wall from the desk chair hitting it as the occupant moved around. The echo of my words, “Hey, Michael” still hangs in the air from my many calls to him for help in solving a problem or for his memory of past events. But he will be in to finish cleaning out his office. Something to look forward to.

After 35 years at HAC, Michael Sweeney retired on Friday. He was the Chief Operating Officer. He was good at a long list of things that I am not good at. And he was always here getting it done.

Can we go on without him? I know we can. People have left before. But it won’t be the same. How do you fill the void of decades of working together with less than five minutes total of even mildly angry words? How do you fill the space inside you that completely trusts someone and depends on that person to be here in all situations? How do you replace the emptiness inside where the steadiness and dependability of a human relationship used to be?

At his retirement party Friday night my wife reported that when talking about Michael, I said that he wasn’t really a friend. I don’t remember saying that but if I did say it I know why. For me a friend is someone you hang around with for the fun and camaraderie you receive from that friendship. In Michael’s case we shared some of that. But 99% of our relationship was about our work at HAC. Yes, we shared social time, sometimes during working hours and sometimes on weekends, but Michael was not central in our social circle and we weren’t part of his. With Michael we worked together every day. We solved problems together every day. We sat in each other’s office every day. We passed in the halls every day. We went to the dump together every Saturday and talked about work most of the time and family some of the time. We spent a lot more hours together than I ever have spent with a “friend.”

There must be another word that describes our relationship. People who serve in the military, particularly in battles, refer to those they were closest to and who they experienced difficult times with as their “buddies.” I have never understood that term, but maybe it applies to Michael and me.We certainly qualify as buddies. The buddy bond will always be there. That comforts me. But I miss his presence now.

You can read more about Michael Sweeney's 35-year career at HAC and his contributions to those we serve by clicking this link.

Tags: HAC, Rick Presbrey, affordable housing, Michael Sweeney

New Playground at Cataumet a Favorite with Kids

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Thu, Nov 10, 2016 @ 01:00 PM
Cataumet Playground-2.jpgBoth HAC staff and The Village at Cataumet staff and clients were joined by representatives from Cape Cod Senior Residences during a dedication for the shelter's new playground last month. 

What do you get when you combine two swings, a climbing cargo net, a slide and a faux rock wall? A whole lot of fun.

That is exactly what kids at The Village at Cataumet have been having since a new playground arrived at the shelter in September. The set was paid for thanks to a donation from Cape Cod Senior Residences, an independent and assisted living community in Pocasset, following a casino night in June which raised more than $1,600 for the HAC shelter. Residents at the assisted living facility decided they wanted to use that money towards filling a need at The Village at Cataumet.

“They [the kids] love it,” said shelter director Paula Mallard, during a playground dedication in the beginning of October. “It is awesome. It’s really sturdy and going to last us a long time.”

Cataumet Playground-9.jpgChildren enjoying the new playground at The Village at Cataumet. 

Mallard said that it’s been a few years since the shelter had a usable playground. The last one was made of wood and had to be removed because it became unsafe for children.

As a small contingent of children swung, slid and climbed the playground, Michael LeBrun, executive director for Cape Cod Senior Residences, spoke about why this was an important gift for his organization. “I think it is great to be able to help the kids and be a part of the community,” he said.

Support The Village at Cataumet

Tags: Family Shelter, homelessness, The Village at Cataumet, Paula Mallard, Cape Cod Senior Residences, Philanthropy, donations

HAC Says Farewell to NOAH Shelter

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Nov 04, 2016 @ 10:21 AM
noah staff.jpgNOAH staff who attended the final gathering at the shelter on October 31 included Darrell Thomas (rear, from left), Lucy Collins, Marvin Domino, Jan Rogers, shelter director Greg Bar, Carolann Gillard (front, from left), Lucy Sears and Julie Munson.

With a small gathering that included live music, speeches and some tears, HAC said farewell to its NOAH Shelter on the final day of October. On November 1, management of the shelter shifted to Catholic Social Services, ending HAC’s 32-year operation of NOAH.

The shelter first opened in the winter of 1984 in the old Hyannis Armory before moving to its current location on Winter Street the next year. Since that time, the shelter provided homeless men and women with a warm meal, shower and bed for 365 days a year.

In the beginning of October, HAC’s board voted to hand over the operations of NOAH to Catholic Social Services which runs three other shelters in Southeastern Massachusetts.

HAC will continue to operate its three family shelters – Angel House in Hyannis; Carriage House in North Falmouth; and The Village at Cataumet in Bourne – as well as its scattered site units, all of which assist homeless families in the region. HAC also will continue its homeless outreach program which works with men and women living in the streets and in the woods of Cape Cod, connecting them to the services they need in order to transition to permanent housing.

NOAH-2.jpgLucy Collins was one of a handful of NOAH staff recognized for their longtime service to the shelter. Collins had worked at the shelter since July 1989. She will continue to work at the shelter, renamed St. Joseph's House, for Catholic Social Services. "I get to continue to do work that I love," she said. 

Four days prior to the transfer of operations, HAC CEO Rick Presbrey met with Catholic Social Services CEO Arlene McNamee to sign the lease of the NOAH Shelter building. During the meeting, Presbrey said that McNamee repeatedly told him that NOAH staff, “are the most committed people. They really care about their clients.”

Presbrey said NOAH has always been a place where those in need felt welcomed. “You work with them from the point of view about caring about them and realizing that they are in a tough spot,” he said. “That’s real important… You can’t really like this work unless you care about the outcomes and the people we’re helping.”

Tags: homelessness, NOAH Shelter, NOAH, Greg Bar, Catholic Social Services

HAC's Michael Sweeney, a 35-Year Career Helping Others

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Thu, Nov 03, 2016 @ 05:36 PM
Michael Sweeney Edited-3.jpgMichael Sweeney reads one of the many cards he received from HAC staff at his retirement luncheon. 

A person’s life is filled with moments that can have a significant impact on their future. For HAC’s Chief Operating Officer Michael Sweeney, one of those moments occurred in 1972 when his younger brother James died due to heroin use. “I’ve never gotten over it and I never will,” Sweeney told his coworkers at a retirement party held for him at the end of last month. “I think that’s been something that’s always been there. And here at HAC we have helped so many people in similar situations… You look around and we’re helping people who have similar struggles and issues every day. Was that part of what attracted me and what kept me here, the human element of that? I think so.”

Eight years after his brother’s death, Sweeney found himself at HAC as a volunteer, installing energy saving products for seniors on Cape Cod. Sweeney arrived at the fledgling agency as a community organizer with VISTA, armed with a bachelor’s degree in history and economics from the University of Massachusetts.

A year after his arrival, Sweeney was hired part-time in the HAC Energy Department, parlaying that into a full-time position at the end of 1981. “I never believed I would be here 35 years later,” Sweeney said.

Just five days after he celebrated his 67th birthday, Sweeney was reflecting on a career that spanned over three decades, supporting HAC in its mission to ensure those on Cape Cod and the islands have access to safe, secure housing.

Nancy Davison, HAC’s vice president of program operations, said it is difficult to quantify Sweeney’s contributions to the agency and those it helps. “There’s so many and they are so diverse,” she said.

A Bit of Everything

Yes, Sweeney oversaw HAC’s contracts, the hiring of new staff, implementing employee benefits and managing finances. But he also did the little things like shoveling snow, fixing fellow coworkers’ cars and conducting general office maintenance.

HAC CEO Rick Presbrey said Sweeney did this in a quiet, unassuming way.

Over the years, Presbrey and Sweeney developed a close bond; they could often be found together on Saturdays, extending their work week an extra day just to help a HAC client in need, all on their own time.

Since 1981, Sweeney and Presbrey had a routine, working together on issues big and small which helped forge HAC into the agency it is today. This month, that routine has been broken as Sweeney starts the next chapter of his life.

In the short term, he and his wife Karen will be traveling to San Francisco for 10 days in November. A longer trip is planned to Switzerland, where Karen’s daughter, Kelsey, lives, and the Canary Islands in December.

Sweeney, who has two sons of his own, Patrick and Sean, anticipated that at some point in mid-January, “I’ll wake up and go, ‘What am I doing? What did I do?’” he laughed, half-jokingly.

Presbrey said that Sweeney’s passion not only for his work, but for his fellow colleagues and those HAC serves will be sorely missed. “You can’t really like this work unless you care about the outcomes and the people we’re helping,” Presbrey said. “Michael certainly has been a person who increasingly over these 35 years has cared more and more. You don’t always see that and it’s really been reassuring for me working next door to him.”

Tags: HAC Energy, Philanthropy, Rick Presbrey, Michael Sweeney