Housing Assistance Corporation Blog

Music as a Form of Therapy

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Wed, Aug 24, 2016 @ 10:40 AM
Angel_House_Music_3.jpgRachel Youngling (far left) leads a music class at Angel House in June. 

She banged on a drum, shook egg shakers and waved see-through scarves, all while singing songs about little Johnny Brown and Jack in the Box to the delight of six children, ranging from infants to toddlers at HAC’s Angel House, in early June.

Once a month, Rachel Youngling brings this colorful, playful scene to both the Hyannis shelter and Carriage House shelter in North Falmouth. She has been doing so since February 2015 as a volunteer, wanting to expose mothers and their children at the two shelters to the beauty and power of music. This past December, she received two grants – one from the Mid-Cape Cultural Council and the other from the Falmouth Cultural Council – that are funding her work this year.

Even if she did not receive the funding, Youngling admitted, “I would be doing this anyway… That’s how important I feel it is.”

Youngling, who owns Musical Discoveries in West Yarmouth, has been offering early childhood music education on Cape Cod for the past nine years. She can often be found inspiring children at area preschools and libraries. She expanded her presence to HAC’s homeless shelters last year after hearing WCAI host Mindy Todd talking about Angel House on “The Point” and realizing that those being served at the shelter could benefit from an exposure to music.

Building Bonds Through Music
During her sessions, she focuses on getting mothers and their children to connect with one another through play and creative exploration. Underlying it all is one goal: to have fun. Youngling does that “by keeping it exciting and bringing in rhythm instruments and scarves to promote rhythmic development,” she said. “Every class, they play along with a basket full of different items such as triangles, drums and tambourines.”

Though she serves as the facilitator, Youngling encourages the mothers to get involved and lead by example for their child. “Every child’s number one teacher is their parent,” she explained.

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The results at both shelters have been promising. “We’ve seen the women make an amazing connection with their children,” Youngling said.

Angel House Facility Director Lin Rohr said the classes have presented “a vibrant dynamic” in which mothers and their children have been able to playfully express themselves through movement and music. And Youngling’s underlying goal is being met as Rohr noted, “it is just fun.”

For those who have experienced significant trauma in their lives, Youngling said, it is important to have the types of moments she provides, if even for a short while. “To be able to find that space where you can be happy, even if it is just 45 minutes, it makes such a difference,” Youngling said. “That’s why I love what I do: the power to help each individual find some happiness and joy in their immediate situation.”

Donate to Angel House

Tags: Carriage House, Angel House, art therapy, music therapy, Rachel Youngling

Tiny Church with a Big Heart

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Aug 19, 2016 @ 03:13 PM
Cotuit_John_and_Allyson_NOAH.jpgJohn Murray (left) of Cotuit and Allyson Murphy of Marstons Mills were just a few of the volunteers from Cotuit Federated Church who donated their time to painting the rooms at our NOAH Shelter. 

We’re a little tiny church in Cotuit,” said Peter Rohner, at the end of June. Despite its diminutive nature, Rohner’s parish, the Cotuit Federated Church, has made a major difference in the lives of Cape Cod’s homeless men and women, proof that you can do a lot with a little.

Over the past year, its members have installed coat hooks above each of the beds at the shelter, hung new blinds on the windows (read that story here) and, most recently, painted the rooms on the men’s and women’s side of the facility.

“This is giving them a little brighter space so they can feel more comfortable,” said Karen Cozza of Mashpee, one of eight volunteers from the church to donate their time painting the women’s side of NOAH in June.

Amy Fish of Mashpee, used the opportunity to bond with her daughter, Sarah Lott, 16, a soon-to-be junior at Falmouth Academy. “It’s fun to do stuff that you know makes a big difference in someone’s life,” said Sarah, as to why she spent a sunny summer day volunteering at the NOAH Shelter.

In another room, Allyson Murphy of Marstons Mills, was joined by John Murray of Cotuit, in giving the walls and ceilings a fresh coat of paint. “This is a good way to pay it forward,” Allyson said.

The efforts being made by members of the Cotuit church are appreciated by Greg Bar, director of the shelter. “They are not only giving their time, they are giving money and giving sweat equity,” he said. “And they keep coming back, asking, ‘How can we help now? How can we help now?’ They are pretty amazing people.”

Cotuit_at_NOAH_1.jpgMembers of the Cotuit Federated Church who donated their time and talents to painting the NOAH Shelter included Peter Rohner (from left), John Murray, Barbara Erickson, Amy Fish, Sarah Lott, Beth Crouch, Karen Cozza and Allyson Murphy. 

Tags: NOAH Shelter, volunteerism, Cotuit Federated Church

Care Packages Donated to Cape's Homeless

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Aug 19, 2016 @ 10:55 AM
First_Citizens_Photo.jpgDella Sattin (from left) of First Citizens Federal Credit Union was joined by her colleagues Linda Wilson and Kristen Boyd-Higgins in dropping off donations to HAC’s Deanna Bussiere. 

Earlier this year, First Citizens’ Federal Credit Union started planning a fundraiser to collect items for the homeless off-Cape. When several local branch managers heard of the drive, they decided they wanted to do their part on Cape Cod.

“We wanted to do something on Cape to help the homeless here,” said Hyannis branch manager Linda Wilson. “And the NOAH Shelter came to mind.”

So from April 1 to the end of May, customers and staff of all Cape branches were encouraged to participate in Project Care Package, donating toiletries such as soap, toothpaste and lip balm as well as umbrellas, rain ponchos and $5 gift cards to fast food restaurants.

Wilson delivered those donations – over five boxes worth of small blue bags – to HAC in the middle of June along with Mashpee branch manager Della Sattin and Orleans branch manager Kristen Boyd-Higgins. The bags will be given to those at HAC’s NOAH Shelter, which serves the region’s homeless men and women.

Help End Homelessness

Tags: homelessness, Fundraising, NOAH Shelter

Summer on Cape Cod

Posted by Rick Presbrey on Thu, Aug 18, 2016 @ 10:13 AM

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I am not taking any travelling vacation this summer. Work is especially busy because we are trying to fill three key positions: the Director of Energy Programs; the Director of Homeless Prevention Services; and the Director of Housing Development. We also have a new COO, Walter Phinney, who started two weeks ago. The result is that I am trying to take just an occasional vacation day—staying local—this summer. That’s how I ended up as a day tripper on Martha’s Vineyard on a recent Monday.

I’ve never spent time on the Vineyard as a tourist, but I’ve been there on business over the years. I’ve have always planned my trips for the early morning hours so that I can be back at my desk by noon.

HAC has built affordable housing on the Vineyard. Back in the early 1980s, HAC partnered with Island Elderly Housing on a Martha’s Vineyard development called Hillside Village, which had 40 rental units for seniors. It is the only multi-family project HAC has been involved with. HAC also built 15 homeownership units on the Vineyard as part of a Self-Help Ownership project.

Last fall, HAC opened our first “office” on the Vineyard. Our part-time staffers share space in the Dukes County office building. They provide much-needed assistance to Vineyarders looking for affordable housing. I know the Vineyard to be a place where the challenge of affordable housing is even greater than it is on the Cape, not least because of the staggering price of real estate.

Last month, my wife Melanie, my son Paul and I, with another couple, took the day and went to the Vineyard as tourists. We rented a Jeep and proceeded, after a quick breakfast in Oak Bluffs, to begin to drive the perimeter of the island. We headed to Edgartown and following our noses and signs, headed to the Chappaquiddick ferry. For $28 round-trip, the five of us and our car rolled on to the three-car-ferry for the three-minute ride across. We satisfied our curiosities about the Ted affair and followed signs to the Mytoi Japanese gardens a few minutes away. The 45-minute walk through the gardens was fascinating and pleasingly invigorating.

Our next stop, a fair drive away, was something I have wanted to see for many years, the cliffs at Aquinnah. Our group was hungry by now, but there wasn’t much on the drive and the trinket shops at the site didn’t offer much hope. We walked up the short hill and enjoyed the breathtaking view of the cliffs and the Native American story that went with it. Part way back to the car I checked the snack bar only to find that it was a full-fledged restaurant with outside seating overlooking the beach far below and the ocean. We all enjoyed our lunch and marveled at our location with the “best view in the world!”

After lunch we headed back to the ferry, enjoying the rural country and farm views. We took the 5 pm boat back to Falmouth, a very thrilled, happy and tired fivesome. And I got to see a side of the Vineyard I had never seen before.

Tags: Martha's Vineyard, Rick Presbrey, affordable housing

Looking Back at the Housing with Love Walk

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Tue, Aug 16, 2016 @ 11:23 AM
HWLW_Harwich_2.jpgRichard Waystack (from left), DJ Sullivan and Rev. John Rice make their way down the Cape Cod Rail Trail during last month's 24th Annual Bob Murray Housing with Love Walk.

Walking 100 miles in seven days in the midst of the summer is difficult for most anyone. But sometimes that difficulty can be placed into perspective when considering life’s other challenges. “It’s easy knowing you have a place to go home to every night,” said Harwich’s Bernadette Waystack. “Not everyone has that luxury.”

Waystack made the statement on the third leg of a seven-day journey that saw her and dozens of other volunteers walk from Provincetown to Falmouth during the second full week of July as part of the 24th Annual Bob Murray Housing with Love Walk.

Started in 1993 by the late Bob Murray, the walk has continued on since his death three years ago. The walk is held, in part, to honor his memory by those like Bernadette’s husband, Richard, who considered Murray a mentor. “We are continuing his spirit and passion to make a difference on Cape Cod,” Richard told more than three dozen participants and supporters of the walk as they ate lunch inside the First Congregational Church in Harwich.

The Waystacks were one of several walkers committed to walking each of the seven days. The couple did so for the second straight year in support of HAC’s housing programs on Cape Cod and the islands.

As much as the walk helps raise funds for several nonprofits like HAC working to solve the region’s housing issues, it also helps raise awareness to those challenges. This year, Jane Goodman of Chatham, joined the Waystacks in traversing the entire Cape over the course of one week.

Last year, she walked the Chatham to South Yarmouth leg with her husband Steven. After moving here full-time from Burlington, Vermont, she opted to extend her commitment to the walk even further. “Here, I am seeing this place has more and more extremes: the haves and the have nots,” she said. “Many of the people who work here can’t afford to live here. I feel very fortunate to live here and I’d like to help other people, who really make the whole Cape operate, be able to live here.”

Donate to the Walk

Tags: Housing with love walk, Richard Waystack, Bernadette Waystack, Bob Murray, Jane Goodman, John Rice

Volunteers Needed for HAC's Big Fix

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Mon, Aug 15, 2016 @ 10:39 AM
BF_-1_DSC_1058_Medium-1.jpgHAC's Big Fix is a great opportunity to donate your time to help those in need. This year the Big Fix is coming to Brewster. 

What do you get when you bring together over 200 volunteers who donate a few hours of their time to help their neighbors in need? HAC’s Big Fix.

This year, the day of service is coming to Brewster on Saturday, September 17. HAC is currently looking for volunteers who are willing to make small home improvements – yard work, painting, light carpentry, trash removal – for seniors, veterans and disabled homeowners in that Cape community.

This is now the seventh year HAC has organized the Big Fix, first bringing it to Barnstable in 2010. Since then, it has been to Sandwich, Dennis, Mashpee, Yarmouth and, last year, Bourne.

“Brewster is very excited to host and be the recipient of the Big Fix,” said its assistant town administrator Jillian Douglass, noting that “it’s an opportunity for homeowners to have repairs made to their home they otherwise could not accomplish.”

HAC volunteer coordinator Mary Everett-Patriquin said the Big Fix would not be possible without a group of volunteers committed to donating their time and energy to tackling those home repairs. “Our seniors, veterans and homeowners with disabilities can be absolutely overwhelmed by deferred maintenance,” she said. “Shrubs grow over their first-floor windows. Mountains of items to go to recycling clog the basement or garage. When you turn 10 or 20 volunteers loose on those projects for a few hours, it’s like a miracle.”

Those wanting to volunteer for this year’s Big Fix can fill out an application by clicking this link. If you have any questions please contact HAC's volunteer coordinator Mary Everett-Patriquin at volunteer@haconcapecod.org or 508-771-5400, ext. 279. The deadline to submit a volunteer application is Thursday, September 1.

Tags: volunteerism, Big Fix, HAC Volunteers, Brewster Big Fix

HAC Offers Free HCEC Classes

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Wed, Aug 10, 2016 @ 03:21 PM
CCYP_HCEC_1-1.jpgHAC's Cheryl Kramer with CCYP Board Member Ryan Castle. 

Housing is one of the obstacles preventing young professionals from moving to Cape Cod and staying here. The Cape Cod Young Professionals (CCYP) is trying to change that by “moving the needle” in a positive direction as its board member Ryan Castle said at the organization’s 5th Annual Community Breakfast held in June at the Cape Codder Resort & Spa.

To that end, the CCYP Giving Circle Fund of The Cape Cod Foundation presented HAC’s Cheryl Kramer with a $2,500 grant at the breakfast that will allow residents in the region to take classes offered by the agency’s Housing Consumer Education Center (HCEC) for free. Those classes are Rebuilding Your Credit, Creating a Budget and Community Resources.

“Our hope is this is going to strengthen people’s financial knowledge of their own budgets, incomes and expenses and assist them in making decisions so their financial stability is a little bit stronger,” said Kramer, who manages the HCEC for HAC.

Those interested in taking advantage of this opportunity can opt to take one class or all three, depending on space. The following is the class schedule (click on the titles of each class to download the registration form) for the remainder of the year:

People must download and fill out the registration form, returning it to Cheryl Kramer at 460 West Main Street, Hyannis, MA 02601. You can also pick up hard copies of the application at HAC’s offices at 460 West Main Street.

Tags: HCEC, Affordable Housing on Cape Cod, Housing on Cape Cod, affordable housing, CCYP, housing consumer education

HAC Welcomes Walter Phinney to Agency

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Jul 29, 2016 @ 01:50 PM

Walter_Phinney_Photo.jpg

The next few years at HAC will see significant changes in leadership as longtime, dedicated staff step down, paving the way for new faces to make their mark on the agency.

Those changes started in earnest last month when HAC welcomed Walter Phinney to its ranks as its Chief Operating Officer (COO). Phinney, who lives in South Dennis, replaces Michael Sweeney, who will retire in October after 35 years at HAC.

On his first official day, Phinney was treated to a brunch where CEO Rick Presbrey introduced him to his colleagues. “I think he’ll bring a lot to the organization,” Presbrey said, before delving into his work experience.

Phinney most recently served as COO at Arbour Counseling Services which runs mental health and addiction centers throughout Massachusetts. Prior to that, he was COO at Outer Cape Health Services in Wellfleet, where he was responsible for clinical operations, including behavioral health.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Boston College and a master’s degree in health care administration from New England College.

As much of his recent work has been focused off-Cape, Phinney expressed an excitement that he would be able to make a difference here. “Rick mentioned that I was driving all over so I’m looking forward to making an impact in my community as opposed to Worcester and Lawrence and Haverhill and Lowell and Medford,” Phinney said. “There is something nice about knowing you’re affecting the people who are your neighbors.” 

Tags: HAC, succession planning, Walter Phinney

Outreach: A New Role for HAC

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Thu, Jul 28, 2016 @ 10:44 AM

Derick_HACbeat_Story_1.jpg

It’s the first Thursday in July. Three 20-somethings are seated on a park bench on the Hyannis Village Green. HAC’s Derick Bussiere is engaged with one, talking about mutual friends they have in Dennis, while Duffy Health Center’s outreach case manager Rick Smillie and recovery support navigator Dominique DeCola are talking to another who mentions he has an appointment at Duffy later that day. The third sits, looking only at his phone, not making any effort to interact with the trio.

This is a typical scenario for Bussiere in his new position as the outreach specialist at HAC. He began the job in June, representing a major shift from his previous one as the housing search specialist at the NOAH Shelter.

The two roles have the same end goal: help find housing for the region’s homeless. But in his new post, Bussiere is meeting these individuals on their turf in hopes of developing a level of trust where he can connect them to services they need so they can get off the streets.

Bussiere partners with agencies, like Duffy Health Center, trying to serve a population that can sometimes be difficult to reach. As Jason Sturgis, a Barnstable police officer on the force’s Community Impact Unit, puts it, those like Bussiere are an invaluable resource for Cape Cod’s homeless. “Someone like Derick or Rick helps them navigate the network of services and are a useful tool for us,” he said.

While Bussiere’s work encompasses the entire Cape and the islands, his focus is Hyannis. Every day, he visits sections of town where the homeless are known to congregate, usually meeting up with those from other organizations that include not only Duffy and the Barnstable Police Department, but Vinfen and M25, an outreach group that works with the Cape’s homeless living in the woods.

Working Towards Progress

Admittedly, Bussiere said the work is difficult and it is harder to judge progress than his previous position because, “you can’t make anybody do anything.” Yes, he can offer assistance, but people do not have to accept it.

The first step in the process, he says, is building a relationship with those he is trying to help. “One of the biggest things is the trust factor,” he said. “It’s a lot of checking in with people and taking it one step at a time… When I did housing at NOAH, a lot of people who were getting housed had already passed a lot of steps. Right now, I’m working with a lot of individuals who are not there yet.”

Bussiere, Smillie and DeCola all listed a number of obstacles – unemployment, substance abuse, scarcity of drug treatment and lack of affordable housing – that can serve to impede those steps.

There is a real complexity to the situations Bussiere is confronted with on a daily basis. He references one 92-year-old World War II veteran who he was able to move into a nursing home with the help of Cape Cod Hospital, Vinfen and the Cape & Islands Veterans’ Outreach Center. It was a small victory that was quickly followed by defeat: 12 hours later that client died.

“I was talking to him one day and all of the sudden, I’m not,” Bussiere said. “The situation is over and you move on to the next person. It is a lot sometimes to deal with.”

Despite these difficulties, Bussiere and those he works with understand they play a key role in helping address homelessness in this part of the state “If we don’t do it, who will?” asked DeCola, mentioning the one thing that keeps them going: “There is always hope.”

Help End Homelessness

Tags: homelessness, HAC, NOAH Shelter, Derick Bussiere

Making Homeownership Attainable

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Tue, Jun 28, 2016 @ 11:59 AM
Homeownership_Conference.jpgElliot Schmiedl of MHP talks about his agency's ONE Mortgage Program that makes homeownership more attainable for those in Massachusetts. 

When it comes to housing on Cape Cod, it’s not just about affordability. It’s also about attainability.

That concept took center stage during the Cape Cod and Islands Homeownership Collaborative held at HAC last month. Featuring representatives from HAC, MassHousing, Massachusetts Housing Partnership (MHP) and the United States Department of Agriculture, the workshop allowed local lenders to learn about the mortgage programs available to residents to ensure housing is both affordable and attainable.

The session began with HAC’s Karin Bar highlighting changes to Barnstable County’s HOME Program which she administers for the agency. Available to those that make 80 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI) for Barnstable County, the program provides closing cost and down payment assistance for first-time homebuyers. That assistance has increased from a maximum of $10,000 to $20,000 awarded to recipients based on need that comes in the form of a zero payment, zero interest loan that is paid back upon sale of the property.
“I’ve had the pleasure of helping 22 households since I took over the program a couple of years ago,” Bar told those in attendance. “This is a great program and I’m very excited about it. And I’m very happy we’re all here today so we can make homeownership more attainable.”

Over a two-hour period, lenders had a chance to learn about MassHousing’s lending opportunities. “We are no longer just a lender for first-time homebuyers, but a lender for repeat buyers for someone who may have owned in the past and is looking to own again,” said MassHousing business development officer Maureen Moriarty. “With Massachusetts being a high cost area, we see a lot of people struggle to get into a second home.”

Keeping People in Their Homes
Moriarty was joined by her colleague Goretti Joaquim who provided information on her agency’s mortgage insurance program known as MI Plus which provides up to $2,000 per month that goes to cover mortgage payments for borrowers who may have lost their job. Since 2004, she said MI Plus has assisted nearly 1,000 such people, keeping over 850 of them in their homes. “Our mission is to keep people in their homes and people intact which is huge,” she said.

Homeownership_Conference_2.jpgMassHousing's Goretti Joaquim talks to local lenders abou her agency's mortgage insurance program.

At MHP, the ONE Mortgage Program has provided 19,000 loans to income-eligible residents in Massachusetts since 1991. The program, which is only open to first-time homebuyers, reduces the down payment required to purchase a home while providing the borrower with a fixed interest rate over 30 years. Some borrowers may even qualify for a one-time subsidy spread out over the first seven years of owning their home.

MHP’s Elliot Schmiedl said loans his agency provides can reduce a monthly income payment by nearly $450 for a low-income borrower and just over $300 for a moderate-income borrower, making homeownership that much more of a possibility. “It is so difficult for low to moderate income borrowers to even get into the market,” he said. “Not much is affordable anymore.”

The workshop ended with USDA’s Michael Rendulic who highlighted his department’s services which includes financing roughly $21 billion in housing projects throughout the country. Of that, he said $223 million went to rural areas of Massachusetts which includes every town on Cape Cod except the town of Barnstable.

The USDA’s housing programs include rental assistance for elderly and low-income residents; direct loans; and funding repairs for income-eligible homeowners.

To learn more about Barnstable County's HOME Program contact HAC's Karin Bar at kbar@haconcapecod.org or at 508-771-5400, ext. 289. 

Tags: Affordable Housing on Cape Cod, affordable housing, homeownership, MassHousing, Karin Bar, Barnstable County HOME Program, Massachusetts Housing Partnership