Housing Assistance Corporation Blog

Whole Foods Giving Tree Provides Holiday Cheer for HAC Clients

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Thu, Jan 21, 2016 @ 07:00 AM
Whole_Foods_2.jpgSannie Rocheteau (second from left) of Whole Foods poses with HAC’s Mary LeClair (from left), Deanna Bussiere and Lin Rohr.

A stuffed monkey, building blocks and a Hot Wheels car were just a few of the toys complete strangers bought for children at HAC’s three family shelters last month.

They were delivered by Sannie Rocheteau, metro marketing specialist for Whole Foods Market, during the week of Christmas. Customers and staff at the company’s Hyannis store donated the gifts as a way to pay it forward during the holiday season.

“This was a lot of fun,” Rocheteau said, inside HAC’s Angel House shelter, the first of three stops on the day that also included a visit to Carriage House in North Falmouth, and The Village at Cataumet in Bourne. In all, presents were purchased for 46 children in HAC’s shelters as a way to give them some joy during the holidays.

Rocheteau said that Whole Foods’ Giving Tree was embraced by the entire community, noting that as she was decorating it customers were placing presents under the tree. “It was really a great experience and we were lucky to all be a part of it,” Rocheteau said.

DID YOU KNOW?

Since coming to Hyannis in May 2014, Whole Foods has made a commitment to giving back to the community. Click here to learn about their philanthropic efforts to support organizations like HAC. 

Tags: volunteerism

A New Purpose for Orleans' Woman

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Wed, Jan 20, 2016 @ 10:20 AM
Sully2.jpgJayne and John Sully outside the NOAH Shelter last month where they delivered 75 purses full of small items for homeless women staying in HAC shelters.

There are moments in life that can change a person’s perspective. Being diagnosed with cancer is one. That happened to Jayne Sully this past July when doctors discovered she had throat cancer. A month later, the 49-year-old South Orleans resident started treatment.

“It gave her a purpose,” her husband John Sully said last month in the parking lot of HAC’s NOAH Shelter.

That purpose was to “do something for somebody” in need, John said. So Jayne reached out to friends and family in mid-November asking them to donate purses for women living in shelter.

She collected 150, half of which went to those at NOAH, Angel House, Carriage House and The Village at Cataumet. The remainder was donated to the Salvation Army.

Inside each purse were small items – lip balm, toothpaste, socks, mittens, baby powder and candy – collected by the Sullys, utilizing Facebook to encourage charity in their social network. The couple, who formerly owned The Yardarm in Orleans, also received $700 that was used to purchase gift cards to McDonald’s, Burger King and Dunkin’ Donuts that were also placed inside the purses.

Donations came from as far away as Texas, Jayne said. The pair also received a contribution from the front desk staff at the Renaissance Boston Patriot Place Hotel in Foxboro where they stay when attending New England Patriots games.

After unloading the last of the purses from their car and bringing them into NOAH, the Sullys were thanked by the shelter’s employment specialist Carolann Gillard. “This lets them know somebody cared enough to put these together and bring them here,” Gillard told the couple. “It means so much to them and we so appreciate it.”

For Jayne, who was told a few days later her cancer was in remission, the fundraiser represented a purpose fulfilled. “I had a pretty good health scare myself. I had cancer,” she said. “So I wanted to give something back and I thought giving back to the homeless was the best way to go… After I was diagnosed it put the meaning of Christmas in a whole new light for me.”

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Tags: volunteerism

A Stepping Stone to a Better Life

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Tue, Jan 19, 2016 @ 10:30 AM
Peter_Tubbs_1-1.jpgPeter Tubbs (left) sits down with Derick Bussiere, the NOAH Shelter's housing search specialist. 

On the first day of December, Peter Tubbs received an early Christmas present – the keys to a new apartment in Hyannis.

It represented a major stepping stone for the Cape native who had been homeless for the past five years. He finally had a home of his own. “I’ve kind of been bouncing around. You know displaced, homeless,” he said sitting on a bed inside the second floor of HAC’s NOAH Shelter.

The shelter was one of several places he lived as he struggled with substance abuse and the uncertainty of not having a permanent place to call home. “I would stay at friends’ houses. I stayed at my family’s for a few days. I stayed at hotels,” Tubbs said. “Try doing that for a month and you find out you can’t do it because your money runs out and that makes it impossible to get into a place because you’re spending your money on a hotel. But you don’t want to be out on the street.”

The 45-year-old Tubbs first came to NOAH roughly three years ago, describing it as “a scary moment because I had never been in that situation before.”

He stayed for a few months before leaving, eventually returning a second time this year. Because of his problems with addiction, he said the shelter’s new policy of only allowing sober clients to spend a night at the shelter has “made me feel much safer.”

Additionally, he was buoyed by the resources – employment, housing and access to other supportive services – at NOAH. “I feel like they saved my life, really, because I don’t know where I’d be,” Tubbs said. “That’s the truth.”

He termed the NOAH Shelter a “stepping stone” to where he moved into on the first day of December, a single room occupancy home, with seven other men, that has a common area and a shared kitchen and bathroom. He has his own bedroom and is one step closer to where he wants to be.

His future goals are relatively simple and modest. He wants to utilize his college degree in marine affairs and fisheries. “And certainly, I want to continue on the path I’m at in terms of recovery and making sure I don’t end up in a situation where I’m homeless again,” he said.

He credited the NOAH Shelter for giving him another chance. “It feels like I have an opportunity to live again. To have a new life,” he said, just a few hours after he was given the keys to his apartment. “I’m more grateful than I’ve been in a very, very, very long time.”

Following his interview for this story, Tubbs shook hands with the shelter’s housing search specialist Derick Bussiere. “Good luck, man,” Bussiere said, before Tubbs walked out of the facility and towards a new life.

“You can see in his demeanor how he’s changed,” Bussiere said. “This is why we do it. You count your victories… It is a good thing. And then it is on to the next person.”

This past year through the beginning of December, Bussiere said the NOAH Shelter had housed over 130 people like Tubbs, each given a chance to move on with their lives and escape the dangers of homelessness. These are the victories.

Help End Homelessness

Tags: NOAH Shelter

Rick Presbrey Editorial: A Cheer for CHAMP Homes

Posted by Rick Presbrey on Wed, Jan 13, 2016 @ 02:09 PM

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Now under the able leadership of Beth Wade, CHAMP Homes in Hyannis wants to create 23 (two people to a room) more housing units for formerly homeless individuals across the street from its main building. The town has not met its state required 10% affordable housing. There is a dramatic shortage of rental units on the Cape making competition for every decent and reasonably priced unit fierce. The town, particularly those residents and businesses in or near Hyannis, is clamoring for something to be done about the presence of homeless individuals.

CHAMP Homes, if you don’t know them, has been around for many years and has been singularly successful in providing housing and services for those individuals most in need. Paul and Carolyn Hebert, the now-retired founders, dedicated their lives to caring deeply for others and creating a fabulous program. I might call it miraculous. Recently, as part of the development process, CHAMP personnel went to town hall to discuss their plan and, as often happens, some people are vocally opposing the plan.

It isn’t as if CHAMP Homes and their tenants have created problems. They haven’t. It isn’t as if CHAMP isn’t filling a need. They are. It isn’t as if the town doesn’t need more affordable units. We do. It isn’t as if CHAMP is making a lot of money. They aren’t. It isn’t as if they are sneaking around. They aren’t. It isn’t as if CHAMP is seeking favors or hoping to skirt the law. They aren’t. CHAMP is doing what their mission says they should do and doing it well. In fact, I think it is a moral imperative that they do all they can to provide housing for as many people as possible.

What CHAMP doesn’t do is bring people with lots of money to Hyannis. That is not their job. But they are making a positive contribution to Hyannis. And, from the point of view of a person who has lived here for 41 years, Hyannis is thriving. Does anyone remember when the Mall was built and people worried that Hyannis would be a ghost town? Well, our award-winning city/village of Hyannis is thriving. Great restaurants, great stores, great public transportation services, great health care, a diverse population, a first-class recreation center, fantastic educational choices, and lots of exciting plans for the future.

CHAMP Homes unquestionably does God’s work. We should all realize how lucky we are to have CHAMP homes in our community. Think of all the things we need to be concerned about. Stopping the CHAMP Homes expansion is not one of them.

In case you are wondering, HAC has nothing to do with CHAMP Homes. Nobody at HAC is on the Board, we don’t have any contracts or agreements with CHAMP. We are just admirers of what they have accomplished. And, we are in a position to know.

Tags: homelessness

Cape Cod Realtors Help HAC Clients Get a Fresh Start

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Tue, Jan 12, 2016 @ 01:04 PM
Realtors1-1.jpgSarah Lapsley (left) and Sunny Fellman of the Cape Cod & Islands Association of Realtors with two of the more than dozen laundry baskets of goods collected as part of the drive.

The most exciting moment for someone in shelter is when they move into permanent housing. But it can also be a scary moment as well.

HAC makes that transition a little easier thanks to its Welcome Home Gift Basket program, providing items – kitchen utensils, bath towels, bed sheets, pillow cases, dishes and more – necessary for any home.

In December, the program received a boost from the Young Professionals Network of the Cape Cod & Islands Association of Realtors (CCIAOR) which collected over a dozen laundry baskets full of home goods that will provide a solid foundation for HAC clients in their new homes.

“I receive the requests and I put everything together for the families,” volunteer coordinator Mary Everett-Patriquin told Sarah Lapsley, Greg Martin, Sunny Fellman and Patricia Pry of CCIAOR after they dropped off the donations at HAC the week of Christmas, noting the emotional connection to what the gift baskets will mean to those who receive them. “As I’m putting a basket together, I often find I need a tissue.”

Fellman, who serves as the chair of CCIAOR’s Young Professionals Network, said the program “fits in so well with what we do… We are just so excited being in this industry to be able to give back to local families on the Cape who are in need.”

To learn more about the Welcome Home Gift Basket program click this link or contact Mary Everett-Patriquin at volunteer@haconcapecod.org.

Tags: Welcome Home Gift Basket Drive

Community Leaders Gather at HAC's Shelter Telethon

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Thu, Jan 07, 2016 @ 12:42 PM
Today_Real_Estate.jpgThe team from Today Real Estate were adorned in festive outfits at last month's telethon. 

The twelfth time was a charm for the Shelter Cape Cod Telethon, bringing in a record $100,000 in donations and pledges that will go to support HAC’s shelter programs.

While the total raised was significant, HAC CEO Rick Presbrey noted at the end of the four-hour long telethon, “It’s not about the money. It’s what we can do to improve the services for the families and individuals who are homeless.”

Cape Cod Broadcasting’s Matt Pitta who hosted the last two hours of the telethon – WCAI’s Mindy Todd hosted the first two – called the event “a very important night, one of the most important each year for Housing Assistance Corporation as we get together with the community, from one end of Cape Cod to the other, Provincetown to Bourne, and all spots in between.”

Though the focus of the telethon is fundraising, it also places a spotlight on the homelessness and housing issues facing the region, mixed in with lighter fare that included musical performances from elementary school students at the St. Pius X Catholic School, Sarah Swain of Harwich and a live, acoustic rendition of “Away in a Manger” by NOAH Shelter director Greg Bar.

There were five eighth graders from Cape Cod Academy who spoke about their portrait project in which they interviewed people at HAC’s NOAH Shelter as well as at CHAMP Homes and Homeless Not Hopeless, helping put a face to Cape Cod’s homeless. “What I learned is that these are real people with real stories they want to share with the community,” said eighth grader Maeve Lonergan about the project.

On-air guests included Paula Mallard, the facility director at The Village at Cataumet; Jay Coburn, executive director of the Community Development Partnership in Eastham; and Paula Schnepp, the coordinator for the Regional Network on Homelessness.

All spoke about the housing challenges facing Cape Cod, starting with Rick Presbrey who pointed out in the first minutes of the telethon that “there’s a big gap between what people earn on Cape Cod and what housing costs.”

For individuals, he said, the housing challenges can be even more cumbersome when someone becomes homeless.

Mindy_Todd_and_Billy_Bishop.jpgWCAI's Mindy Todd talks with Billy Bishop, founder of Homeless Not Hopeless, about the homeless issue on Cape Cod. 

Homelessness is an issue that affects those of all ages. Gina Hurley, director of student services for Barnstable Public Schools, said there are 140 students in her district that are homeless. “How does it affect their learning?” she asked.

Anne Van Vleck, executive director of CCYP, spoke about the importance of having affordable housing for young professionals. “Housing is an issue for all of the Cape,” she said. “And the homelessness issue which you are doing such important work here tonight is really something that needs people’s attention and focus.”

To provide some perspective of its impact on Cape Cod, Dr. Nate Rudman, an emergency room physician at Cape Cod Hospital, said that 91,000 ER hours were dedicated to those who are homeless in 2015, equaling roughly 10 beds per day. And for those suffering from an illness or disease, he said, homelessness can exacerbate the problem. “Imagine having pneumonia and not having a home to go to,” he said.

Billy Bishop, former president of Homeless Not Hopeless, has a firsthand knowledge of how difficult homelessness can be. He spent more than a decade living on the streets. “There are nights you can’t stay outside. You will die,” he said. He credited HAC’s NOAH Shelter for keeping him safe. “They saved my life,” he said, repeatedly.

The solution to many of the problems related to homelessness, said Gosnold CEO Raymond Tamasi is collaboration among the region’s social services agencies. “The networking of those services has the potential to lift people out of homelessness and, more than that, hopelessness,” he said. 

Tags: Shelter Cape Cod Telethon

HAC Says Farewell to Longtime Angel House Staffer

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Tue, Dec 29, 2015 @ 04:58 PM
DSC_1094.jpgLil Burlingame (right) with her daughter Melissa at her farewell party at Kelly's on Main Street in Hyannis. 

If you were to throw a dart on a map, chances are you couldn’t get much further from Cape Cod than Guam.

That is where Lil Burlingame, a self-described gypsy who dedicated 22 years of her life to HAC’s Angel House shelter, is currently enjoying the temperate climate on the U.S. island located in the western Pacific.

She moved there for family; her daughter Melissa lives in Guam with her husband Harry and their three children Walker, 5, Ryder, 3 and Evan, 1.

“I’m happy,” said Melissa during a farewell party for Lil at Kelly’s on Main in Hyannis at the beginning of the summer. “She deserves to spend some time on a tropical beach and to relax.”

Melissa, whose husband is employed as a lawyer for the U.S. Navy, admitted it has been difficult living overseas – prior to Guam she lived in Japan – and not being able to see her mother. “Thank you for always taking care of my mother,” she told Lil’s coworkers in June.

Lil, who grew up in Long Island, arrived at HAC in 1993. By then she had lived in Florida, New York and California, eventually settling on Cape Cod, where her grandmother owned cottages, after giving birth to Melissa.

“I moved here permanently, year-round, in 1980 when I had my daughter. Then I couldn’t be a gypsy anymore,” she laughed. “I’ve said the gypsy in my blood has been put on hold for 35 years.”

lil01.jpgLil with her fellow HAC and Angel House colleagues.

After working as a substitute for a few months, Lil was hired full-time as the childcare coordinator in August 1993. For nearly the past eight years, Lil had served as the shelter’s house manager, respon-sible for purchasing everything from food to office supplies to planning menus and meals with clients.

Her favorite moments were the holidays, particularly Christmas, because they were so rewarding. “With the generosity of the community, we would make sure they had a Christmas like they had never had before,” Lil said.

Former shelter director Marnie Rieber recalled Lil’s dedication to the clients. “There are so many mothers and children that cried and you soothed on your shoulder,” she said. “The hours you put in to make sure every family experienced Christmas, Thanksgiving, Valentine’s Day, the months of work you put into organizing Christmases so that these mothers and their children had the best Christmas they ever had. You are the most loyal, hardest working person I know.”

Lil was proud to play a role in impacting the lives of mothers at Angel House, stressing the importance of the shelter to those it serves. “Sometimes it is the first time they truly feel people out there care about them and they do matter,” Lil said. “Angel House teaches them they are valuable and how they can be good parents and enjoy a good life in sobriety.”

On her second-to-last day at HAC, she reflected on her time at the agency. “I have no regrets working here for all these years. We’ve done a lot of good,” she said. “It helped me become the person I am today. I was raised a Christian and believe you have to give back in this world and I definitely found that here at HAC.”

Tags: Angel House

Take Advantage of HAC's Tax Credits

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Tue, Dec 29, 2015 @ 04:48 PM

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If you plan on donating to HAC before the end of the year, there is an exciting opportunity to increase your charitable donation that will put additional dollars in your pocket next tax season.

That is because HAC has roughly $25,000 in tax credits it is offering to those who double their donations beyond the $1,000 threshold.

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

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

These tax credits serve as an incentive to increase your typical donation to HAC, making your gift go further to support our housing programs that allow us to serve those most in need on Cape Cod.

If you are interested in learning more about the tax credit program, we encourage you to contact Margaret Benaka at 508-771-5400, ext. 272 or at mbenaka@HAConCapeCod.org.

Tags: Tax Credits

Village at Cataumet Gives Back

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Thu, Dec 24, 2015 @ 11:01 AM
DSC_9511-1.jpgRyan Callahan and his fiancee Ashley O'Connor used the gift-giving program as a way to teach their children about the importance of helping others in need.

"You matter." That was the message case manager Laura Kiernan gave 17 families living at The Village at Cataumet one week prior to Thanksgiving. 

She did so as those families, many of whom have little to their name, started placing gifts into shoebox-sized packages that will go to children in countries all around the world. Called Operation Christmas Child, the program is run through Samaritan’s Purse, a non-denominational evangelical Christian International Relief organization, and its aim is to provide gifts to the poorest of the poor throughout the world.

The idea to participate in the program was inspired by John Ely, pastor of the Falmouth Baptist Church, who also serves as a security officer at The Village at Cataumet one night a week. Ely and his parishioners have taken part in Operation Christmas Child for nearly two dozen years. He suggested to Kiernan it might be a good fit for those at the shelter.

About a month prior, Kiernan brought the concept to those living at The Village at Cataumet who embraced the idea of helping others. “I discovered how important it was to these families to give back,” Kiernan said.

So on a late-autumn night in November, mothers and fathers gathered their children in a modest-sized community room in a Bourne shelter and showed a little love for complete strangers. It was an example of compassion - the needy giving to the needy.

At some point this month, those at the shelter will receive similar gifts from the hearts of complete strangers. Kiernan told them that this was their way of “passing it on… I really like the Desmond Tutu quote, ‘Do your little bit of good where you are.’ Your little bit of good is overwhelming the world.”

DSC_9513.jpgJust one of the boxes that The Village at Cataumet sent to needy famiies throughout the world.

Ryan Callahan and his fiancée Ashley O’Connor used the project to teach their children Faith, 9; Ruby, 4; and Rhys, 1, about the importance of charity. “It feels good to help others,” Ryan said.

The family has been at the shelter for the past five months, arriving after Ryan lost his job and they were evicted from their home. Living in shelter, he admitted is difficult, particularly because of the cramped quarters. “Right now we live on top of each other,” he said.

He hoped to move into a three-bedroom house before Christmas, acknowledging that “it will mean the world” to have a place to call their own.

Across the room Meliscia Collins packed three boxes of gifts – Ninja Turtle puzzles, crayons and small cars - she bought from Stop & Shop, Ocean State Job Lot and Dollar Tree with her children Abraham, 4, and James, 3. “I believe in giving back,” said Meliscia, who has been at the shelter for about a week.

“I had fallen on hard times,” she said as to what brought her there.

Like those around her, Collins is looking forward to getting out of shelter and into permanent housing. “I just want to create a better environment for my children,” she said.

As she works towards that personal goal, Collins did not allow her personal difficulties prevent her from providing a little holiday joy to those who may be worse off than her.

“You should be proud of yourselves,” Kiernan told Collins and her neighbors at The Village at Cataumet. “You matter. You really do.”

Give Hope to a HAC Client

 

Tags: Village at Cataumet

Rick Presbrey's Editorial: Looking for a Rental

Posted by Rick Presbrey on Fri, Dec 18, 2015 @ 02:10 PM

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I recently received a copy of a letter from an individual, whom I know, who after years of waiting received a rental assistance voucher from HAC. This was a godsend for him as he is disabled and cannot earn enough to afford all of the expenses of living including housing.

His letter enumerated his frustrations in finding a unit to rent with his voucher, which guarantees payment of each month’s rent. In his letter he told of finding dozens of units, which he saw over more than a six-month period, which were either of poor quality or with the property owner not willing to rent to him because of his voucher or for other reasons that they did not specify. What was different about his letter, than many others we have received, is the number of units he looked at and the fact that we know him as an intelligent and very presentable person.

Which brings me to my point: it is more difficult for our clients to find housing even when they have a voucher than it has ever been in our history. Bear in mind that a voucher has always been the solution in that it guarantees the property owner the rent which historically has been a very good thing in the minds of the thousands of landlords who have rented units to our clients.

The reason for the difficulty seems relatively clear. There are more people looking for units than there are rental units available. There are other theories as to why this is including that more landlords leave units vacant because they don’t need the income; there are more people with lower incomes than there used to be; there are more people looking for year round rentals than there used to be; there are more people for fewer units so landlords pick one out of twenty rather than one out of three thereby lowering the apparently less desirable tenants chances of getting the unit; there are fewer decent units than there used to be because of the aging of our housing stock; and that more landlords are refusing to rent to applicants who have a housing voucher.

At the new Village Green apartments in Hyannis, which recently rented up, the manager was for a time receiving over a hundred calls per day giving out more than 200 applications a week. To make matters worse, towns are making it impossible for people to live in motel rooms more than a short stay justifying their actions as concerns for public health. None of the towns banning living in motels have reached the state mandate that 10% of their housing stock be affordable. Clearly, kicking people out of a motel room with nowhere to go creates a more serious public health problem than living in the motel room in the first place.

The message to us at HAC is that we need to do more to educate those in need of affordable housing on subjects related to housing and income; we need to provide more help to people looking for places to rent; we need to provide case management to some after they have found and moved into a rental unit; and we need, and Cape Cod needs, to produce many more affordable rental units. We would like to do all of these things but the resources to accomplish any of them are in short supply.