Housing Assistance Corporation Blog

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


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

HAC Report: Treatment Limited for Region's Homeless Addicts

Posted by Noah Hoffenberg on Fri, Apr 22, 2016 @ 11:32 AM


Substance abuse treatment that serves homeless Cape and Islands residents is lacking, leaving the fringe demographic at risk and perpetuating the cycle of homelessness, addiction and societal expense, according to a new white paper written by Noah Hoffenberg, HAC’s director of housing information.

In “Closer to Home: Substance Abuse Treatment Options for the Homeless on the Cape and Islands,” the report finds that treatment in the region is limited; most sites are far away; and that wait times for a treatment bed can drag into months. While these difficulties pose problems for Cape Codders at all income levels, the danger for homeless people is magnified, as they have no housing, few resources and little in the way of support systems once they emerge from treatment. Relapse and treatment rates for the homeless are high, but can be mitigated by stable housing during and after treatment, studies cited in the report show.

Almost universally, experts cited in the HAC report decry the state’s lack of treatment beds. Daily occupancy for Massachusetts’ 868 detox beds hovers between 91 and 100 percent. Waits for detox average three to five days, and only 17 percent of the people emerging from detox can get a bed at a rehab facility because of lack of space. For people seeking long-term residential treatment, waits along coastal Massachusetts are close to a month. And for those seeking specialized treatment, such as the homeless, waits can be as long as 10 weeks.

The Cape and islands do have substance abuse infrastructure, but like the rest of the state, demand is greater than the supply; on Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, the vacuum is even more acute. The region has one detox and one rehab facility, as well as two long-term recovery homes, but only 60 percent of substance abuse clients from the Cape and islands can be served here because of limits on capacity. Since the numbers of Cape Codders and Islanders with substance abuse disorders could easily fill all Cape treatment beds, it means that people seeking treatment – homeless and otherwise – must leave the region to receive services. Meanwhile, studies show – and Gosnold CEO Raymond Tamasi agrees – that treatment closer to home is far more effective than treatment afar.

The costs of the existing Cape system are high; one study pegged the cost of treatment and recovery at about $51,457,000 in 2013; related costs for law enforcement and corrections came to $56,900,000. Cape Cod Hospital alone, for example, reports that there’s been a 78 percent increase in Emergency Center (EC) staff hours to deal with behavioral health and substance abuse cases between 2011 and 2015. The hospital now deals with an average of 10.5 of these patients every 24 hours, with an average stay just shy of a day. By comparison, most other serious EC patients – such as cardiac cases – leave for the next level of care in less than six hours; the hours spent by the homeless in the EC is reflective of the absence of places to send them for treatment.

Treatment programs that include housing have been shown to be more effective, and even more so for programs that include an array of on-site services. Studies show that with Housing First efforts in place, homelessness, and hospital and justice system costs drop dramatically.

The HAC report compiles local, state and national data from governmental and independent studies, and takes a close look at what treatment options are available here, as well as effective examples elsewhere. 

To read the report, click here. For more information on the report and its findings, email Housing Information Director Noah Hoffenberg at nhoffenberg@haconcapecod.org.

Tags: homelessness, Cape Cod, substance abuse, white papers, housing research, Housing Information Department

Supporting Martha's Vineyard's Housing Needs

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Thu, Apr 21, 2016 @ 10:17 AM
MV_Karen_and_Esther.jpgKaren Tewhey (left) and Esther Laiacona are providing a visible presence for HAC on Martha’s Vineyard. 

Martha’s Vineyard residents looking for support with housing issues are in luck thanks to an on-island HAC representative focused on assisting those in need.

That position, funded by the state, was filled in January by Karen Tewhey, a seasonal resident on Martha’s Vineyard for 25 years. She moved to the island permanently in October with her husband James Tewhey, an attorney.

Joining Tewhey with providing an island presence for HAC has been Esther Laiacona, who was hired to oversee special projects under the direction of Nancy Davison, the agency’s vice president of program operations.

Tewhey, whose official title is housing counselor, works out of the Dukes County Regional Housing Authority on State Road in Vineyard Haven, where she has been helping to address the island’s diverse housing needs.

Just three months into her assignment, Tewhey spoke to those needs which she termed “enormous,” highlighting the Vineyard’s, “high percentage of individuals in substandard housing: families living in one room with their children; families doubled up in substandard units; and families involved in the housing shuffle who don’t have permanent housing for 12 months of the year.”

Tewhey has worked closely with the community’s homeless men and women who benefitted from Hospitality Homes, a new program started by the Martha’s Vineyard Island Clergy Association this winter to provide shelter to this segment of the population. The shelters, located at Federated Church and Grace Episcopal Church in Edgartown, provided food and a bed to 18 men and 5 women, through the end of March.

Island’s Housing Challenges

She said the program was successful in providing a structured, safe, comfortable environment for those who are most vulnerable. At the same time, she said, it has highlighted gaps in services on the Vineyard which start with the lack of year-round affordable housing. “There are no apartments available at all on the island,” Tewhey said. Compounding this problem is that many individuals and families live in apartments or homes with nine-month leases, forcing them to find temporary housing during the summer as part of the island’s housing shuffle.

Tewhey is available to provide support for anyone with housing needs on the island and works closely with Laiacona, who was homeless on Martha’s Vineyard with her two children for 15 months. Laiacona now sits on the Martha’s Vineyard Homelessness Task Force, offering a real-life perspective on the challenges of being homeless on the island.

“I understanding what it’s like to not eat a meal so you can buy shoes,” Laiacona said, noting that her experience gives her a compassion for those who are homeless and a voice advocating for change.

At HAC, her first project was to research the health and human services resources available in Dukes County, Barnstable County, statewide and nationwide, information that will go on the Massachusetts Housing Consumer Education Centers website (www.masshousinginfo.org) as well as the HAC website.

Together, Laiacona and Tewhey are forging a presence on the island so that HAC can better address the housing needs there. “I think it’s satisfying to me to be a knowledgeable resource for individuals who might not know how to maneuver through the system,” Tewhey said. “It can be daunting to deal with state agencies, so I have the luxury and education where I can be a resource for residents and a voice for them.”

If you live on Martha's Vineyard, you can learn more about our services on the island by clicking this link.  

Tags: homelessness, Martha's Vineyard, affordable housing, Hospitality Homes

Rick Presbrey's Editorial: A Moral Imperative

Posted by Rick Presbrey on Fri, Apr 15, 2016 @ 04:59 PM


There are about 400 people each year who spend one or more nights at the NOAH Shelter. On an average night there are about 50 people staying in the facility. My guess, and it is only a guess, on an average night, and it does vary by season, there are about 35 people sleeping outside in the Hyannis vicinity.

For about the past 18 months, I have been meeting at least every other week as a part of a group (click here for more info) seeking to move the facility out of downtown Hyannis. The group has come together around a mission to provide expanded and improved wrap-around services for clients and to reduce the negative effect of homelessness on Hyannis businesses. Excellent progress has already been made by opening the facility during the day and developing policies and procedures which improve the quality, quantity and consistency of services. In addition, plans have been made for improved operations within the new facility.

For the past several months, the committee has been researching possible sites for the new facility mostly in the greater Hyannis area. Hyannis is the preferred area because it is the only place on the Cape where all services are within walking distance. In addition, successful permitting for the new location is more likely in the Town of Barnstable because the town wants the facility to move out of the center of the downtown area. One roadblock after another has hindered the effort, including federal regulations for any future funding requiring that the facility not be within 2,500 feet of airport property. Our search guidelines have eliminated all sites near schools and sites in or abutting a residential neighborhood. Recently, objections to at least one site that the committee has agreed on have come from town hall. There are still a couple of sites in play, but no likely site has yet been found.

The search for money to fund the purchase and construction costs is also underway. Eventually, we believe that funding will come from some combination of public and private sources.

This is and has been a very difficult process. What makes me think it might succeed is the high level of commitment of the committee members. What will stop the project is objections from those who want to see it fail because they either insist that the facility be out of town or that the shelter close its doors altogether. Up until now the HAC board has taken the position that providing this sanctuary for the neediest of our citizens is a “moral imperative.”

If our efforts are successful, services will be dramatically increased, including outreach, and the negative effect on Hyannis will be greatly reduced. I am sure of it.

Tags: homelessness, NOAH Shelter, The Transitional Living Center

HAC Works to Find New Location for Shelter

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Mon, Apr 11, 2016 @ 01:27 PM
Noah_Shelter-8538.jpgAs community leaders work to find a new location for a new shelter, HAC's NOAH Shelter remains committed to serving those most in need on Cape Cod and the Islands.

HAC continues to move forward with efforts to identify potential sites away from downtown Hyannis that could be used for a new homeless shelter that will eventually replace NOAH on Winter Street.

“I’m all for it because of two things,” HAC CEO Rick Presbrey told the agency at its all-staff meeting last month. “Our present facility is completely inadequate and two, we’re too visible.”

Presbrey is part of a small group of local leaders who sit on The Transitional Living Center of Cape Cod Committee that is working collaboratively to find a new location for a homeless shelter. Members of the committee include Barnstable Police Chief Paul MacDonald; Heidi Nelson, CEO of Duffy Health Center; Abbott “Sid” Davidson of the Lyndon Paul Lorusso Charitable Foundation; Deborah Krau, vice president of the Greater Hyannis Civic Association; Paula Schnepp, the regional network coordinator for the Cape & Islands Regional Network to Address Homelessness; and Elizabeth Wurfbain, executive director of the Hyannis Main Street Business Improvement District (BID).

“Moving into a less visible location is a good thing for us, a good thing for the clients and a good thing for the town,” Presbrey said, explaining that the move is being precipitated as a way to bolster the businesses in Hyannis. 

He said HAC has a preferred site, but “I don’t know if everyone will agree with it. Will town counsel and will the town manager agree with it? And can we obtain it? Any site is going to be controversial.”

Despite those difficulties, he stressed that it is imperative that this gets done. Presbrey estimated that it will take at least three to four years to site, permit, construct or renovate a current structure to replace NOAH, which has been at its current location for more than three decades. “For 30 years, we have provided sanctuary, showers, beds and meals for the neediest of our population and done it successfully,” Presbrey said.

Today, Presbrey said NOAH “has never been better or healthier than it is now… There are lots of good and great things happening there.”

Help End Homelessness


Tags: homelessness, NOAH Shelter, Transitional Living Center of Cape Cod Committee

HAC's Constituency Committee

Posted by HAC Staff on Tue, Apr 05, 2016 @ 01:57 PM



HAC's Board of Directors has a Constituency Committee. You can see a list of its members by clicking here and scrolling down.

The constituency committee is made up of current and former HAC clients. Its purpose is to represent client interests to the board of directors. 

If you're a client, is there something you'd like the board to know? Or do you have a question, concern or suggestion for improving a HAC program? Then you can contact the Constituency Committee about this. 

You can reach the Constituency Committee by email at clients@haconcapecod.org. The e-mail box is monitored by the committee's HAC staff liaison. All inquiries will be kept confidential. 

Tags: Constituency Committee

Books Needed for HAC's Free Library

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Wed, Mar 30, 2016 @ 05:04 PM


When HAC first moved into its offices on West Main Street in 1998, CEO Rick Presbrey’s goal was to make the reception area as inviting as possible.

Initially, staff put out toys before realizing that they would easily break, get dirty and have to be replaced. So instead, Presbrey created a library, a place where men, women and children could take a book or more to bring home.

“We decided the book thing made a lot more sense,” Presbrey said. “Our goal as an agency is to be a ‘Yes agency’ that wishes not to be judgmental and creates a welcoming place for people who come here for help.”

The library is just one example of that, a shelf stacked with books for those of all ages. “The miracle of it all is we’ve had books donated continuously through the years,” Presbrey said. “When we’re a little short people always respond.”

And so HAC is asking for people to donate once again as they have in the past. The library is in need of used books for children and adults. They can be dropped off Monday through Friday at 460 West Main Street in Hyannis, from 9 am to 4:30 pm.

Tags: Philanthropy, HAC Library, Books, donations

HAC Annual Meeting Recognizes Community Leaders

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Mon, Mar 21, 2016 @ 01:12 PM
Bill_and_Linda_Zammer_small.jpgWilliam and Linda Zammer will be recognized with HAC's 2016 Business Partner Award. 

Next month, HAC’s 42nd Annual Meeting & Volunteer Recognition will usher in an entirely new award that recognizes those making a positive impact on Cape Cod.

The Transitional Living Center of Cape Cod Committee will be the first recipient of this honor which has been named the Make a Difference Award. The committee consists of local leaders working to find a location and model for a new homeless shelter outside of downtown Hyannis.

The committee is an offshoot of one created a few years ago that helped launch the Day Center at NOAH, a program that started in May 2014 as a way to provide shelter and services to the region’s homeless during the day. Members of The Transitional Living Center of Cape Cod Committee include Elizabeth Wurfbain, executive director of the Hyannis Main Street Business Improvement District (BID); 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 Centerville; Deborah Krau, vice president of the Greater Hyannis Civic Association; and HAC CEO Rick Presbrey.

The 2016 Business Partner Award will go to longtime HAC supporters William and Linda Zammer, owner of Cape Cod Restaurants, Inc. which includes the Coonamessett Inn and The Flying Bridge Restaurants in Falmouth, as well as Tugboats Restaurant in Hyannis and Clancy’s in Dennis Port. The couple funded the establishment of the Institute for Hospitality and Culinary Studies, named in their honor, at Cape Cod Community College. Over the years, homeless and formerly homeless individuals have received free culinary arts training at the institute.

ohmans01.jpg winner01.jpg

Kathy and John Ohman (photo above, left), co-founders of Friends or Relatives With Autism or Related Disabilities (FORWARD) are the recipients of this year’s Human Services Partner Award. The Dennis couple have three sons, two of whom are on the autism spectrum.

HAC is currently partnering with FORWARD to build housing for autistic adults on 4.9 acres of land on Hokum Rock Road in Dennis. The current proposal calls for eight units of housing. “We’re grateful to HAC and the Town of Dennis for recognizing the need for housing for developmentally disabled adults,” said Kathy, president of FORWARD. “We would not be able to do this without the support and generosity of HAC and the town.”

The final honoree at this year’s Annual Meeting is Ron Winner (photo above, right) who is being recognized as HAC’s Volunteer of the Year. Winner, who works at Shepley Wood Products, is a familiar face at both the NOAH Shelter and Angel House, where he regularly serves meals to clients.

Over the past two years, he has organized a cookout at the end of summer for women and their children staying at Angel House. He also has put together a holiday meal at the shelter, showing his compassion for those HAC serves.

Winner’s cooking skills were on full display to the public when he took part in HAC’s inaugural Quahog Challenge last summer, bringing home first place in the amateur category with Shepley colleague Kenny Mansbach.

HAC's 42nd Annual Meeting & Volunteer Recognition

When: Thursday, April 7, 5-7:30 pm

Where: Cape Codder Resort & Spa at 1225 Iyannough Road, Hyannis

Networking begins at 5 pm with the program starting at 5:30 pm. To register for the event, click this link.  

Tags: Annual Meeting, Ron Winner, The Transitional Living Center, FORWARD at the Rock