Housing Assistance Corporation Blog

Tax Credits Put Money Back in Your Pocket!

Posted by HAC Staff on Fri, Sep 30, 2016 @ 05:46 PM


HAC has a limited amount of tax credits available as an incentive to increase your donation to support the agency’s housing programs on Cape Cod and the islands. The state put the tax program in place to encourage people to give more to organizations like HAC than they have in the past.

Tax credits are available only for those who donate over $1,000 with the goal of getting new donors and having current donors double their donation as they will receive half back in their taxes next year. So for those donating:

  • $1,000, you will receive $500 in tax credits back.
  • $5,000, you will receive $2,500 in tax credits back.
  • $10,000, you will receive $5,000 in tax credits back.
This credit is on top of the federal tax deduction you are allowed to deduct from your taxes.

Those with little to no tax liability could even receive the balance of their credit back in the form of a check from the state.

The best part of the program is that it allows your dollars to go further in supporting HAC’s mission.

For more information or to reserve your tax credits contact Margaret Benaka at mbenaka@haconcapecod.org or at 508-771-5400, ext. 272.

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

NOAH Starts Movie Discussion Group

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Sep 30, 2016 @ 05:37 PM


Movies have the ability to make people think about themselves and the world they live in. And at the NOAH Shelter, director Greg Bar is using them as an avenue to stimulate dialogue among the homeless men and women staying there.

It started at the end of April with a Friday afternoon screening of “The Lady in the Van”, a British film that tells the real life story of playwright Alan Bennett (Alex Jennings) and a homeless woman, Mary Shepherd (Maggie Smith), who ends up living in a van parked in his London driveway for 15 years. In February, Cape Cinema held a special screening of the independent film as part of a benefit for HAC featuring a panel discussion that included Bar.

After participating in that event, Bar wanted to show the film to those at NOAH to get their thoughts. When Marvin Domino, a NOAH direct care staff member, asked what the most positive aspect of the film was, Doug, a 52-year-old guest at the shelter, responded, “that there is forgiveness and that there is understanding. And we don’t have to put blame on ourselves and we don’t have to be so hard on ourselves.”

For nearly 45 minutes, guests talked about the movie, what they liked about it and whether it would change people’s perceptions of the homeless.

Based on the feedback, Bar has continued the movie discussion group, screening films focused on overcoming adversity like “Conviction”, “Good Will Hunting” and Crash.” “The first one went so well, I decided let’s keep going,” Bar said. “I like the idea of discussion times for anything… It is good to talk.”

Tags: NOAH Shelter, Greg Bar, movies

HCEC Teaches Shelter Clients

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Wed, Sep 28, 2016 @ 01:56 PM
HCEC_Angel_House_Photo-1.jpgCheryl Kramer (front center) poses with her HCEC students from Angel House.

A funny thing happened at the end of May when HAC’s Housing Consumer Education Center (HCEC) manager Cheryl Kramer finished up a budgeting and credit education workshop at the Angel House shelter. “They wanted me to come back and teach our Be a Smart Tenant class,” she said.

It is just one sign that the mothers at Angel House are embracing steps to move forward in a positive direction with their lives. Wanting to assist in that effort, Kramer returned and taught the tenancy class which covers everything from renter’s insurance to working with landlords to how to handle an eviction.

In the middle of June, 12 mothers who took the Be a Smart Tenant workshop were handed certificates of completion from Kramer. Afterwards, they spoke about how it benefitted them as they prepare for their ultimate goal of moving out of shelter and into permanent housing. “I feel more confident about moving on from here,” said Victoria Chase.

While HAC has long offered these types of classes to the general public, it has only recently begun to bring them into its shelters. Clients at the NOAH Shelter and Angel House, which are both in Hyannis, are now benefitting from the workshops Kramer has been teaching for years.

Over the past five years, she has taught the Be a Smart Tenant class at both The Village at Cataumet in Bourne and Carriage House in North Falmouth. Last fall, she brought a workshop focusing on budgeting and rebuilding your credit to NOAH, following that up with two additional ones earlier this year.

The curriculum for that class teaches students the components of a budget, how to write a budget, how to review one’s budget, how to fix items in one’s credit report and how to improve and sustain a credit score.

“It has been amazing,” Kramer said of teaching these workshops to the region’s most needy. “The NOAH Shelter guests are so vulnerable, yet are so open to learning, as are the Angel House women. The women at Angel House are so vested and so interested in this. It is so evident they have a desire to learn to do things differently… they are not there because they have to be there. They are there because they want to be.”

Following the Angel House graduation in May, Kramer spoke about the importance of bringing these HCEC workshops to those in shelter, noting that it helps them succeed in securing housing and work. “To know you’ve helped them do something different for their future and for their family is just a fun process,” Kramer said of the rewards she has reaped from teaching in HAC’s homeless shelters.

Click here to learn more about the financial literacy classes offered through HAC's Housing Consumer Education Center. Thanks to a grant we received from the CCYP Giving Circle of The Cape Cod Foundation, we are offering three of those classes for free, for a limited time. 

Tags: HCEC, NOAH Shelter, Angel House, Cheryl Kramer, housing consumer education

DYECH Approaches Major Milestone

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Mon, Sep 26, 2016 @ 05:10 PM


Success does not happen overnight. And neither does change. But the Dennis Yarmouth Ecumenical Council for the Prevention of Homelessness (DYECH) has achieved both through a commitment to helping those most in need on Cape Cod.

The council, now in its 23rd year of existence, is closing in on a major milestone that directly impacts HAC clients: $1.5 million raised for the agency’s Project Prevention program, which provides short-term financial assistance for those at risk of homelessness.

A portion of the funds DYECH raises comes from relatively small, meaningful fundraisers like these upcoming ones:

  • Big Band Concert on Tuesday, September 27 at 7:30 pm at St. Pius X Life Center at 21 Barbara Street in Yarmouth. The concert is free and there will be a good-will offering.
  • The 99 Restaurant at 14 Berry Avenue, West Yarmouth, will be donating a portion of your check to DYECH on Thursday, October 13 from 11:30 am to 9 pm. You must present your server with this flier in order to participate in the fundraiser.

These are fun, simple ways you can help DYECH reach its fundraising milestone, all while ensuring your neighbors on Cape Cod can remain in their homes.

Tags: DYECH, Project Prevention, fundraiser

Cape Realtors Association Pays it Forward

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Sep 23, 2016 @ 02:30 PM
Cape_and_Islands_Edited_9216.jpg Sunny Fellman, chair of the Cape Cod & Islands Association of Realtors Young Professionals Network, with the donations that her organization dropped off to HAC this month. They will eventually go to HAC clients who are transitioning out of shelter and into permanent housing. 

By themselves, backpacks, clothes hangers, towels, kitchen utensils, pillows and notebooks are relatively ordinary, everyday items. But to a select group of HAC clients they will represent a way to move forward with their lives.

At the beginning of September, these were just a few of the new household goods that Patricia Pry, marketing director for the Cape Cod & Islands Association of Realtors, and Sunny Fellman, chair of the association’s Young Professionals Network, delivered to HAC.

The association collected the items as part of its latest drive for HAC’s Welcome Home Gift Basket Program. They will be given to families and individuals to help in their transition from shelter into permanent housing.

As part of the drive, Pry went to the Kmart in Hyannis to purchase some goods. While checking out, she struck up a conversation with a woman in line, explaining these items were going to HAC. That woman told Pry she had been a HAC client “and she may have been a recipient” of the Welcome Home Gift Basket Program, Pry said.

“We exchanged info and I had tears in my eyes,” Pry said. “It was a real pay it forward moment for me.”

“That is our ‘why’,” Fellman said, explaining why the association has conducted these drives in the past and will continue to do so in the future. “For us it is really touching to see the people benefitting from this.”

Those interested in donating to HAC’s Welcome Home Gift Basket Program can contact Mary Everett-Patriquin at volunteer@haconcapecod.org or at 508-771-5400, ext. 279. 

Tags: Welcome Home Gift Basket Drive, Philanthropy, volunteerism, CCIAOR, giving

NOAH Shelter Says Farewell to Joseph N'kunta

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Sep 23, 2016 @ 12:11 PM
Joseph_Nkunta_Photo_1.jpgJoseph N’kunta (front right) with fellow NOAH staff members Jan Rogers (from rear left), Greg Bar, Steve Crossen and Lonnie Daniels. Joseph’s wife, Lillian (front left), joined him at the lunch.

For a large part of the past 15 years, Mashpee’s Joseph N’kunta has been the face of the NOAH Shelter where he could often be seen greeting guests at the entrance of the facility. But that changed in May when the 75-year-old stepped down from his post as direct care staff.

Though he is no longer there, his presence remains. “I think 10 years from now people will still ask, ‘Is Joe still here?’” Jan Rogers, direct care staff at the shelter, said during a retirement party held at Golden Fountain in Hyannis last month. “You’ve left an impression on the clients, the community, the volunteers who’ve come in to help and the staff.”

Over the course of an hour, Joseph listened to his colleagues praise him for the work he did at NOAH and the way he treated clients with care and compassion. He said he did so because he understood that NOAH staff are there for one purpose – to serve the shelter guests as they take the necessary steps towards self-sufficiency. “Our intentions as a staff were for the people who walked through those doors,” he said. “Once the door opens, it is important that we keep it open even though we will move on.”

A Message of Hope
His message to those at the NOAH Shelter was always positive. “It was the hope of good things to come,” he said. “And to never lose your faith that things will get better.”

Shelter director Greg Bar called Joseph, “a stabilizing, kind of immovable force.”

“You know, it was amazing how you were able to not just connect with the clients, but you were able to connect with the staff in a way that they had nothing but high respect for you. They still do,” said NOAH Day Center Director Lonnie Daniels.

Though direct care staffer Steve Crossen had only worked with Joseph for six months, he still managed to make an impression on him. “You taught me a tremendous amount of things about the homeless population and about compassion,” Crossen said. “And compassion is what I want to be about.”

Joseph’s wife, Lillian, told his coworkers that her husband’s compassion for others was genuine. “It’s not a front. It’s real,” she said. “He’s got a good heart, always. I just love him to pieces and I’m proud to be his wife. I appreciate him as an overall person: the way he treats the clients, the way he treats individuals. It shows he’s got a good heart.”

Tags: homelessness, Lonnie Daniels, NOAH Shelter, Greg Bar, Joseph N'kunta

FSS Client Receives "One Family" Scholarship

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Wed, Sep 21, 2016 @ 10:56 AM
Janice_Jan_Edited-16.jpgHAC's Jan Nelson (left) with Janice Jones.

Success means different things to different people. For West Barnstable’s Janice Jones, it will one day mean becoming a homeowner. “There is something about owning a home that makes me feel like I accomplished something good,” she said.

Jones is not there yet, but the goal is within reach thanks to the assistance of HAC. Jones is currently enrolled in the agency’s Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program which provides incentives for those receiving federal housing subsidies to build their financial assets. Participants do so by increasing their earned income, which is then placed into an escrow account that they can access upon graduating from the program to use as they see fit, including education, starting a small business or purchasing a home.

The 49-year-old Jones has been in the FSS program for a little over a year, balancing that with a job as a lead preschool teacher at the YMCA Cape Cod in Barnstable, raising her 12-year-old son Marcus and taking online classes at the University of Massachusetts Amherst towards a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education.

Jan Nelson, HAC’s FSS coordinator, has been so impressed with Jones’ work ethic that she nominated her for a One Family Scholarship. In the application, Nelson highlighted Jones’ ability as a single mother to juggle her work and family obligations, all while spending three years earning her associate’s degree from Eastern Nazarene College where she graduated summa cum laude.

The One Family Scholarship is given to low-income single parents, providing them with the financial support necessary to obtain an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. In August, Jones was notified that she was one of 17 applicants chosen as a scholar, attending a reception in Boston where they were each given a laptop to use as part of their college studies. “I cried,” Jones admitted. “It was so awesome.”

Along with a Federal Pell Grant, Jones will use the scholarship to cover her college costs.

The scholarship is just one source of motivation for Jones as she sets her sights on eventually graduating college and owning a home on Cape Cod, where she has lived for the past 13 years. Her son Marcus – she has two adult children, Candice, 30, and Derrick, 21 – is another motivating factor for her. “I want to show my son it can be done,” she said. “I want him to be proud of me.”

Since last year, HAC’s Nelson has been helping Jones in her journey. “She is always there when I need her,” Jones said of Nelson. “She’s just been a really good support system for me.”

It’s a support system she will continue to rely on as she moves closer to reaching her goals. “I’ve always wanted to own a home and it seems more reachable now,” she said.

Learn more about HAC's Family Self-Sufficiency Program by clicking this link.

Tags: Jan Nelson, Family Self Sufficiency, One Family Scholarship, FSS, Janice Jones

Quahogs for a Cause

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Thu, Sep 15, 2016 @ 11:49 AM
Quahog_Challenge_with_Doug_4.jpgSusan Buckley, head chef at Arnold's Lobster & Clam Bar, proudly holds this year's Quahog Challenge trophy, as she is joined by her coworkers, including Arnold's owner Nathan Nickerson (left).  

When chef Susan Buckley of Arnold’s Lobster & Clam Bar took home top honors for the second straight year in HAC’s 2nd Annual Cape Cod Quahog Challenge at Trader Ed’s in Hyannis, she was joined by her older brother David who lives in Wilmington, Vermont. Their mother wasn’t there, but the pair still made sure she took part in the celebration.

“It was so funny. The minute they called my name, he called my 91-year-old mother to tell her I won,” Buckley laughed. “They were all screaming. I come from a rather close family.”

Joining Buckley in the winner’s circle was HAC volunteer Ron Winner whose team, Shepley’s Stuffers, once again was the crowd favorite in the amateur category. There were a total of nine entrants in this year’s challenge, which seeks to find the best stuffed quahog on all of Cape Cod.

Arnold’s has won the first two years of the competition, bringing additional attention to the popular Eastham restaurant. “A guy came in and said he had to try one of them. So he sat and ate it and afterwards, he said, ‘Susie, I see why you won two years in a row. That’s the best stuffie I have ever had in my life,’” she said.

While she welcomes the exposure the quahog challenge brings to the restaurant, Buckley understands the real reward is the good the event does for the community. This year, the challenge raised nearly $20,000 to support HAC’s housing programs on Cape Cod. “The best part is that the proceeds go to help unfortunate people,” in the community, she said. “I feel good about that. It is the icing on the cake.”

Click this link to learn more about HAC's Quahog Challenge. 

Tags: fundraiser, Cape Cod Quahog Challenge, Quahog Challenge, Arnold's Lobster & Clam Bar

What Drives Homeless Rates? It's Not What You Think

Posted by Rick Presbrey on Wed, Sep 14, 2016 @ 10:06 AM


An August 25 article in the Boston Globe made the case that housing costs, not poverty, drive up the rates of homelessness. The article analyzed homelessness rates nationwide and discovered that homelessness is most prevalent in states where housing costs are highest. New York, Massachusetts, Hawaii and California are examples of states with the highest rates of homelessness, with Hawaii first and New York second. The states with the lowest homeless population rates are Mississippi and Alabama. Interestingly, the article makes the point that Massachusetts does the best job of providing housing and/or shelter for homeless families, but does not do as well for individuals.

The article doesn’t talk about incomes, but it is obvious they are higher in the states with the highest rates of homelessness. This usually results in those states spending the most to deal with the problem. The article cites the three main reasons for homelessness as a sudden life crisis, a breakdown in social support from friends and family, and a lack of housing at the bottom end of the market.

After reading the article it is hard not to see Cape Cod as having the perfect storm for homelessness: high housing costs, low wages, high rates of addiction, and an extreme lack of available housing at the low end of the market. While there has been a big state response to homelessness here on the Cape, we have made the problem even more difficult to solve because of the following: few areas zoned for multi-family rental housing, large lot zoning, lack of public wastewater infrastructure, development patterns that make public transportation difficult, and limited opportunities for good paying jobs. At the same time, state resources have been targeted primarily towards families as opposed to individuals.

Generous state resources were made available to the Cape in the 1980s when we had the highest rate of family homelessness in Massachusetts. Thousands of families were housed and since then, as resources have shrunk, hundreds of families have moved, and been helped to move, to areas of Southeastern Massachusetts where rental housing is more plentiful and less expensive, and where there are more available jobs.

What remains, especially in the urbanized area of the Mid-Cape, is a relatively large number of homeless individuals. State resources are increasing to help with the problem, and social and municipal leaders are working hard to find resources and to employ the best approaches to helping people secure housing and services they may need.

Help End Homelessness

Tags: homelessness, HAC

HAC's Impact Measured in Handprints

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Sep 09, 2016 @ 01:09 PM
retouched_sign.jpgAngel House clients give a special thank you to HAC CEO Rick Presbrey (right). 

In sheer numbers, it’s estimated that HAC has helped roughly 160,000 people over the past 42 years. That number is so large it is difficult to put it into perspective.

In the middle of July, HAC founder Rick Presbrey gained a little insight into just that, discovering exactly what HAC has meant to 13 mothers and their children currently staying at HAC’s Angel House shelter when they presented him with a banner emblazoned with each of their handprints. Underneath the handprints were their names, representing a small group of people that HAC has influenced in a positive way through the work it does at the homeless shelter.

The women gave Presbrey the banner at an annual summer barbecue organized by volunteer Ron Winner of Centerville, his wife, Wendy Winner, and their friend Jon Weisblatt of Harwich.

Upon receiving the gift, Presbrey expressed his gratitude to the women. “I very much appreciate this, but the fact is the work here is about helping people and about creating opportunities for people to do things with their lives,” he told them. “If I’ve done anything worthwhile, it’s because people like you essentially are given an opportunity to make a change in their lives and that’s really important. It can be done. Things can be dramatically improved and I’m just hoping and praying you guys can do it.”

Afterwards, Angel House facility director Lin Rohr spoke about what Presbrey has meant to the shelter and the women it serves. “Even though the population changes, his support doesn’t,” she said. “It is consistent. It is kind. It is caring. He believes in them and they know it.” 

Donate to Angel House

Tags: homelessness, Rick Presbrey, Angel House, Ron Winner, Lin Rohr