|Virginia Hoeck of Yoga Neighborhood leads the yoga class at Angel House
“Take a deep breath in,” Virginia Hoeck says, pausing briefly before continuing. “And take a deep breath out.”
Ten other women, mostly Angel House clients, but some staff, follow Hoeck’s lead, seated cross-legged on yoga mats inside the shelter’s family room. Joining the mothers on this September day are their children, ranging in age from a few months old to over one year old.
“Now raise your arms out wide,” Hoeck says, before instructing them to bring their arms back in “and give your babies a hug.”
Since June, Hoeck, owner of the nonprofit Yoga Neighborhood, and her fellow instructors have been bringing yoga to Angel House roughly once a week, using it to help clients find peace internally and with the world around them.
“I love it,” said 24-year-old Alicia Morgan, who explained that yoga has helped her “be more aware of my emotions. I feel really relaxed and it has helped me with my anger management.”
Yoga, which is deeply rooted in meditation, has allowed Angel House’s Ashley Cabral to better “regulate my emotions and feelings.”
Ashley, who graduated from Angel House a little over a month ago, planned on continuing it once out of shelter. “I will do it just to meditate and stay grounded,” she said, relying on yoga as she takes the next steps towards independence which will include holding her first job in years. “I’m very excited, very nervous and scared. At the same time it is a healthy scared.”
Angel House clinical director Christina Russell said that yoga has been “tremendously helpful” to clients who use it as a part of the shelter’s holistic approach to recovery – each mother at the shelter has battled substance abuse issues in their lives.
And it has allowed Angel House clients the opportunity to participate in an activity together, something that is difficult given the facility’s relatively small space. In nicer weather classes have been held outside while the Cape and Islands chapter of the American Red Cross has offered up its space for indoor sessions.
The sessions are catered to the types of clients Angel House treats. “We’ve developed a trauma-sensitive curriculum based on the training we’ve had,” Hoeck said. “So we’re creating a safe and empowering environment no matter what one’s experience in life has been.”
Hoeck, who worked at HAC for nearly seven years, used her time here as inspiration for forming Yoga Neighborhood in order to benefit those who need it the most. “Seeing people cross that threshold at HAC, certainly with housing issues and hearing about their physical and mental health issues and seeing the stress they were under, it was clear yoga could be a wonderful tool to help reduce that stress and improve the quality of their lives,” she said.
Since 2010 when she left HAC, Hoeck has been using Yoga Neighborhood as a mechanism for introducing the discipline to people who otherwise would not be exposed to it.
Her experience has shown it to be an effective means to improve one’s life in small and large ways. And that has been the case at Angel House, where one client has expressed interest in becoming a yoga instructor.
“I taught the very first class and since then I’ve seen an incredible difference in the women, particularly in their interest in yoga,” Hoeck said. “They tell me it is helping them relax. Particularly at night when they are trying to wind down they go back to some of the yoga – breathing exercises, in particular, we teach in those classes and they are using that for self-regulation and self-calming.”
Though Rebecca Brigham is only in her junior year at the University of Massachusetts, she already knows she wants to work with children once she graduates.
“That is where I am aiming,” Brigham said while inside the play space at Angel House at the end of August, two days before she returned to college.
Brigham’s first real practical experience working with children occurred in this same spot at the Hyannis shelter where she was an intern this summer. There she was supervised by her aunt, Amy Brigham, the assistant teacher at Angel House.
“I wanted to see the clinical side of this,” Rebecca said. “And I love kids too so that helped.”
So once a week starting in June, Rebecca would visit the play space, holding, feeding and caring for children as young as a few weeks old, some of whom were born addicted to drugs.
Rebecca has witnessed firsthand, and played a significant role, in the development of these children in their formative years. “It has been an amazing program, just the way every kid is given their own personal regiment,” Rebecca said. “They kind of cater this to each kid and their specific needs.”
While she has enjoyed working with each child, Rebecca admitted she grew attached to one who, not unlike other children at Angel House, initially, “couldn’t hold her head up, couldn’t crawl, was very quiet and kept to herself. Now she is crawling, developing and has this great personality which is an amazing thing to see.”
Interns like Rebecca are not unusual at HAC. In fact one of Rebecca’s childhood friends she grew up with in Barnstable, Allison Rolfe, also spent the summer as an intern at Angel House.
Beyond simply assisting staff in their duties, Amy said that interns are a valuable component at Angel House, allowing children who have suffered early trauma to be exposed to new caregivers. “Having new people come in here helps them to understand what life is all about,” Amy said. “Yes, there is a routine, but it’s not static and things do change.”
The internship program, Amy said, also allows Angel House staff to improve upon their own skills as they teach what they have learned to students who may one day find themselves in a similar work environment after college.
|Aaron Gornstein addresses the crowd.
In July – the same week that the 22nd Annual Bob Murray Housing with Love Walk was being held – the state threw its support behind the day center at NOAH and the timing could not have been more perfect.
In front of nearly 75 onlookers, including more than two dozen walkers, standing outside the John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum on Main Street, Aaron Gornstein, the Massachusetts undersecretary for housing and community development, announced $200,000 in state funding for the new initiative being undertaken by HAC in collaboration with, among others, the town of Barnstable, the Greater Hyannis Civic Association, the Hyannis Main Street Business Improvement District and Duffy Health Center.
“I knew Bob Murray very well over my career,” Gornstein told those in attendance. “I know he would want us to fund this program.”
That program, opening the NOAH Shelter to the homeless during the day, began in May though the planning process began long before that. And Gornstein, who witnessed firsthand the preparation involved in opening the day center, marveled at the cooperation among the organizations involved. “It is unprecedented,” he said. “I have never seen this kind of collaboration across all the different interests come together around an important issue of homelessness in this town. And I was so impressed that we had to find a way to come up with the funding to get this program going.”
Along with the $200,000 for the day center, Gornstein also informed the public that the NOAH Shelter will also see a boost in its overall funding as part of a commitment by the state to increase its support to individual homeless shelters throughout the Commonwealth.
The good news for the day center did not end there as Bert Talerman, an executive vice president for Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank, handed HAC CEO Rick Presbrey a check for $10,000 to support the new initiative.
“This is a great preliminary success story. This is really the preface to the real story,” Presbrey said. “A big part of this is accountability to demonstrate to the community what we want to do, what we are doing and what we have done as a collaboration. If that doesn’t happen none of this is worth it.”
From all outward appearances Diane Barry is a happy, healthy 33-year-old woman. She has two loving children, lives on beautiful Cape Cod and is working towards a degree in communications.
But it was not always this way. A little over three years ago, no one, let alone Barry, would have thought this charming existence was possible.
Since she was a teenager Barry has struggled with substance abuse, starting with marijuana, then alcohol and eventually more dangerous drugs including opiates and painkillers. “I couldn’t use without ruining my life,” she admitted.
She has ended up in shelters and treatment programs, rebuilding her life only to see it fall apart.
Her most recent downfall occurred a little more than three and a half years ago when Barry was reunited with her then 12-year-old daughter who had been in foster care. Weeks later Barry was using again, all while pregnant with her second child. That is when “everything fell apart,” she said.
Once again she was homeless and her daughter was taken from her care.
She eventually found herself in a psych ward before being transferred to Arbor House in Holyoke.
Her next stop in her journey to recovery was HAC’s Angel House in Hyannis. She arrived there in January 2012 with mixed emotions. “I remember when they drove me up here it was sunny and I’m coming over the bridge and said to myself, ‘Oh my god, you got to be kidding. This is not what most programs look like,’” she said.
At the same time, she admitted, “I was pretty scared and I didn’t believe in myself… And I was pregnant so I had all this guilt. I was bringing another child into this world and thought this is another one I can’t take care of. I wasn’t exactly happy with myself and I didn’t believe I deserved another chance.”
But Angel House gave her another chance.
For the staff at Angel House, Barry represented a unique challenge given her age and past history. “Ten years ago the services provided to the families were really different,” said the shelter’s clinical director Christina Russell. “There wasn’t this profound issue with addiction and self-medication… It was great to have her here. She helped us to grow and understand this newer version of addiction in this day and age.”
Finding a Family at Angel House
Likewise Barry credited Angel House’s role in turning her life around. “They supported me a lot. I don’t have a lot of family out there,” she said. “So they kind of became like a family to me in a way.”
In May 2012 she gave birth to a baby boy, acknowledging Russell for helping her through her second pregnancy. “She was my angel,” Barry said, noting that because of her drug use, “I thought my son was going to die in my stomach or was going to be stillborn.”
Today, her two-year-old son shows no signs of any residual impact from her drug use.
And Barry, who spent 16 months at Angel House, has been able to put her past behind her, looking only towards the future and the hope it brings.
She has done so in an apartment here on Cape Cod that HAC helped her find toward the end of her stay at Angel House.
This month she will be celebrating three years of sobriety and admits that none of it would be possible without Angel House.
She also attributed her success to the fact that, “I wanted to stay clean this time,” she said, though her stay in shelter was not easy. “It was probably the hardest time of my life. I was trying to stay clean and bring another person into the world while being separated from my firstborn. It was time. It was either do this or say goodbye.”
And so Barry chose to keep fighting.
This fall she has returned to Angel House, partially because it is a college requirement, but mostly because “I want to give back and can relate to the girls there,” she said.
Her message to them is simple: “There is life after here and you can make it through here,” she said. “When people are active in addiction they feel completely alone which isn’t the truth. There is always help.”
In the spirit of the season the Cape Cod & Islands Young Professionals Network is teaming up with HAC to show their kindness to our clients making the transition from shelter to permanent housing.
The Young Professionals Network, which is a subcommittee of the Cape Cod & Islands Association of Realtors, will be collecting a variety of new household items (towels, silverware, canned goods, paper goods, blankets, cleaning supplies, toiletries, gift cards, hats, gloves, winter coats) that will be placed into Welcome Home Gift Baskets for our clients. The drive kicks off today and runs through Friday, December 19.
“Our mission is we’re trying to support housing on Cape Cod,” said Kimberly Koplow, the director of marketing and sales for the association of realtors. “This is a good fit and is in line with our mission and there’s a lot of momentum behind this.”
Those wanting to take part in the gift basket drive and give our clients a fresh start in their new homes can do so by bringing donations to the Cape Cod & Islands Association of Realtors office at 22 Mid Tech Drive in West Yarmouth.
A full list of drop off locations can be found by clicking this link or by contacting the association at 508-957-4300 or email@example.com.
Why is it that some people are completely disinterested in elections and others are fascinated with them? How many times have we all heard people say, “I will be glad when the elections are over.” From some I have heard that no matter who is elected it will make no difference.
The obvious question in response is, “What would you like to be different?” If you would like things to change why would you not try to do something to make change happen?
I believe that most people would like lower taxes. I would like that too, but what public services would I like to be reduced or eliminated? The military? Road maintenance? Foreign aid? Public safety? Fewer teachers? Fewer regulations with a corresponding reduction in staff within regulatory agencies? How about fewer health inspections at restaurants? What about reducing environmental protection?
Maybe we could cut Congress. Polls show that almost all of us dislike Congress. Let’s cut the size of the house in half and have only one senator per state. That would save money. Let’s cut out federal funding for research (cancer for example) and the study of climate change. Let’s eliminate the CIA. Let’s get rid of the tax on gasoline. Let’s get rid of sales tax. Who knows what they pay for anyway.
The choices are difficult.
So let’s just agree on cutting waste, fraud and abuse, balance the budget, and reducing the size of government, all popular ideas. Government is so big there must be lots of things that can be cut or eliminated. The people we elect know this stuff so let them make the cuts, but just don’t cut _____________ (fill in the blank).
Remember in the last presidential campaign the Governor of Texas wanted to eliminate three federal departments but couldn’t remember the third? It was a mind slip that made sense. He hardly knew more than any of us what all the federal departments do, but his list didn’t make any more sense to him than it did to us. He might as well have said, “I will eliminate three federal departments,” and not told us which ones.
Others say we should cut the federal government by giving back to the states lots of powers like the responsibility for public education and health care. The states know best what they need. People would then travel from state to state to get what they need just like they go south in the winter for warmth. So some states would have some services and others would have different ones. We could eliminate the federal highway system and one state might have no bridge maintenance while another might have automatic highways for driverless cars. It might be a little tricky driving from state to state. But we would have lower federal taxes and dramatically different taxes from state to state. You could choose to live in the state with the lowest taxes or the state with the most services. Why not? America is the land of choice and freedom, isn’t it?
My guess is that Massachusetts would continue to have more than the average amount of services and lots of people would come here to take advantage of them. Then it might cost even more to live here. We might even have to build a fourth bridge to the Cape.
Maybe we could pass federal regulations that mandate the minimal services that each state must provide to take the pressure off the service-rich states. No, wait a minute. We don’t want any more regulations do we? More regulations will just lead to more taxes.
This is so confusing. I give up.
|Santa Scott with an attendee from last year's telethon.
“I know what it’s like to be homeless.”
These words were spoken on camera at last year’s Shelter Cape Cod Telethon, not by an adult, but by a child.
It was one of the more poignant moments in the telethon’s 10-year history. “When the students read their essays I was really surprised how many kids had actually experienced homelessness,” said telethon host Mindy Todd of WCAI. “I found those essays really moving.”
Having lent her talents to the telethon for the past five years, Todd said she enjoys the festive event because it fills a vital need in the community. “I think it is important to spread the word for what is happening on Cape Cod. There are many folks who can’t afford to find a place to live and there are such a wide range of reasons that people find themselves on the streets,” she said. “It could be your neighbor. It could be your child, grandchild or grandfather.”
Regardless of how one ends up homeless, Todd stressed that, “everyone deserves to have a roof over their heads.”
And that is what the telethon, now in its 11th year, aims to do. The event is one of HAC’s major annual fundraisers for its four homeless shelters – the NOAH Shelter in Hyannis; Angel House in Hyannis; Carriage House in North Falmouth; and The Village at Cataumet in Bourne.
Money raised not only provides clients with the basic necessities – food and a safe place to sleep – but housing and employment services that help them gain the tools and confidence to become self-sufficient and live independently.
|Telethon co-host Matt Pitta talks with students from the Nathaniel H. Wixon School in Dennis.
Though the telethon deals with a serious subject matter, Terry Duenas, the executive director of the Cape Cod Community Media Center, said it is always an entertaining evening with a blend of live studio performances and pre-recorded ones featuring local choirs, bands and student ensembles singing holiday favorites. “I love the excitement of a live event,” Duenas said. “It creates a different environment that is always fun.”
His favorite memory from past telethons was when Siobhan Magnus was volunteering on the phones and someone called in and offered a sizable donation if she would sing the Irving Berlin classic “White Christmas.”
“She wasn’t scheduled to sing, but she said, ‘Sure,’” Duenas said. “It was just great.”
Ultimately, he said, the telethon is such a powerful event because the money raised goes to those most in need on Cape Cod. “It helps folks who are right here in the community,” he said.
The success of the telethon is tied to both the sponsors and those manning the phones. Andrew Young, the treasurer for HAC’s executive board of directors, has been a constant presence on the phone bank in recent years, calling friends, family members and co-workers in an effort to raise funds for HAC’s shelter program.
In making those calls, Young has found that people tend to “warm right up because they know someone who has volunteered at NOAH or Angel House or who has been there or might need to be there. And during this time of year, between Thanksgiving and Christmas, there are a lot of folks understanding it is a good time to recognize thankfulness and the generosity of the human spirit.”
This year's telethon takes place on Wednesday, December 10 from 4-9 PM. Residents can watch the live production on local community access Channels 98 and 99 or via the web at www.CapeMedia.org.
To volunteer for the telethon or become a sponsor click this link.
Since 1993 keeping Cape Codders in their homes and off the streets has been as simple as purchasing a gift card. Well, make that thousands of gift cards.
A program started more than two decades ago by the Dennis-Yarmouth Ecumenical Council for the Prevention of Homelessness (DYECH) and later adopted by the Barnstable Interfaith Council (BIC) has been a resounding success.
Known as Cape Cod Caring Cards, the program is simple: DYECH and BIC purchase gift cards in bulk from stores such as Stop & Shop, Shaw’s, Roche Brothers and Lambert’s. In return the two nonprofits receive five percent on every purchase.
The gift cards are then sold at face value to consumers. The five percent then goes directly to HAC to oversee Project Prevention which provides financial assistance to help residents on Cape Cod struggling with their bills stay in their homes.
Last year over $80,000 was raised by Cape Cod Caring Cards that went towards Project Prevention. And more than $1 million has been raised during its 21 years of existence. None of this would be possible without the churches, businesses and organizations that sell these gift cards directly to residents.
Thanks also go out to those who participate in the caring card program because it allows people to remain in their homes on Cape Cod.
To learn more about Cape Cod Caring Cards and where you can purchase a gift card for yourself or a loved one click on this link.
Preparation often sets the stage for success. And that is exactly where Brewster’s Derick Duarte found himself after taking HAC’s first-time homebuyer class in May.
“I honestly had no idea the basic steps involved with buying a home,” Derick Duarte admitted.
That changed thanks to the assistance of Cheryl Kramer, the manager for HAC’s Housing Consumer Education Center, who led the four-week class Duarte took with his fellow Cape Codders earlier this year.
The class, Kramer said, “helps people think about what they are doing and who they want to work with in the process of purchasing their home.”
For Duarte it set the foundation for what to expect when purchasing a home on Cape Cod. “I knew what was coming, what I had to do and when I had to do it,” he said. “It was so much less stressful than if I hadn’t taken the class and didn’t know what was going on.”
He credited the sessions for giving him insight into choosing a real estate agent; the amount he would need for a down payment on a home; working with a mortgage broker; and the negotiation process for making an offer on a home.
Duarte learned about the class from a friend and elected to take it because “I was at a point in my life where I wanted to buy a home.”
A 41-year-old technician for Comcast and father of two – Cheyenne, 14, and Tyler, 12 – Duarte had been living and renting in Brewster for the past decade. “My rent now has gotten to the point where I’m paying someone else’s mortgage,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense if I keep paying rent. I’d rather own something I can pass on to my kids and we can customize and make our own.”
In August, Duarte was at the doorstep of making that dream a reality. He had an offer accepted on a home in Brewster which he finally moved into last month. “I’m thrilled,” he said. “I never thought in a million years I’d be able to afford a home in Brewster, but with the help of your homebuyer course and my agent it has been a painless process.
“I’ve talked to friends who have bought homes and their stress levels were through the roof because they didn’t know what to expect or what was going on,” he continued. “Every step of the process went as expected and I knew what was coming next.”
Click this link for information on HAC’s first-time homebuyer classes for next year.
|Allison Kendall with her son Kaiden outside her parent's home where she lived temporarily before finding an apartment in Harwich.
Sudden, life-changing events can be traumatic, something that 33 people living in Dennis Port learned when their condominium complex was damaged by a fire in the beginning of June.
“It was traumatizing to watch, to see a place we had called home go up in flames,” Allison Kendall said. “It was kind of unreal. I still can’t fathom that actually happened.”
Kendall lived in one of the 16 households that were impacted by the fire. She and her one-year-old son Kaiden were fortunate in that they were unharmed and their apartment was not damaged as the fire affected four units on the opposite side of the building.
Still Kendall found herself suddenly without a home, like the others living at the Sea Breeze Condominiums, as the building was evacuated and deemed uninhabitable following the incident.
That is when HAC stepped in to fill a need, working with 26 people living in 11 of the units to find permanent housing elsewhere on the Cape.
Four days after the fire, HAC intake counselor Liz Belcher and project prevention director Dolores Barbati-Poore met with residents of the Dennis Port complex and began prioritizing them based on their level of need. Some had family and friends they could stay with indefinitely, while others needed immediate assistance.
HAC was able to secure housing for three families in Barnstable just days later.
Housing specialist Derick Bussiere worked with one woman in her 60’s who was in a particularly precarious situation. “She had no place to go and no family or friends here,” Belcher said. “She had no vehicle and walked to everything [at Sea Breeze]. He was able to find her a place in Dennis to help get her back on her feet.”
This type of response to an emergency is not unusual for HAC. In the past three years, Belcher said, the agency has done similar work for Cape residents at least twice. And as they have in the past, Belcher said, everyone at HAC “came together really quickly and they got things done” in assisting those affected by the Dennis Port fire.
That led to a happy ending for Kendall and her son who, after working with HAC and the Harwich Ecumenical Council for the Homeless (HECH) while temporarily staying with her parents, is now living in a two bedroom apartment in Harwich. “Thanks to them I’m fortunate enough to have a place,” Kendall said. “If it wasn’t for their help I don’t know where I would be.”