Housing Assistance Corporation Blog

Chris Kazarian

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Helping Tackle the Vineyard's Housing Issues

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Mon, Oct 23, 2017 @ 12:33 PM

Rebecca Jamieson-1.jpg

Having been born and raised on Martha’s Vineyard, Rebecca (Townes) Jamieson knows there is a lot to love about the Island.

But HAC’s new Homeless Case Manager on Martha’s Vineyard also understands it’s a community that is not devoid of its problems. “There definitely are struggles and issues we have here,” she said. “One of the biggest issues right now we face is homelessness.”

Since the beginning of September, Jamieson has been helping HAC tackle that problem on the Island on a part-time basis, Monday through Wednesday, working out of the Dukes County Regional Housing Authority on State Road in Vineyard Haven. Her position is currently being funded through a grant from the Cape and Islands United Way.

In her role, she is responsible for providing intensive case management to families and individuals experiencing housing instability on Martha’s Vineyard. These are people who are either homeless or at risk of homelessness.

HAC Director of Family and Individual Services Cassi Danzl said that until January 2016, when the state earmarked money to cover the costs of a similar position, there was “no other existing case management services for individuals who are homeless or at risk of homelessness” on the Vineyard. That is why the role, she said, is so critical to this community.

And that is why Jamieson applied for the position. “I want to help the people here who are struggling,” she said. “I think that this is a place where there is so much wealth and amongst all of that wealth, we have a significant population who has little, if anything.”

Prior to coming to HAC, Jamieson served as a case manager with Arbour Counseling Services in West Yarmouth. She has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Ashford University and a master’s of science in professional counseling from Grand Canyon University.

“She brings a really great skillset to this position,” said Danzl, adding that having lived on the Island most of her life, “she has a really clear understanding of the struggles and stressors that come with being a resident of the Vineyard.”

While still new to HAC, her hiring represents a whirlwind few months for Rebecca who was married in August to Jonathan Jamieson. She has two adult children, Kayla, 24, and Dorian, 20, as well as a six-year-old stepdaughter Laiah.

Having the opportunity to live, work and raise her own family on the Vineyard is rewarding for Jamieson. “I love the small community. I love its beauty. I love that we have wonderful weather in the summertime and snow in the winter,” she said. “Most of my family is here so it is very comforting, and a very familiar and lovely place.”

House Needed on Martha’s Vineyard

HAC is currently seeking a year-round home to rent or buy on Martha’s Vineyard that would house 5 chronically homeless adults. The home should have between 4 and 5 bedrooms and can consist of one or two structures on the same property.

Rent will be paid utilizing a grant HAC received earlier this year from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Those with a potential home should contact HAC’s Cassi Danzl at cdanzl@haconcapecod.org or 508-771-5400, ext. 253.

Tags: homelessness, Martha's Vineyard, homelessness prevention, affordable housing, Cape and Islands United Way, Rebecca Jamieson

Falmouth Big Fix a Display of Community

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Tue, Oct 17, 2017 @ 11:51 AM
Big Fix-17-5.jpgClifford Long repairs a front step during the Big Fix in Falmouth last month. 

With one knee on the ground, Falmouth’s Clifford Long hammered a nail into a piece of wood, repairing the front steps leading into John Martin’s North Falmouth home.

“I think this is something we should do more of,” said Long, taking a short break as dozens of other volunteers around him removed brush from Mr. Martin’s yard. In the back a crew from Home Depot was staining Mr. Martin’s deck. “So many people, we could make their homes affordable if we all put a little love and attention into them.”

About 20 feet away, Mr. Martin sat in a wheelchair inside his home. An Army veteran who served two years in Korea, Mr. Martin marveled at the kindness of complete strangers like Clifford Long. “You know what this is like? You hear people talking about neighborhoods. If this isn’t a sign of a neighborhood, I don’t know what is.”

What Mr. Martin calls a neighborhood, others call community, and in the middle of last month, there was plenty of that on display during HAC’s 8th Annual Big Fix in Falmouth. A total of 340 volunteers – a record for the Big Fix – showed up to make small improvements to 18 homes owned by veterans, seniors and disabled residents in the Upper Cape community.

If that wasn’t enough, one small group dedicated their time to beautifying the Falmouth Senior Center.

Big Fix-17-6.jpgBig Fix recipient Tina Barr (left) with Rev. John Terry of the First Congregational Church in Sandwich and HAC's Meg Chaffee. Rev. Terry, an advocate for affordable housing, organized a group of volunteers, the "First Fixers", from the church. 

“This is really the meaning of community service and it’s what makes the Cape and Islands so special,” said Falmouth Selectman Megan English Braga during the kick-off to the Big Fix at the Lawrence School.

At the kick-off, HAC CEO Alisa Galazzi took a moment to praise the work the volunteers were doing. “It really means a lot to be able to have this community support and to come out and help these [people],” she said. “This helps them stay in place.”

These were people like 91-year-old Jim Crossen who served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. At his home, a small crew of volunteers repaired his garage door while his daughter Jamie spoke about what the Big Fix meant to her. “What I think is really great is that knowing my dad, he has given so much to the community and volunteering his time, and now it’s nice it comes full circle and people are doing the same for him,” she said.

“I never could do this myself,” West Falmouth’s Valerie Tillman said outside her home where volunteers were clearing brush, removing weeds, and mulching her flower beds.

It was a similar scene at Dorothy Sgarzi’s home in East Falmouth, where volunteer Dana Robert remarked, “It is amazing how much work you can do with so many hands” after crews had finished beautifying her yard.

While the calendar may have read September 16, Christine (Tina) Barr of East Falmouth said the Big Fix actually felt like a holiday. “It was like Christmas morning,” she said. “This was much more than I could have ever imagined.”

Donate to the Falmouth Big Fix 

 

Tags: Philanthropy, volunteerism, Big Fix, HAC Volunteers, Falmouth, Falmouth Big Fix, veterans

Helping Cape Communities Address Affordable Housing

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Mon, Oct 16, 2017 @ 11:02 AM
Cape Housing Institute Photo-1.jpgSandwich Housing Authority Executive Director Paula Schnepp (from left), Community Development Partnership Executive Director Jay Coburn talk to Matt Pitta from Cape Cod Broadcasting during a recent interview. 

This month, HAC and Community Development Partnership (CDP) are embarking on a new initiative, the Cape Housing Institute, which will help town officials boost the development of affordable housing in their individual communities.

HAC CEO Alisa Galazzi said the institute will give municipal leaders “the tools and language they need to be able to create housing for the workforce and all residents of their community at all income levels.”

The institute is a six-week workshop which began last Tuesday and runs through Thursday, November 16. Sessions will last two hours and take place on the following days and locations: Wednesdays, from 2-4 pm, at the Cape Cod & Islands Association of REALTORS in West Yarmouth; Wednesdays, from 6-8 pm, at the Mashpee Public Library; Thursdays, from 2-4 pm, at the Wellfleet Preservation Hall; and Thursdays, from 7-9 pm, at the Harwich Community Center.

Each week will feature guest speakers who will touch upon specific aspects related to affordable housing development. The topics, from week one to week six, are an introduction to housing; planning and needs assessment; zoning and site selection; financing and development; making the case for affordable housing; and developing an action plan.

The institute’s speakers are Judi Barrett, economic development director for the Plymouth Regional Economic Development Foundation; attorney Peter Freeman, a partner at the Freeman Law Group in Yarmouth Port; Cape Cod Commission Affordable Housing Specialist Heather Harper; Jennifer Goldson, a certified professional planner and founder of JM Goldson in Boston; Laura Shufelt, assistant director of community assistance for Massachusetts Housing Partnership (MHP); Kevin Maguire, a development consultant and co-founder of Oxbow Partners; architect Richard Fenuccio, president of Brown, Lindquist, Fenuccio & Raber Architects, Inc. in Yarmouth Port; Susan Connelly, director of community assistance at MHP; Maura Tsongas, director of real estate development at Neighborhood of Affordable Housing in Boston; Shelly Goehring, program manager at MHP; and Paula Schnepp, executive director at the Sandwich Housing Authority.

Presenting sponsors for the housing institute are Cape & Islands License Plate Fund; Cape & Islands United Way; Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank Charitable Trust; Cape Cod Foundation; the Estate of Bernard Kaplan; and Shepley Wood Products. The Cape Cod & Islands Association of REALTORS is serving as a location host for the institute.

Tags: Affordable Housing on Cape Cod, Affordable Housing Development on Cape Cod, affordable housing, Alisa Galazzi, Cape Housing Institute, Community Development Partnership, Jay Coburn, Paula Schnepp

Toy Run Brings Joy to Children in Shelter

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Oct 06, 2017 @ 03:07 PM

HOG Run 16-29.jpg

A procession of nearly 200 motorcycles driving from Buzzards Bay over the Bourne Bridge to HAC’s Carriage House shelter in North Falmouth is a sight to behold. And on the first Sunday in November, it happens like clockwork every year. Their mission is simple – spread a little holiday joy to children in HAC’s family shelters.

It’s all part of the Chris Wetherbee Memorial Toy Run which has been taking place for the past 29 years. In 1999, it was named in honor of organizer Christina Wetherbee who died of cancer the following spring.

Since that time, her husband Joe Wetherbee and his second wife Clarissa have taken over the reins, organizing the toy run with the support of the Cape Cod Harley Owners Group (HOG) of Pocasset. “The best part of the day is seeing the bikes show up and the people supporting this,” Joe said. “And then, of course, the look on the kids’ faces because we could have 200 to 250 bikes. To see that many bikes is impressive.”

One of the longest-standing toy runs in the state, the event generates interest from motorcyclists throughout Cape Cod and even off-Cape with some coming from as far away as Boston and Rhode Island. Leading the group every year is Joe Wetherbee who will do so once again next month on his Can-Am Spyder.

Last year, participants delivered over $3,000 worth of toys that went to children in all four of HAC’s family shelters – Carriage House, The Village at Cataumet, Angel House, and Scattered Sites – as well as to children of families in need that HAC serves.

Families are given the gifts for the children to open during the holiday season.

Yvonne Rivers, the facility director at Carriage House, said the gifts come at a time of year when families could use it the most. “The holidays can be tough for our clients, especially because they are in a shelter,” she said.

The toy run serves as a meaningful show of support and kindness delivered by complete strangers on motorcycles. “It’s great to see the joy and smiles on children’s faces,” Rivers said. “The kids love it.”

18th Annual Chris Wetherbee Memorial Toy Run
When: Sunday, November 5
Where: Eagles Hall at 39 Cohasset Avenue, Buzzards Bay
Registration: 8:30-10:30 AM

The run begins at 11 AM, starting at Eagles Hall and ending at Carriage House. Participants are asked to bring a new, unwrapped toy (no stuffed animals or violent toys) or a minimum $10 donation. Those unable to participate in the ride can drop off donations to Cape Cod Harley-Davidson at either 750 MacArthur Boulevard in Pocasset or at 615 Main Street in Hyannis.

As they have in recent years, Seafood Sam’s in Falmouth and Sandwich will provide chili, clam chowder, and hot dogs for participants.

 

Tags: Family Shelter, Carriage House, Chris Wetherbee Memorial Toy Run, Christmas, charitable giving, holiday giving, Clarissa Wetherbee, Joe Wetherbee, Cape Cod Harley Owners Group (HOG)

Barnstable Sunrise Rotary Donates to Children in Need

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Sep 29, 2017 @ 04:01 PM
Barnstable Rotary-1.jpgBarnstable Sunrise Rotary Club members Norman Wilson (from left), Wylton Hampton and Randy Gold dropped off 10 backpacks filled with basic school supplies for HAC clients.

Backpacks and back-to-school supplies are a necessity for every student. But for some HAC clients struggling just to get by, they are a luxury they can’t afford.

Thankfully, HAC has generous donors like the Barnstable Sunrise Rotary Club which fill that need. At the end of August, three of its members – Randy Gold, Wylton Hampton and Norman Wilson – dropped off 10 backpacks filled with basic school supplies that will go to children in HAC shelters and those just out of shelter.

The club, which has 10 members, meets every Monday morning for breakfast. In the middle of last month, HAC’s Director of Community Relations Laura Reckford met with the group, giving info on the agency’s shelters, including Angel House which serves mothers overcoming addiction and their children.

After that meeting, the group elected to do something to give back to children in shelter. “We are hands-on. When we see a need, we fill it,” Gold said. “We do small projects like this and we like to help where we can.”

Tags: Philanthropy, charitable giving, back to school, backpacks, Barnstable Sunrise Rotary

Angel House Clients Build Life Skill Competencies

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Thu, Sep 28, 2017 @ 10:52 AM
Angel House-17.jpgHAC HCEC Manager Cheryl Kramer (fourth from left) with several of the Angel House clients who took her most recent financial literacy classes. 

Last fall, a client at Angel House took a series of financial literacy classes taught by HAC’s Housing Consumer Education Center (HCEC) Manager Cheryl Kramer. 

When Kramer brought that series – Creating a Budget, Rebuilding Your Credit, and Be a Successful Tenant – back to the shelter in June, that same client opted to take them again. Kramer said the client told her, “I’m so glad you’re back… Last fall I was focused on having my baby and not really focused on what you were teaching. I’m coming to the end of my time at Angel House and I really need to hear what you have to say.” 

It is one example of why these classes are so important, especially for the mothers at Angel House, who are dealing with the trauma of homelessness, overcoming addiction, and learning how to be a proper parent to their child. “Having the class available more than once, they’re able to build on what they learned the first time,” Kramer said. 

On average, 10 clients took part in each of the classes Kramer offered this summer. In August, she awarded 19 certificates of completion to the clients; some received multiple certificates because they took more than one of the classes. 

“One of the greatest values is that this is a concrete way for them to build their life skill competencies,” shelter director Lin Rohr said. “We do a lot of stuff on healing, recovery and parenting. This teaches them how to do a budget. If you spend everything you make in your first week, how are you going to eat?” 

Amanda, a 23-year-old client at Angel House, said the classes provided her with basic skills that she had overlooked or had no knowledge about. “I never knew anything about my credit,” she said. “And it made me open up my eyes about a lot of things like the money I spend on Dunkin’ Donuts alone.” 

“It’s amazing, isn’t it?” Rohr said. “If you spend $5 a day for coffee, that’s $35 a week.” 

Another client, Cassandra, admitted she has poor credit and was considering filing for bankruptcy. Kramer “showed me that is not my only option,” Cassandra said. “Now I’m almost amped up about it. I can fix it. It’s not too late.”

Cassandra is one of nine Angel House clients who plan on meeting with Kramer one-on-one to focus on their individual financial needs. “That is a huge thing she is offering,” Rohr said. “If they had to pay for that kind of outside support that is not doable for a lot of them. It’s a wonderful gift she [Kramer] is giving them.” 

In October, Kramer will return to Angel House to offer the classes to clients again. “It is part of the [Angel House] program now,” Kramer said. “When they come to that class, they are awake, they are vested and come with good questions… They are not just there because they have to be which makes it more fun to teach. And I make sure I’m giving them the info they want to hear and need to hear.”

HAC Receives CCYP Grant

For the second straight year, HAC has been the recipient of a grant from the CCYP's Giving Circle Fund of the Cape Cod Foundation. This grant will allow HAC to provide the following classes for free, for a limited time, on a first-come, first-served basis: 

Tags: HCEC, Family Shelter, Angel House, Cheryl Kramer, Lin Rohr, housing consumer education, financial literacy

FSS Graduation Result of Hard Work

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Tue, Sep 26, 2017 @ 03:19 PM
Stacey Whittemore FSS Photo-1.jpgHAC FSS Coordinator Jan Nelson (left) with Stacey Whittemore, who recently graduated from the program and became a homeowner on Cape Cod. 

When some clients graduate from the Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program, it can be a large celebration with a number of HAC staff in attendance. Others, like Cotuit’s Stacey Whittemore, opt for something more low key.

That did not make the moment any less meaningful when Whittemore and her son Connor received a $9,061.84 check at the end of July from Jan Nelson, who manages the FSS program for HAC.

With tears in her eyes, an emotional Whittemore spoke about the impact that FSS has had on her since she first entered it a little more than a year and a half ago. “You helped me out tremendously,” Whittemore told Nelson.

With the support of Nelson, FSS clients find ways to increase their income so they can move off of public assistance. As one’s income increases, their rent increases. The difference between the new monthly rent and the old rent is placed into an escrow savings account that clients can access, and use as they deem fit, upon completion of FSS.

Whittemore was able to accumulate more than $4,000; she received another $5,000 in federal funds because she was giving up her Section 8 voucher and becoming a homeowner, moving from her Mashpee home into what she called, “my forever home” in Cotuit.

Nelson called Whittemore, who has two jobs, including a full-time one as an overnight dispatcher for a towing company, “a hard worker” something that was witnessed when she boosted her credit score from roughly 500 to over 700 during her time in the FSS program.

While she was looking forward to decorating her new home for Halloween and Christmas, Whittemore said, the most important aspect is, “just giving him [my son] the security. It’s something I never had as a child.”

To have that kind of security on Cape Cod is the icing on the cake. “It is so beautiful here,” Whittemore said. “I’m pretty content to call this place my home.”

Give Hope to a HAC Client

Tags: Jan Nelson, Family Self Sufficiency, FSS, homeownership, Stacey Whittemore

Nutrition Workshop Brought to Village at Cataumet

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Mon, Sep 25, 2017 @ 03:45 PM
Cataumet Nutrition Photo-1.jpgCooking Matters' Catherine Cleary (middle) with Margaret Peters (left), administrative support at The Village at Cataumet, and facility director Paula Mallard. 

At HAC’s family shelters, the goal is to not only house clients, but to give them the tools to care for themselves and their children. Nutrition is a key part of this equation and recently HAC welcomed Catherine Cleary, program manager for Cooking Matters, to The Village at Cataumet to provide a handful of parents with the skills necessary to ensure their children are fed healthy meals at home.

“It’s not about teaching people,” Cleary said about the aim of the initiative, which she has brought to food pantries, public libraries, Head Start programs, and family shelters throughout Massachusetts. “It’s about building confidence in caregivers of young children.”

For a little more than an hour, Cleary engaged mothers in a conversation about everything from shopping for nutritious foods to cooking those foods for their families, all while on a budget. She stressed that parents are the best judge of what choices to make. “You all know what is best for you and your family,” she said.

She began with simple advice – always make a list, for example - that can help clients with budgeting and keeping them better organized while shopping.

During her visit, Cleary touched upon several key areas that included how to choose produce, how to choose whole grain foods and why it matters, how to read the nutrition labels on the food packages, and why the unit price on food is important.

Shelter clients were interested in strategies for getting children to eat healthier. Cleary suggested cooking two types of vegetables, such as peas and carrots, and having the children decide what they want to eat.

In her house, Cleary said she will always have low-salt peanut butter, jelly, and whole wheat bread to make sandwiches for her children. “At least you have a couple of food sources there,” she said, which can then be combined with fruits and vegetables. “That’s more balanced than oodles of noodles.”

These were just a few of the tips Cleary had for clients to empower them to make healthier decisions when cooking affordable meals for their children. The session represented a first for the shelter and was something that its facility director, Paula Mallard, said provided practical skills to clients which they can begin applying immediately and continue to use once they transition into permanent housing.

Tags: Family Shelter, Paula Mallard, Village at Cataumet, education, Cooking Matters, Margaret Peters, nutrition

Wells Fargo Grant Helps Prevent Homelessness

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Thu, Sep 21, 2017 @ 04:23 PM
Wells Fargo Photo-1.jpgWells Fargo’s Kristine Sullivan (from left), Briana Curran and Robert Sullivan present HAC’s Laura Reckford (middle) and Cassi Danzl with a $5,000 grant. 

It can take as little as a few hundred dollars to keep HAC clients, who may be struggling to get by, in their homes and off the streets. And thanks to the generosity of Wells Fargo which recently awarded HAC a $5,000 grant, a number of families on Cape Cod and the Islands will be able to avoid the trauma and indignity of homelessness.

“This money will allow us to assist a larger number of families this year with avoiding a housing crisis,” said Cassi Danzl, HAC’s director of family and individual services. “Many families on the Cape are one crisis or missed paycheck away from homelessness. This money will help bridge that gap and allow those families to stay in stable housing.”

Danzl was joined by HAC’s Director of Community Relations Laura Reckford in accepting a $5,000 check from Wells Fargo to support the agency’s Project Prevention program. Robert Sullivan, first vice president of investments at Wells Fargo Advisors, Kristine Sullivan, a senior registered client associate at Wells Fargo Advisors, and Briana Curran, vice president of communications and community relations for Wells Fargo, delivered the check to the pair at HAC’s West Main Street office in Hyannis.

HAC was one of 18 nonprofits in Massachusetts that were awarded nearly $250,000 in grants from Wells Fargo and the only one on Cape Cod.

“HAC provides critical services to families on Cape Cod and the Islands at risk of homelessness so they can avoid entry or re-entry into the shelter system, and I’m so proud Wells Fargo can support this important work,” said Robert Sullivan.

Tags: homelessness prevention, Laura Reckford, Cassi Danzl, Wells Fargo, grant

Quahog Challenge Cooks Up Hope for HAC Clients

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Sep 15, 2017 @ 10:52 AM
QuahogChallenge17-2.jpgAn attendee samples a stuffed quahog made by Sea Dog Brew Pub in Yarmouth. There were a total of 11 chefs and nine restaurants who competed in this year's Cape Cod Quahog Challenge. 

On a sunny Sunday at the beginning of last month, 11 local chefs and 9 Cape restaurants and their staff chose to donate their time, energy and talents to cooking up some much-needed hope for HAC and the clients they serve.

That hope can in the form of tasty samplers of a regional dish – stuffed quahogs – served up as part of the agency’s 3rd Annual Cape Cod Quahog Challenge at Trader Ed’s in Hyannis. “We all have choices for what we do on a beautiful Sunday on Cape Cod and the fact that you’re all here really means a lot to all of us,” HAC CEO Alisa Galazzi told this year’s competitors.

Together, the 11 participants and the nearly 300 people in attendance helped HAC raise more than $30,000 that will go to support the agency’s housing programs on Cape Cod and the Islands.

In the amateur category, Ron Winner led The Shepley Shuckers to their third straight victory, besting newcomer O’Keegan’s Quahogs cooked up by HAC staffer Jodi Keegan. Keegan and her friend Amanda O’Connell dug up all the quahogs, plus blue crabs, that were used in her recipe.

QuahogChallenge17-1.jpgFor the third straight year, The Shepley Shuckers came out on top in the amateur category. 

It was a similar story in the restaurant category where Arnold’s Lobster and Clam Bar of Eastham, took home its third title. Coming in second and third, respectively, were newcomers Cape Tip Seafood Market of Truro and Wicked Good Seafood Truck of East Falmouth.

When master of ceremonies Matt Pitta of Cape Cod Broadcasting asked Wicked Good Seafood’s Bill Henrique what the secret ingredient was in their stuffies, he replied, “love” to laughter.

Cape Tip Seafood’s Courtney Roach expanded upon that notion when the market was handed its second place trophy. “If you make it with love, it tastes better,” she said.

“It’s all about the love here today,” Pitta chimed in.

And it’s that special ingredient which will make a major difference in the lives of those looking for safe, secure housing on Cape Cod.

To view more photos from the 3rd Annual Cape Cod Quahog Challenge, visit our Facebook page here

Tags: Affordable Housing on Cape Cod, Cape Cod Broadcasting, Cape Cod Quahog Challenge, Shepley Wood Products, Matt Pitta, Quahog Challenge, Ron Winner, Arnold's Lobster & Clam Bar, Jodi Keegan