Housing Assistance Corporation Blog

Laura Reckford

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Ms. Galazzi Goes to Washington

Posted by Laura Reckford on Fri, Jun 16, 2017 @ 05:41 PM
RHN working with Rep. Keating-1.jpgHAC CEO Alisa Galazzi (third from left) sits with members of the Regional Housing Network of Massachusetts during their meeting with Congressman Bill Keating in his Washington, D.C. office. 

Last month, HAC’s CEO Alisa Galazzi and Director of Community Relations Laura Reckford journeyed to Washington, D.C. with members of the Regional Housing Network (RHN) of Massachusetts. The purpose of the trip was to explain the importance of the Section 8 voucher program to the Massachusetts congressional delegation.

The RHN contingent had face-to-face meetings with Congressman Bill Keating and Senator Ed Markey. In addition, they made presentations to the congressional appropriations committee staff.

The Section 8 program is supported by funds from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). President Donald Trump has proposed steep cuts—at least $7 billion—to affordable housing, community development and social service programs supported by funds that flow from HUD to communities across the country.

These cuts will have a detrimental impact to the 1,250 clients that HAC serves on Cape Cod and the Islands who receive Section 8 and other rental housing vouchers. And the cuts would have a ripple effect on the region’s economy.

The cuts would affect the economy in several ways. First, the Section 8 program alone brings $750,000 per month to the local economy in payments to Cape Cod landlords. Across the Commonwealth, almost $20 million per month goes into the local economy through the Section 8 program.

Second, without this rental assistance, working families would not be able to afford their apartments and could be forced into shelter. The nightly cost of sheltering a family—estimated at roughly $100 per night—is much steeper than the approximately $900 per month cost of rental assistance that keeps a family in their home. Last year, HAC housed 175 families, including 195 children, in our four family shelter programs. Being in shelter stresses a family in several ways, especially with children whose schooling can be disrupted.

Another economic cost is the ripple effect to the region. When workers lose their home, it becomes almost impossible for them to hold down a job. Severe cuts to the Section 8 program would undoubtedly have impacts on local employment numbers and other economic indicators.

Tags: Section 8, Regional Housing Network of Massachusetts, homeless shelters, MA Rental Voucher Program, HUD, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Alisa Galazzi, Laura Reckford, Bill Keating

HAC Hosts CHAPA's Spring Regional Meeting

Posted by Laura Reckford on Fri, May 20, 2016 @ 03:10 PM
chapa.jpgEric Shupin (left) and Brenda Clement (right) of CHAPA and William Dunn (middle) of MassHousing talk with talk to Gael Kelleher, HAC’s director of Cape Community Real Estate. 

The continuing struggle to create affordable housing throughout the Commonwealth was the focus of a meeting of regional housing advocates last month in HAC’s Hyannis office. HAC hosted the Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association (CHAPA) spring regional meeting on April 1.

“You can’t do affordable housing without subsidies,” HAC CEO Rick Presbrey said to the more than two dozen people gathered for the session. “There is no return on the investment for rental housing for even middle income levels.” That was just one of the issues discussed at the meeting, as CHAPA officials outlined their priorities for the coming year.

Each year, CHAPA officials travel across Massachusetts to meet with housing professionals, advocates, community members, elected officials and other stakeholders that want to expand access to safe, quality, and affordable housing. 

The meeting in HAC’s conference room was an opportunity to hear updates on affordable housing and to help CHAPA develop its agenda for public policy, research, and programming for the year.

Besides affordable housing, two areas of focus for CHAPA are homelessness prevention and community development. Those top the list of capital budget priorities that CHAPA is working on with legislators on Beacon Hill.

Seeking State Support

Among the state-financed programs promoted by CHAPA that HAC provides access to for its clients is the HomeBASE program, which offers families an alternative to shelter by providing stabilization funds. State funds for the program have been severely cut in the past several years, from a high of $88 million in Fiscal Year 2013, to a low of $25 million in Fiscal Year 2015, according to figures from CHAPA. This year, CHAPA is asking state legislators for $39 million for the program because of the rising need for the funds.

Another state-funded program, Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT), also helps families who are at risk of homelessness remain housed. CHAPA is asking for the state to fund the RAFT program at $18.5 million, a significant increase from this year’s $12.5 million in funding.

In the area of foreclosure prevention counseling, another program HAC offers to its clients, the state has provided an average of $2.5 million over the past several years. This year, CHAPA is requesting $3.6 million.

Among the initiatives outlined by Brenda Clement, CHAPA’s Executive Director, was the National Housing Trust Fund, which CHAPA officials believe will help create lower income rental housing. The state’s Department of Housing and Community Development will be holding hearings on the fund.

Eric Shupin of CHAPA gave a legislative update on several bills that have been filed including a zoning reform bill that is a major priority of Cape & Islands Senator Dan Wolf. The bill would encourage more housing and mixed use developments, as well as promoting land conservation and incentivizing growth.

Tags: CHAPA Regional Meeting Cape Cod, affordable housing, CHAPA

Need Home Repairs? Apply to HAC

Posted by Laura Reckford on Sat, Jan 25, 2014 @ 06:40 AM

The Town of Barnstable has awarded Housing Assistance Corporation funds for the administration of a Home Owner Rehab Program for homeowners whose property is in any of the seven villages in the town of Barnstable.

 

Possible repairs must fall within the health/safety category.For example, repairs could include septic, roofs, carpentry, mold/mildew, electric, foundation problems, heating systems, water, etc. Home owners who occupy their homes as a principle residence in the Town of Barnstable must be at or below the 80 percent of Area Median Income; and the repairs must be eligible under Health and Safety guidelines.

 

Contact Brenda Rocklage at 508-771-5400 ext. 285 or brocklage@HAConCapeCod.org for more information.

Eligible Income Guidelines are no more than:

 

Household of 1: $44,750

Household of 2: $51,150

Household of 3: $57,550

Household of 4: $63,900

Tags: HAC, housing assistance corporation, saving energy

Casino Throws Holiday Party for Homeless Families

Posted by Laura Reckford on Fri, Jan 24, 2014 @ 06:25 PM

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Amanda Stroh, bar manager of the Casino Wharf FX in Falmouth, wanted the restaurant to give back to the community this Christmas, so she and her colleagues came up with an innovative idea.

They threw a party for homeless families.

Amanda said she and the bar’s general manager talked about an end of the year way to give back. "We’re fortunate to have a lucrative business. It’s our way of giving back for the people who are supporting us," she said.

She said they wanted to do a party with a meal and gifts for disadvantaged children and through a Google search, they learned about Carriage House, the homeless shelter for families that Housing Assistance Corporation runs in North Falmouth.

Katie, a staffer at Carriage House, referred them to Paula Mallard, the manager at the Village at Cataumet, another HAC family shelter.

Paula, who captured a number of photos from the event, which was held in the afternoon on Saturday, December 7, said it was a fun event for the clients. Amanda agreed.

"The consensus was it went really well. I think everyone had a good time. The staff had a good time," she said, adding that all of the staffers working the party volunteered for the event. In addition, several teens from Falmouth High School played elves for the event.

Amanda said the party was different for Casino staffers because "we don’t normally have children’s parties here." They had to tweak the menu to include kid-friendly items like chicken fingers, pizza and mac and cheese. But other than that, it was business as usual. "People are people," she said.

Amanda said she would definitely like to have the party again next year. "[The idea] will definitely be revisited," she said.

Tags: housing assistance corporation, Village at Cataumet

Editorial: Bubbles

Posted by Laura Reckford on Fri, Jan 24, 2014 @ 12:20 PM

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By Rick Presbrey

Sitting at my desk on a cold rainy day one day after Christmas, I had a holiday hangover. Not from drinking—I didn’t—but from the non-stop business of the season.

It seemed like one thing after the other: shopping, wrapping, parties, cleaning the house, putting up and maintaining decorations inside and out, visitors, movies on tv and in the theater, noise and confusion. Now I have a headache. Perhaps the worst of it was the movie "The Wolf of Wall Street," which was a movie so unpleasant and so close to a part of real life that I never see, and don’t want to see, that I for sure didn’t need to see it, especially at holiday time.

The movie is about life in a crass and crude "bubble" within which the people in the bubble believe that their lives are how things are. We deal with lots of such bubbles: far left Democrats and far right Republicans believe that their life experience and life views are the only way things should be or are; evangelical Christians sometimes experience themselves in a bubble with the rest of society outside of that bubble.

Think of Congress not willing to strengthen gun control legislation for fear of not being re-elected—in a bubble—or am I in a bubble for thinking differently?

How about the world of being nice to one another? We live in an increasingly angry and mistrustful society (is that real or just my perception?) while my bubble at HAC is to be as nice and helpful to everyone as possible. How about when the President apologizes now and then? I think it is great (my bubble?) but news pundits speak of why having the President apologize for anything is a bad idea and will weaken America (their bubble).

I like the bubble that HAC is in and I want to never leave it. Last week, HAC staffers were in the process of helping three people who had recently gotten out of jail. We worked on a variety of issues with each and the general atmosphere at HAC was sympathy and a desire to help. My son was home from college (another bubble, perhaps) and he overheard me worrying about the three ex-cons and getting situated in time for Christmas. As I was leaving the house I overheard part of what he said to his mother which was something like, "Have we gone crazy here? Why are we worrying about helping all these criminals getting out of jail?" There was a time I might have said or thought the same thing, but not now.

I now know that everybody has a story and a reason. I also know that being respectful and caring helps people who are struggling succeed. It is never a question if they deserve it or not. The question is, will we all benefit from caring and respectful behavior towards others? I believe that we will and we do.

Christmas is the time our society practices these values. At HAC we do it every day.

Tags: housing assistance corporation, Rick Presbrey

Santa Comes To Village at Cataumet

Posted by Laura Reckford on Fri, Jan 24, 2014 @ 08:09 AM

santacataumet04 web

After several rounds of Christmas carols, families staying at The Village at Cataumet welcomed Santa and Mrs. Claus on the afternoon of December 23.

The Village at Cataumet is one of three shelters for homeless families that are run by Housing Assistance Corporation.  Each child staying at the shelter got a turn on Santa’s knee and received a gift from under the tree.

Yvonne Rivers, a case manager at the Village at Cataumet, said the day every year when Santa visits the shelter is always a festive one. "At the end of the day, they’re happy and that makes us happy because some of them might not have a Christmas. We try to make sure everyone has enough."

Paula Mallard, director of the Village at Cataumet, said she is grateful for the generosity of all the donors of gifts, which come from, among other sources, the annual basket party, the staff at Deep Sea Systems in Cataumet, Plainville Christian Church in New Bedford, and from her church, the Swift Memorial United Methodist Church in Sagamore Beach.

"It’s really incredible how generous people are this time of year, For a lot of kids, this is the only time they get to see Santa for the season," she said. "For some of these kids, it’s the best Christmas they’ll ever have."

Tags: HAC, housing assistance corporation, Village at Cataumet

Local Musician Chandler Travis Organizes Cavalcade for NOAH

Posted by Laura Reckford on Thu, Jan 23, 2014 @ 06:49 PM
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Musician Chandler Travis of Eastham said he organizes the Cape Cod Christmas Cavalcade for the Homeless every year because he likes to try to help out those in need.

His way of helping includes a one-of-a-kind festive event with some of the top musicians on the Cape performing holiday music and skits to the delight of an enthusiastic crowd of fans. The concert gives much-needed funds to the NOAH Shelter in Hyannis, where homeless men and women can find shelter, meals and a hot shower year-round.

This year’s Cavalcade, the tenth annual, was held at the Jailhouse Tavern in Orleans and featured, among others, the Chandler Travis Philharmonic, the Rip It Ups, Zoe Lewis, the Ticks, the Greenheads, Tripping Lily, Monica Rizzio, Kami Lyle, Sarah Swain and the Oh Boys, Steve Shook, the Catbirds, Sarah Burrill, Fred Fried, Bruce Maclean, Lydia Parkington, Christine Rathbun, Anna Whiteley, Steven Russell, the Fix-It Sisters, and Athol Thingerth, and Toast and Jam.

Approximately 300 tickets were sold and Chandler also gathered sponsors for the event. Those sponsors included the Wellfleet Beachcomber, Mac’s Seafood, Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank, Spiritus Pizza, Hot Chocolate Sparrow and Cape Cod Audio.

Though donations are still coming in, the event has so far raised about $6,000 from the concert, another $1,200 from a second concert at Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater (WHAT), plus hundreds raised through sponsorships for a total over $9,000, the highest ever from the Cavalcade!

Tags: Calvacade, Chandler Travis, housing assistance corporation, cavalcade

Shelter Cape Cod Telethon A Rousing Success

Posted by Laura Reckford on Thu, Jan 23, 2014 @ 01:45 AM

sheltercctelethon16 webThe excitement of a community coming together to help their own was in full evidence at the Shelter Cape Cod Telethon, which took place last month on December 11. It was a festive affair as people from throughout the Cape gathered at Cape Cod Community Media Center in Dennisport for the five-hour television show. It was aired on local cable access channels  throughout the Cape.

 

Housing Assistance Corporation set an ambitious fundraising goal for this year’s telethon of $100,000, which is in sight as more donations continue to come in. The telethon featured video and live performances, special guests and, new this year, students reading essays on the topic of homelessness.

 

This was a banner year for the event on several counts. For the past nine years, the telethon was called the NOAH Telethon and funds raised went only to the NOAH Shelter in Hyannis. But this year the event had a new name and a new mission. It was called the Shelter Cape Cod Telethon and instead of just benefiting the NOAH Shelter, it also benefited HAC’s three family shelters: the Village at Cataumet in Bourne, Angel House in Hyannis and Carriage House in North Falmouth.

 

Among the special guests at this year’s telethon was NOAH Shelter manager Greg Bar, who spoke eloquently to the telethon’s host, Mindy Todd, about what homelessness is like from the front lines. Before the telethon, he interviewed some of the clients from NOAH Shelter as well as staff about the issue of homelessness and read those comments on the air.

 

One of the NOAH clients said, "I’m grateful this place is here. I can’t say the word grateful enough." Another said, "I feel well-supported because I asked for help and I’ve been given it."  Mr. Bar said of the clients at NOAH, "It’s hardest to ask for help when you hurt the worst. That’s where these people are at. Just by virtue of walking into the place, they are asking for help. That’s a tough thing."

Besides Mr. Bar, other HAC staffers who went on air to talk about the plight of the homeless on Cape Cod were Cindi Maule, Director of HAC’s family services, Paula Mallard and Yvonne Rivers from the Village at Cataumet, and Amy Brigham from Angel House.

 

The list of musical performers who recorded videos for the event was extensive. Local DJ Suzanne Tonaire served as the mistress of ceremonies in introducing the musical performers, which included the choirs from St. Pius X School and North Falmouth Elementary School, as well as the Falmouth Chorale.

 

In addition, Rabbi Elias Lieberman of the Falmouth Jewish Congregation performed live the song, "I Am Home."

 

During the broadcast, a number of people offered their perspective on the problem of homelessness on Cape Cod. Among them were Dr. Nate Rudman, an emergency room doctor at Cape Cod Hospital and HAC board member, who talked about health issues experienced by the chronically homeless. Cyndy Jones, founder of Heroes in Transition, talked about her agency’s desire to help veterans with various needs.

 

Perhaps the highlight of the show was 12 fourth and fifth grade students from Nathaniel H. Wixon Innovative School in South Dennis who read essays on the topic of "What Homelessness Means To Me." At least two of the students had personal experiences with their own family being homeless.

 

The event was hosted by Mindy Todd, host of The Point on WCAI, with assistance from co-hosts Sean Corcoran, also of WCAI; Paul  Pronovost, editor of The Cape Cod Times; Matt Pitta of WXTK; and Rick Presbrey, President and CEO of Housing Assistance Corporation.

 

Several local politicians taped messages of support for the telethon and two politicians, State Representative Brian Mannal of Hyannis and County Commissioner Sheila Lyons of Wellfleet, made appearances in person to throw their support behind the cause of helping homeless Cape Codders.

Tags: NOAH Telethon, housing assistance corporation, NOAH Shelter, Village at Cataumet, Carriage House, Angel House, NOAH

Rick Presbrey's Editorial: A 10-Year Plan to Reduce Homelessness

Posted by Laura Reckford on Wed, Dec 11, 2013 @ 08:32 AM

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For 30 years, I have been in favor of rental assistance being time-limited.

That was a based on my belief that in the long view—back when Reagan was president—that continued increases in funding were not sustainable.

I think that as each family is deemed eligible for assistance in the state Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program and the federal Section 8 programs they should have a choice: a large monthly subsidy for a short time, say three years, a medium rental subsidy each month for up to 10 years, or a smaller amount each month for up to 20 years.

In this way participants would know what to expect and could plan for it. As assistance for existing participants expires, funds would be available to help those with current needs and crises. I know it sounds generous, and it is, but it isn’t as generous as the system we have now.

To give some background to how I reached this conclusion, you need only look at the present state of housing affairs in the commonwealth.

It should come as no surprise that with high rental housing costs, relatively high unemployment particularly among lower income people, and low paying jobs, thousands of families can’t afford to pay market rent.

In tight economic times, no new comprehensive publicly funded initiative to solve this problem can be realistically expected.

Instead, in Boston and Washington various amounts of money have been appropriated for a variety of piecemeal and often complicated solutions designed to keep families without housing or at risk of losing housing safe.

These programs, which include HomeBASE (Building Alternatives to Shelter) and now RAFT (Residential Assistance for Families in Transition), just haven’t worked or at least haven’t been able to keep up with the persistent demand.

Massachusetts is a "right to shelter" state and therefore, no one can be denied the right to a place to sleep each night. One of the high priority goals of the Patrick administration has been to eliminate the use of motels, paid for by the commonwealth, to shelter homeless families. Through no lack of effort this goal has not been reached to date. There are now more than 2,000 homeless households in motels being paid by the commonwealth and another 2,000 more families in state-funded shelters.

The added crisis in Massachusetts since July is that families have begun "timing out" on two years of rental assistance under the HomeBASE program with no further rental assistance being offered.

Two years looked pretty good in the beginning but unless major changes took place within the two years to either the economy, availability of good paying jobs, or the family itself, the cycle of homelessness for many would just begin again in the 25

th month.

In anticipation of families "timing-out" of the program, the HomeBASE program offers families up to $4,000 to help make the transition to independence, and the family can still go into a state-funded shelter.

When a similar timing out occurred in New York a couple of years ago, it showed that many did not immediately ask for further ongoing help after their rental assistance ran out.

Massachusetts, so far, is taking a wait and see attitude to see how people fare here.

Dire predictions of what would happen to families losing this assistance have so far not come true, with about 20% of the households returning to shelter at the expiration of their two years of state assistance in paying the rent. But in time many more may find the need to seek further help.

The state’s plan now is to issue 500 "new" Mass Rental Housing Vouchers (MRVP) to offer help to those with the greatest need.

Hopefully that won’t send the wrong message and unduly raise expectations. That message, in the minds of those in need, may be that if you tough it out, more subsidies are on the way.

That could cause many to seek access to a system that does not have the funds to help everyone in need. The problem

with traditional state and federal rental assistance is that as long as a tenant remains income-eligible they can continue receiving monthly assistance paying the rent for the rest of their lives.

Rental assistance does resolve their housing woes once and for all and the findings from years of experience have been that it benefits families in several key ways that improve families’ health and well being.

Once a household begins receiving monthly rental assistance, it goes on forever as long as the voucher holder remains income-eligible, making the aid a disincentive for some, perhaps many, to increase their income to the point that they become ineligible for continued assistance.

People become dependent on the assistance and fear giving it up.

Several steps have been taken over the years to reduce the sense of dependence, such as reserving or holding your subsidy for a period of time after your income makes you ineligible in case you lose your job and need assistance again. But still, few willingly give up the financial help each year.

One result is that if each year new families need help, the public funding of these programs must continue to increase. Since that isn’t happening, those now in need do not get the help they need. One result is that we have 4,000 households in Massachusetts crowded into shelters and motels being paid for out of the state budget.

There are lots of efforts to try to solve the problem but there is no real master plan that legislators, advocates and state officials can agree on.

I think it is a mistake now to issue new "lifetime" MRVP vouchers to those timing out of HomeBASE because it enables a lifetime of dependency, because it feeds the expectation to those entering the system now that a lifetime of help may be available if they show a great enough need and hang on long enough, and because the lifetime subsidy prevents others in need from getting any meaningful financial help for years into the future.

At the present time the Department of Housing and Community Development’s Section 8 program, managed by regional non-profits like Housing Assistance Corporation, have about 20,000 families receiving monthly subsidies with approximately 100,000 households statewide on waiting lists for help that most will never get.

To be clear, people come in, they apply for something they need, and they leave hoping help will come. And it never will for most of them. Help is not on the way.

We need a fresh approach. Let’s try the following:

1) End lifetime rental subsidies at both the federal and state levels.

2) Create a simple homeless prevention program which provides one-time limited financial help to households with a crisis to keep them from becoming homeless in the first place. Income eligibility needs to be higher than past efforts in order to be able to effectively intervene before it is too late to avoid the crisis.

3) Create a standardized curriculum and fund teachers in state-funded shelters with an emphasis on using the resident time productively in learning family life skills, academic skills and job-readiness skills to help people move towards educational and vocational achievement.

4) Fund case managers for every 30 households who are in their first year of receiving rental assistance and a case manager for every 250 after one year in order to monitor and aid their progress towards independence.

5 ) Increase the minimum wage substantially in Massachusetts so that those qualifying for entry-level positions have some hope of being able to support themselves.

If people can’t live on what they earn our system isn’t working.

The patchwork of help we now provide isn’t working either.

Tags: Homeless on Cape Cod, housing assistance corporation, Rick Presbrey

Basket Party An Annual Tradition To Help Cape Cod Families in Need

Posted by Laura Reckford on Wed, Dec 11, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

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At the party Michael Princi throws every year to help homeless families, the host told a favorite story about how a small gesture can help someone in need.

He described a party he gave with his son, Patrick Princi, at HAC's NOAH Shelter one Christmas. They brought a karaoke machine to the shelter and everyone took a turn, including Michael.

With much coaxing, one homeless woman took her turn at the microphone and Michael said the entire group was amazed at her singing prowess. "It was like 'American Idol,'" he said. "She had perfect pitch."

Afterwards, the woman, who had been a foster child with no family of her own, thanked Michael Princi, telling him it was the best Christams she had ever had. Her reaction captures the magic of giving, he said.

Michael Princi has held a special party for 24 years as a way to collect baskets of Christmas presents for families in Housing Assistance Corporation's shelters. He asks friends to contribute and he said one friend thanked him for letting her buy for a family. "That's what it's about," he said. "Anonymous giving. Knowing you are helping other people who wouldn't have a Christmas."

HAC's Project Prevention Director Dolores Barbati-Poore said of the event, "It's wonderful. It's family to family."

HAC CEO Rick Presbrey paid tribute to Dolores, saying "She has done more to help homeless families in her career than anyone else on Cape Cod. She does it year after year. It takes its toll but she keeps on doing it." He added, "Working with people in need is a marathon, not a sprint. Keep doing it and trust that good things will happen."

Tags: Homeless on Cape Cod, Homeless