Housing Assistance Corporation Blog

Harwich Third Grader Gives Back to Angel House Clients

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Tue, Feb 21, 2017 @ 02:15 PM
Michael Webster-1.jpgMichael Webster (left) passes out gifts he purchased for the children at Angel House. 

As a client in HAC’s Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program, Harwich’s Amy Webster understands what it’s like to receive help from others. She has passed on those lessons of compassion to her nine-year-old son, Michael, who was on the giving side of the equation in December, when he opted to pay it forward to children staying in HAC’s Angel House shelter.

It started when the Websters were at Ocean State Job Lot, waiting patiently to check out. The woman in front of them was participating in the store’s program encouraging customers to purchase boots for veterans. In exchange, she received a gift card to Ocean State Job Lot which she gave to Michael “because of how well he was behaving,” Amy said.

Instead of using the card on himself, Michael wanted to find a way to help others. With his mother’s guidance, Michael decided to purchase toys and art supplies for those at Angel House, delivering them just one day shy of his own birthday in the middle of December.

The act of charity was well-received by those at the shelter, Amy said. Even better, her son was able to meet the recipients of his kindness, spending a few hours playing with them.

“I’ve seen, throughout my life, how doing things for others without expecting anything back has made a huge difference,” Amy said of why this was an important exercise for her son. “I want him to learn that other people’s feelings are more important than things, and you’re never too good to help other people.”

Since 2014, she has been working with Jan Nelson, HAC’s FSS coordinator, to attain personal goals, all in an effort to eventually move off state and federal subsidies.

The program provides incentives for clients to do so by establishing an escrow savings account that is available upon completion of FSS. Any increase in rent as a result of an increase in one’s salary is placed into that escrow savings account.

If Amy continues meeting her goals, she will eventually graduate from the program in December 2019. So far, she has already noticed the benefits of FSS. “It encourages people who are motivated to get a job, get off subsidized housing and is a stepping stone to a better life for you and your family,” she said.

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Tags: Family Self Sufficiency, Philanthropy, Angel House, FSS, holiday giving

HCEC Classes a Gift to Angel House Clients

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Feb 03, 2017 @ 11:17 AM
HCEC Angel House Edited-1.jpgHCEC Manager Cheryl Kramer (third from left) with several of the Angel House mothers who have benefitted from her financial literacy classes. 

Over the course of 45 minutes in the middle of November, Cheryl Kramer, HAC’s Housing Consumer Education Center (HCEC) manager, walked seven mothers staying at Angel House shelter in Hyannis, through the nuances of one’s credit and how best to rebuild it.

Kramer began with an explanation of credit scores. She then spoke about ways to build credit. And she followed with the importance of paying off debt, budgeting, types of credit cards and how to read a credit report.

She was offering simple, but practical advice for women who have been homeless and have struggled with addiction, and are now taking steps to move forward with their lives.

It was part of an ongoing effort by Kramer to bring three HCEC workshops – Creating a Budget, Rebuilding Your Credit and Be a Successful Tenant – to the shelter. She initially did so last summer and reintroduced the series of three classes to Angel House clients in October, November and December.

“You want to make sure your housing is protected for you and your family,” Kramer told the women during the November session on credit. “So first, pay your rent. Then your utilities. If you’re working, then you have to have transportation, whether you’re using the bus or getting a ride with a friend or you have your own car… If you can’t get to work, then you lose your job and then you lose your housing. It has a trickle-down effect.”

Planning for when the clients leave shelter, Kramer encouraged the women to find ways to reduce their financial burdens by utilizing local food pantries for groceries and agencies like HAC for assistance in purchasing Christmas gifts for their children.

After the November session, several of the mothers talked about how Kramer’s classes have impacted them. “I get worried because my daughter is due in January and where I kind of messed up my credit, I want to be able to financially support her,” Nicole said. “What Cheryl teaches us, it is very helpful and makes you feel hopeful that there is a way out.”

Jocelyn, another client, said the sessions have given her a roadmap to pay off her debt and build up her credit “so that I can eventually buy a house. I have three children so my goal is to eventually buy a house so I don’t have to keep moving around from place to place.”

And for Hayley, the classes are just another example of how Angel House has helped her. “It is teaching me how to be the best mother I can,” she said. “If it wasn’t for this place I wouldn’t have my son. I’m definitely grateful to be here because it gives me time to work on myself.”

In December, Cheryl Kramer attended the Citizens’ Housing And Planning Association (CHAPA) Homeownership Collaborative meeting in Boston, where she was presented a certificate recognizing HAC’s dedication and commitment to continually providing homebuyer education services to low- and moderate-income households since the Collaborative’s inception in 1996. To learn more about HAC's Housing Consumer Education Center offerings or to sign up for a class, click here

Tags: HCEC, Angel House, Cheryl Kramer, housing consumer education, financial literacy

4-H Club Brings Holiday Cheer to Angel House

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Jan 27, 2017 @ 05:14 PM
group fixed DSC_0604.jpgA sampling of some of the creative cook designs made during last month's holiday party organized by the Harwich 4-H Club. 

Candy canes covered in red and green stripes, a gingerbread man adorned with a smiley face and green sweater, and snowmen with top hats.

These were just a few of the decorative cookie creations that six members of Harwich’s 4-H Club made alongside mothers and children staying at HAC’s Angel House shelter. They did so together, sitting quietly at the dining room tables inside two of the houses on the Angel House property where frosting and sprinkles were applied carefully to sugar and gingerbread cookies.

This festive scene took place just four days before Christmas, part of an annual holiday tradition started by the club three years ago. Each year they do something different; last year was a potluck dinner followed by games and the year before they helped the families decorate the Christmas trees at Angel House.

“This is fun,” said Jaylene, one of the mothers at Angel House, as she decorated cookies next to her daughter. “It’s nice of them to donate their time.”

She has been at the shelter for nearly four months. “It has given me a sense of security,” she said. “I feel safe here.”

Once she leaves shelter, she hopes to go back to school and become a drug counselor. “I want to give back in some way and help people,” she said.

Tags: Angel House, volunteerism, Christmas, holiday giving

St. Francis Xavier Students Give Back

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Jan 27, 2017 @ 04:47 PM
St Francis-1.jpgAva Ferreira (from left), Aubrey Homa, Juliana Maurice, Kailey Gorsuch and Emily August of St. Francis Xavier Preparatory School hold up a few of the gifts and blankets that they and their classmates donated to children at Angel House. 

No other time of the year encourages giving more than the holidays. That is why over 50 seventh and eighth graders from St. Francis Xavier Preparatory School in Hyannis, purchased toys and designed baby blankets, which their parents and grandparents knit, that were given to children at HAC’s Angel House shelter last month.

Eighth grader Aubrey Homa explained their act of generosity in a simple way: “Christmas is the time for giving.”

“We want to help other people so they have a happy Christmas,” added her classmate Juliana Maurice.

“If we were in their situation, I know they’d want to help us too,” said eighth grader Ava Ferreira about the recipients of their goodwill.

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Tags: Angel House, Christmas, holiday giving, St. Francis Xavier

Basket Party Celebrates 25 Years of Anonymous Giving

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Wed, Jan 25, 2017 @ 10:15 AM
Princi Party Edited.jpgMichael Princi speaking at the gift party he helped organize last month. Princi and his family have organized the party for more than 25 years, encouraging their friends and family to purchase gifts for HAC clients in need. 

There may be no act of charity more powerful than anonymous giving. And over the past 25 years, Michael and Area Princi of Marstons Mills, their family and friends have done just that, giving thousands of children in HAC shelters a little joy during the holiday season.

They have done so by purchasing toys anonymously and bringing them to the Princi’s Christmas Basket Party held every December. This year, nearly 200 people participated in the annual event so that over 120 children in need would have gifts to open on Christmas morning.

“There are people who have absolutely nothing who we give to and we make their Christmas,” Michael told roughly 50 people in attendance at last month’s party held at the Cummaquid Golf Course. “So thank you from the bottom of my heart. Every year, everybody comes through and I really appreciate it. You don’t know how gratifying it is.”

Among those who are recipients of this kindness are children staying at Angel House in Hyannis. Lin Rohr, the facility director at the HAC shelter, expressed appreciation for those who participated in this year’s party, explaining what it can mean to those the agency serves.

She mentioned one child “who had given up hope” and initially said he did not want anything for Christmas. When pressed, the boy asked for a mini keyboard so he could practice the piano. The donor who picked the child’s name, Rohr said, has a passion for music and ended up purchasing a full keyboard for him.

“For this boy who is in junior high, it will give him his hope back,” Rohr said. “I know it will.”

It is just one example, she said, of “the connection between the generosity of the giver and the hopes of a child in need… I happen to be the bridge between both sides and it is phenomenal.”

Tags: Michael Princi, Philanthropy, Angel House, Christmas, charitable giving, Christmas Basket Party

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

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.” 

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

Music as a Form of Therapy

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Wed, Aug 24, 2016 @ 10:40 AM
Angel_House_Music_3.jpgRachel Youngling (far left) leads a music class at Angel House in June. 

She banged on a drum, shook egg shakers and waved see-through scarves, all while singing songs about little Johnny Brown and Jack in the Box to the delight of six children, ranging from infants to toddlers at HAC’s Angel House, in early June.

Once a month, Rachel Youngling brings this colorful, playful scene to both the Hyannis shelter and Carriage House shelter in North Falmouth. She has been doing so since February 2015 as a volunteer, wanting to expose mothers and their children at the two shelters to the beauty and power of music. This past December, she received two grants – one from the Mid-Cape Cultural Council and the other from the Falmouth Cultural Council – that are funding her work this year.

Even if she did not receive the funding, Youngling admitted, “I would be doing this anyway… That’s how important I feel it is.”

Youngling, who owns Musical Discoveries in West Yarmouth, has been offering early childhood music education on Cape Cod for the past nine years. She can often be found inspiring children at area preschools and libraries. She expanded her presence to HAC’s homeless shelters last year after hearing WCAI host Mindy Todd talking about Angel House on “The Point” and realizing that those being served at the shelter could benefit from an exposure to music.

Building Bonds Through Music
During her sessions, she focuses on getting mothers and their children to connect with one another through play and creative exploration. Underlying it all is one goal: to have fun. Youngling does that “by keeping it exciting and bringing in rhythm instruments and scarves to promote rhythmic development,” she said. “Every class, they play along with a basket full of different items such as triangles, drums and tambourines.”

Though she serves as the facilitator, Youngling encourages the mothers to get involved and lead by example for their child. “Every child’s number one teacher is their parent,” she explained.

Angel_House_Music_5.jpg
The results at both shelters have been promising. “We’ve seen the women make an amazing connection with their children,” Youngling said.

Angel House Facility Director Lin Rohr said the classes have presented “a vibrant dynamic” in which mothers and their children have been able to playfully express themselves through movement and music. And Youngling’s underlying goal is being met as Rohr noted, “it is just fun.”

For those who have experienced significant trauma in their lives, Youngling said, it is important to have the types of moments she provides, if even for a short while. “To be able to find that space where you can be happy, even if it is just 45 minutes, it makes such a difference,” Youngling said. “That’s why I love what I do: the power to help each individual find some happiness and joy in their immediate situation.”

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Tags: Carriage House, Angel House, art therapy, music therapy, Rachel Youngling

Angel House Playspaces Get a Makeover

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Thu, Jun 02, 2016 @ 11:06 AM
AHouse_Playspace-1.jpgPlayspace Activities Leader (PAL) Liz McKee makes a paper airplane with one of the children at Angel House in the newly redesigned playspace room by Horizons for Homeless Children.

Opportunities for play are vital for the growth of any child. It may be even more important for children who have experienced significant trauma like those at HAC’s Angel House shelter.

Because of that, Horizons for Homeless Children, a nonprofit based out of Roxbury focused on improving the lives of young homeless children in Massachusetts, has made recreation a priority for those it serves through its Playspace Program.

In Southeastern Massachusetts, Horizons has helped fund and design playspaces for 29 shelters including Angel House. The HAC shelter has two indoor playspaces, one for babies and toddlers and the other for older children, the latter of which recently received a facelift courtesy of Horizons.

At the end of April, there was a ribbon cutting held to showcase the new space for older children. The space for younger ones also received new furniture and materials though the work was not as extensive. Twice a week, children are given the opportunity to explore these rooms and the toys and books found inside under the direction of Playspace Activity Leaders, or PALs.

Lin Rohr, facility director of Angel House, said these spaces serve as an invaluable resource for children at the shelter. “They usually have enough volunteers so if a child has the need for a one-on-one experience, they can get that, which is incredible,” she said.

Every five to 10 years, Horizons will fund a complete reinstall of the playspace which was done with the one for older children. “We are redoing them so they are up to current design standards,” said Meghan Schafer, the playspace program director for Horizons. At Angel House that meant changing the layout of the room, the colors on the wall and floor and adding new toys, books and furniture.

As her son played nearby, Victoria Chase, a mother staying at Angel House, said she was thankful for Horizon’s generosity. “I think the kids get a lot of use out of this and it’s a safe place for them to play,” she said. “And it’s great for people like Horizons to spend time with our kids.” 

Tags: Angel House, Horizons for Homeless Children, Lin Rohr, playspace, Angel House Playspace

Art Therapy at Angel House

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Tue, Apr 26, 2016 @ 11:12 AM
Angel_House_3.jpgAngel House mothers and their children outside the Cultural Center of Cape Cod where their artwork was displayed last month. 

Art is not only an outlet for expression, it is a way for people to communicate and connect with one another. At HAC’s Angel House shelter, mothers and their children did just that thanks to a 12-week course that allowed them to tap into their creativity together.

The classes were taught by artist Brooke Eaton-Skea, a trained therapist, who met with mothers every Monday over the winter, educating them on some of the greats – Pablo Picasso, Alexander Calder and Piet Mondrian – that provided the inspiration and the foundation the women would use when working with their children. On Wednesdays, the mothers would then apply those lessons as they helped their children create their own collages, all under the watchful eye of Ms. Eaton-Skea.

Angel House director Lin Rohr said the exercise served as a form of art therapy for shelter clients. “There was no right or wrong way,” Rohr said. “It is another avenue for them to release the stress and the pressure they are going through, whether they are an adult or a child.”

The Cultural Center of Cape Cod funded the classes through its Rise and Shine program which provides art instruction to at-risk youth, directly tying into Angel House which serves mothers, and their children, overcoming addiction and homelessness.

The end result was an exhibit of the completed artwork held last month at the Cultural Center in South Yarmouth. There were over two dozen pieces that ranged from a depiction of Batman’s mask to an assortment of animal pictures cutout into a collage on poster board to a drawing of a locomotive making its way down train tracks.

Angel_House_Art1.jpgArt teacher Brooke Eaton-Skea in front of the Angel House artwork exhibited at the Cultural Center of Cape Cod last month. 

Ultimately, Rohr said, it was not about the finished product, but the journey the families took to get there.

Ms. Eaton-Skea’s favorite part was “seeing the women enjoying the children and enjoying the work.”

Wendy, who helped her nine-year-old son Dakota create the Batman piece, said she enjoyed the opportunity to bond with her child during the classes. “I think it was really nice for us to do something together,” she said.

Amy Neill, the director of education for the Cultural Center, said there is a real benefit to art for people that may have experienced trauma like those at Angel House. “It is just a good way to shut yourself down and find that happy place and use a different part of your mind,” she said. “Art education is very healthy for a person’s well-being.”

There is a good possibility Angel House mothers and their children will continue to benefit from this type of art therapy thanks to another Rise and Shine grant. And that, Ms. Eaton-Skea said, will only serve to help mothers looking for a positive outlet to channel their emotions. “Art is a great stress reliever,” she said. “That’s one of the reasons I love it. And it’s a good model for their children who can take out a pen or pencil and draw if they feel stressed out.”

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Tags: Angel House, Cultural Center of Cape Cod, art therapy