Housing Assistance Corporation Blog

Preventing Homelessness on Cape Cod

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Mon, Sep 10, 2018 @ 03:15 PM

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When it comes to money, $500 may not seem like much. But at HAC, it often is the difference between keeping a client in their home and them becoming homeless.

Over the past 25 years, HAC’s Project Prevention has worked to prevent homelessness through one-time emergency funds that go to pay utility bills, rent or mortgage arrears for individuals and families on Cape Cod and the Islands.

“A relatively small amount of money can resolve a really big problem,” said HAC’s Information and Client Services Manager Liz Belcher who assists individuals at risk of becoming homeless. Monica Mitchell, HAC’s family services supervisor, assists families at risk of becoming homeless.

Among Belcher’s recent clients is a woman in her 30s who holds a Section 8 voucher and was unable to work due to an injury. While she filed for unemployment and an adjustment on her rent, Belcher said, “both of those take time” so HAC used $439 from Project Prevention funds to cover her rent.

A frequent request, Belcher said, is individuals seeking money to prevent their utilities from being shut off. “Usually anywhere between $150 and $450 we give as a down payment on someone’s utility arrearage,” said Belcher. “And then we get them on a payment plan. It is really a leg up.”

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On average, Belcher said, she sees at least 15 clients a week who need funds to keep them in their homes or apartments.

That funding comes from two sources – the Dennis Yarmouth Ecumenical Council for the Prevention of Homelessness (DYECH) and the Barnstable Interfaith Council (BIC).

DYECH’s funding supports HAC’s homelessness prevention efforts for families while BIC’s funding goes towards individuals in danger of becoming homeless. Both raise funds for HAC through the sale of gift certificates to local supermarkets and restaurants that are sold at face value to the public. Because the faith-based groups purchase those certificates in bulk, they receive a discount, allowing five percent of each purchase to go towards HAC’s homelessness prevention efforts.

Since it was formed in 1993, DYECH has raised over $1.5 million to help keep local families in their homes and apartments and off the streets. BIC has raised nearly $400,000 for individuals.

For roughly 20 years, Deacon David Akin of St. Pius X Parish in South Yarmouth, has been involved in DYECH’s efforts to support HAC’s Project Prevention. “It is good for the soul,” he said of his involvement. “You’re doing something good for another human being or family.”

HOW YOU CAN HELP

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If you shop for food at a supermarket, then you can help prevent homelessness on Cape Cod. It’s that simple.

HAC sells gift certificates at face value to the following stores: Lambert’s; Shaw’s/Star Market; Stop & Shop; Ring Brothers; Peterson’s Market & Fancy’s in Osterville; Roche Brothers; Cape Cod Natural Foods; and Whole Foods as well as Country Garden; CVS; 99 Restaurant & Pub; and Dunkin’ Donuts.

Because the Dennis Yarmouth Ecumenical Council for the Prevention of Homelessness (DYECH) and the Barnstable Interfaith Council (BIC) purchase those certificates in bulk, they receive a 5 percent discount on them. For each certificate sold, that 5 percent goes to HAC to prevent individuals and families from becoming homeless.

Deacon David Akin of St. Pius X Parish in South Yarmouth said, “it should be a no-brainer” for people to participate in the program. “We are supposed to support our neighbors.”

Those interested in purchasing gift certificates to support HAC’s homelessness prevention efforts can do so at our office at 460 West Main Street in Hyannis.

Along with selling gift certificates, DYECH organizes free concerts twice a year where they collect donations on behalf of Project Prevention. It also works with local restaurants who donate a portion of their patrons’ checks to Project Prevention several times a year. Visit www.dyech.org for details on upcoming fundraisers.

 

Tags: DYECH, Project Prevention, Liz Belcher, homelessness, homelessness prevention, homeless prevention, Gift Cards for prevention, grocery cards for prevention, David Akin, Barnstable Interfaith Council, BIC

Donor Spotlight: Meg Chaffee

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Wed, Aug 01, 2018 @ 11:58 AM

 

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She has worked at HAC for more than 17 years, but Meg Chaffee’s connection to the agency goes back even further when she was once a client.

“I left a domestic violence situation and was allowed to go into one of HAC’s shelters,” she said. At the time, it was only her and her son, Justus, whose name is a combination of two words – “just” and “us” – that defined all the two had when they sought help from HAC.

In HAC, Meg and her son found the necessary support and resources to make their way through that difficult period in their lives. “There’s a lot HAC has helped me with,” she said, which included providing her with two cars from the agency’s now-defunct Wheels to Work Program. “I used to take the B-Bus with my son in Hyannis. Sometimes it would take an hour and a half to get to work when I worked at Toys R Us. When I got the car, it was nice because I could go to the grocery store and laundromat on my own.”

When Chaffee left the shelter, she received a Section 8 voucher that has provided her with financial assistance in paying her rent on Cape Cod.

In 2001, HAC had an opening for a Section 8 program representative which she applied to because she wanted to find a way to give back to those in need. “I wanted to help other people,” she explained.

A Commitment to HAC

While she has done that in her role, helping to administer HAC’s Section 8 vouchers, she has taken her commitment a step further – as a HAC donor.

In May, she was one of several longtime donors to be recognized at HAC’s Annual Dinner & Volunteer Recognition as part of the agency’s Loyalty Circle. She has donated annually to HAC for over 10 years in a row.

At $10 a month, it is admittedly not a lot, but she knows that she is doing her part so the agency can help others in need. She has her monthly donation taken directly out of her biweekly paycheck.

She hopes her giving will inspire her fellow HAC employees – the agency has a total of 111 full- and part-time staff – to do the same. “I’d like to challenge all of our employees, if they’re not already donating, to make that donation,” she said.

That challenge is coming during a significant milestone in her life. Last month, she gave up her housing voucher and is now able to pay her full rent. Chaffee is just one example that the agency’s programs provide tangible results.

When asked what HAC does best, she laughingly asked, “one thing?” before answering in this way: “It makes a better community.”

Why I Give

Along with her monthly donation to HAC, Meg Chaffee participates in the agency’s Cape Cod Caring Cards program, regularly purchasing Shaw’s gift certificates which result in donations that help keep individuals in their homes and off the streets.

Organized through the Barnstable Interfaith Council (BIC), the program allows the public to purchase gift cards at face value to participating stores and restaurants, including Lambert’s; Shaw’s/Star Market; Stop & Shop; Ring Brothers; Peterson’s Market & Fancy’s in Osterville; Roche Brothers; Country Garden; Cape Cod Natural Foods; Whole Foods; CVS; 99 Restaurant & Pub; and Dunkin’ Donuts.

Because the stores sell the gift certificates to BIC in bulk, they are discounted, which allows five percent of every purchase to go towards HAC’s Project Prevention for individuals, a program to prevent homelessness.

While it does not cost her anything extra, Chaffee said, purchasing the gift cards gives her the satisfaction of knowing that she may be helping an individual who may need emergency financial assistance to either stay in their home or to find a new, more stable place to live.

Gift certificates for BIC can be purchased at HAC’s office at 460 West Main Street in Hyannis. Click here for more info on the Cape Cod Caring Cards program. 

Tags: Project Prevention, Family Shelter, homelessness prevention, homeless prevention, HAC staff, HAC donors, Donor Spotlight, Meg Chaffee, Barnstable Interfaith Council, BIC