Housing Assistance Corporation Blog

HAC Restructures HCEC to Better Serve Clients

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Jan 05, 2018 @ 01:51 PM
Liz Belcher-1.jpgLiz Belcher, HAC’s Information and Client Services Manager, in the agency’s newly redesigned reception area.

In the coming weeks, HAC will be altering the way it conducts intake for those seeking assistance at its Hyannis office on 460 West Main Street. The change is intended to enhance services while ensuring clients experience a smoother, more efficient level of support.

“Our goal is to improve and expedite services for people who are coming in and requesting assistance,” explained Cassi Danzl, HAC’s Director of Family and Individuals Services.

The shift is part of a reorganization of HAC’s Housing Consumer Education Center (HCEC). HAC is one of only nine HCECs across Massachusetts and the only one serving Cape Cod and the Islands. Established in 2001, HCECs conduct client intake and referrals, assist with housing search, provide foreclosure and reverse mortgage counseling, and offer financial literacy workshops.

This year, HAC will make several changes to the operation of its HCEC, starting with intake. Until recently, clients would check-in with the receptionist and be referred to HAC’s Liz Belcher, who would identify the proper internal or external program that could best address each person’s needs.

This resulted in a heavy caseload for Belcher, who has worked at HAC for 16 years and sees between 200 and 300 clients per month.

New Intake Coordinators

Under the new system, HAC will have two staff in the entrance area who will serve as intake coordinators, easing Belcher’s caseload. Belcher, who was recently promoted to Information and Client Services Manager, will conduct more intensive casework for clients that need a higher level of support.

In addition to the intake coordinators, Belcher will oversee two new housing counselors that will be added to HAC’s HCEC. These employees will conduct reverse mortgage and foreclosure prevention counseling as well as housing search. Previously, these responsibilities had been divided up among separate staff members.

“There will be less starting and stopping and telling your story multiple times to multiple people,” Danzl said of how this will ultimately benefit clients.

HAC will also be hiring a Regional Trainer who will conduct financial literacy workshops – First-Time Homebuyer, Rebuilding Your Credit, Creating a Budget, Post Purchase, Be a Successful Tenant, Community Resources, and Housing Search – not only at HAC’s Hyannis office, but off-site in communities throughout Cape Cod and the Islands.

All of these behind-the-scenes changes are being made at the same time HAC completes the redesign of its reception area to be more modern and welcoming with resources more readily available to clients. “I’m excited to implement something that we are anticipating is going to drastically improve the service access for people on the Cape and also on both islands,” Danzl said. 

Tags: HCEC, Liz Belcher, HAC, housing consumer education, financial literacy, Family and Individual Services Department, Cassi Danzl, Intake Coordinators, intake

New Outreach Specialist Dedicated to Helping Cape's Homeless

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Mon, Dec 11, 2017 @ 04:32 PM
Shannon Tracy-1.jpgHAC’s new outreach specialist Shannon Tracy with her colleague Deborah McDonnel’s dog Ida. Tracy moved to Cape Cod in September.

Working with the homeless can be challenging, but HAC’s newest outreach specialist Shannon Tracy understands those difficulties are far outweighed by the positives. “Knowing you can at least assist them on the next step of their journey is the rewarding part of it,” she said.

Hired in October, Tracy may be a relative newcomer to Cape Cod, but she has extensive experience working with vulnerable populations. Since graduating with a bachelor’s degree in psychology from SUNY Old Westbury in 2010, she has worked with the homeless, helping find permanent housing for clients at Penates, an emergency shelter on Long Island, New York.

“I was always interested in helping people,” Tracy explained of why she became a social worker. “I started as a shelter worker to get my feet wet and enjoyed working with the population.”

What she has discovered over the past seven years is that homelessness “doesn’t discriminate… I think that is a major misconception. People don’t think it can happen to them when it can really happen to anyone.”

Cassi Danzl, HAC’s director of family and individuals services, said Tracy has a perfect skillset to effectively work with at-risk populations.

She has brought those skills to HAC where she is one of three staff – Derick Bussiere and Deborah McDonnell are the others - that conduct outreach with the homeless living in the streets and woods of Cape Cod. She works closely with several local agencies, including Duffy Health Center, Vinfen, Homeless Not Hopeless, and CHAMP Homes, to ensure the region’s homeless have access to the services they need to move into stable housing.

Housing, Tracy said, is the key component that can enable homeless individuals to turn their lives around. “I think it gives them a sense of purpose and independence, and provides them the stability to move onto their next goals,” she said.

Support HAC's Homeless Outreach Efforts

Tags: Homeless on Cape Cod, Homeless, Derick Bussiere, Deborah McDonnell, Family and Individual Services Department, homeless outreach, Cassi Danzl, Shannon Tracy

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

DYECH Celebrates Fundraising Milestone

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Apr 07, 2017 @ 11:26 AM
DYECH Edited.jpgAt its meeting last month, DYECH presented HAC's Cassi Danzl with an $8,000 check which pushed its fundraising total to $1.5 million since the group's inception. The money has been used to prevent families on Cape Cod from becoming homeless.

In the grand scheme of things, $8,000 may seem like a relatively small amount of money, but in the beginning of March, it represented a major milestone for a group of residents committed to helping their neighbors in need.

When that donation was given to Cassi Danzl, HAC’s director of Family and Individual Services, it pushed the group, better known as the Dennis-Yarmouth Ecumenical Council for the Prevention of Homelessness (DYECH), over $1.5 million raised since it was formed in 1993.

HAC founder Rick Presbrey said the genesis of DYECH was “to prevent people from entering shelters and motels and keep them in housing,” an effort spearheaded by the late Bob Murray in conjunction with parishioners and staff at Christian churches in Dennis and Yarmouth that had reached out to HAC asking how they could support the agency.

And so DYECH was born. Golf tournaments, ham and bean dinners, chicken pot pie suppers and community concerts are just a few of the ways they have raised money to prevent homelessness on Cape Cod and the Islands over the past 24 years.

DYECH has also been able to raise funds from the bulk purchase of gift certificates to participating stores such as Shaw’s, Stop & Shop, Whole Foods and CVS. It then sells those gift certificates at face value to those in the community. For every dollar spent, DYECH receives five percent that goes directly to HAC’s homelessness prevention efforts for families.

Debbie McDevitt-Hayes of Yarmouth, who has been involved with DYECH since the beginning, recalled that the late Art Kimber, a member of the clergy at St. David’s Episcopal Church in Yarmouth, and Deacon David Akin of St. Pius X Parish in South Yarmouth, were instrumental in the launch of DYECH and bringing neighboring churches into the fold.

DYECH’s Early Days
“Those early days were exciting days for sure,” she said, noting that it was less about the money raised and more about the number of families they were able to help. “HAC was good at keeping us posted as to putting a personal face on what was happening. Sometimes you’d meet some of the clients that you helped which was really exciting.”

As to DYECH reaching this fundraising milestone last month, she said, “I’m sure if we put the faces on that $1.5 million it would have a huge impact.”

Akin said the reason for the continued dedication to DYECH is simple: there are people in need. “They say that for 60 or more percent of Cape Codders, if one or two paychecks don’t come, the party is over,” he said. “There is a real hand-to-mouth economy for the have nots.”

“I think we all have to help each other,” said Yarmouthport’s Barbara Lussier, who manages the gift certificate program for DYECH. “Some of us are more fortunate than others, but I think it’s important for us to give back.”

While all agreed there is still more to do, current DYECH President Steve Sozanski was proud of all the group has accomplished. “It’s mind-boggling to think we’ve raised that much money organizing meals and concerts three or four times a year and buying and selling gift cards in bulk,” he said.

Presbrey agreed, calling DYECH’s work “amazing, actually. For them to do it all these years is impressive and also the energy with which they do it. They’ve kept up the program and prevented people from being homeless and keeping them in their current housing. It’s been a huge thing, really.”

To learn more about ways you can help prevent homelessness simply by purchasing a gift card to a local supermarket, store or restaurant, click this link.

You can also purchase gift cards at HAC's office at 460 West Main Street in Hyannis. Contact Margaret Benaka at 508-771-5400, ext. 272, or at mbenaka@haconcapecod.org for more information. 

Tags: DYECH, Project Prevention, homelessness prevention, Steve Sozanski, homeless prevention, Rick Presbrey, Gift Cards for prevention, David Akin, St. Pius X School, Cassi Danzl, Barbara Lussier, Debbie McDevitt-Hayes

Cassi Danzl Leads Family and Individual Services

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Mon, Mar 13, 2017 @ 11:25 AM
Cassi Edited-1.jpgCassi Danzl joined HAC in January. She oversees the agency's Family and Individual Services Department which includes housing search, homelessness prevention, HAC's financial literacy workshops and homeless outreach efforts throughout Cape Cod. 

One of the first things visitors to Cassi Danzl’s office at HAC will notice are the framed pictures that decorate the walls. There are photos of Greece, Scotland and even some of Cape Cod, all taken by Danzl.

Travel has been a huge part of Danzl’s life ever since she was a child. “I’m originally from Chicago,” she said. “My dad worked for a railroad so we moved from Chicago to Minnesota. Then we returned to Chicago, then Pennsylvania and then back to Chicago, where I graduated high school.”

The common thread from her globetrotting adventures has been volunteerism. “I volunteered a lot as a kid,” she said. “We grew up doing work trips to different parts of the United States in Alabama, Kentucky, on a Native American reservation in South Dakota. We were always active in terms of helping.”

So it should come as no surprise that Danzl, HAC’s new director of Family and Individual Services, chose a career in the social services. Following her high school graduation, she received a bachelor of arts in psychology from the University of Indianapolis in 2007 before earning her master’s degree in counseling psychology from Assumption College in Worcester in 2010.

While at Assumption, Danzl started working as a case manager at a residential facility for intellectually disabled adults for Arbour Counseling Services in Worcester. Over the next four years, she remained in Central Massachusetts, becoming a mental health clinician – she is a certified mental health counselor – and then a senior site coordinator, overseeing a community-based program that provided intensive therapy for families with children under the age of 21 who had significant emotional and mental health issues.

Moves to the Cape

Roughly three years ago, Danzl moved to Cape Cod to become the center director for Arbour Community Services’ outpatient mental health clinic in West Yarmouth.

She arrived at HAC in January and currently oversees a staff of 11 employees. She manages HAC’s Housing Consumer Education Center (HCEC) which includes intake counselor Liz Belcher, who is typically the first point of contact for clients who walk through HAC’s doors seeking assistance with their housing issues. The programs in Danzl’s department include housing search; homelessness prevention; permanent supportive housing; outreach to the homeless living in the streets and woods of Cape Cod; financial literacy workshops; and the agency’s housing counseling efforts on Martha’s Vineyard.

Under her purview, HAC serves a range of clients, from those most in need to people looking to purchase their first home. “I think it’s easy to see how impactful we can be, from prevention where $200 can change someone’s housing situation to our first-time homebuyer’s classes,” she said. “We’re dealing with both ends of the spectrum. It is pretty broad.”

One of the lessons Danzl said she has learned from all her travels is that different parts of the world struggle with different issues. “Here on the Cape, the housing stock and affordable housing is obviously an issue,” she said.

She is excited to help HAC play a role in solving those issues, tying into her goals as a child when she knew she wanted to pursue a career that allowed her to help others. “Existentially, my goal is that when I leave or die, that I’ve left something different than what it was when I started, hopefully, in a positive way,” she said. “I don’t want to just be a visitor while I’m here. I want to be invested in making a difference.”

Tags: HCEC, homelessness, homeless prevention, housing consumer education, financial literacy, Family and Individual Services Department, homeless outreach, Cassi Danzl