Housing Assistance Corporation Blog

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

HAC Supports Falmouth's Most Vulnerable Residents

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Mon, Sep 11, 2017 @ 03:58 PM
DSC_0240.jpgHAC Case Manager Deborah McDonnell has been assisting Falmouth residents in need since July as part of a Falmouth Human Services grant to serve those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

In July, HAC began a new program working with the Town of Falmouth’s Human Services Department to prevent homelessness for Falmouth residents. 

Sometimes asking for help can be the hardest part of homelessness prevention. It took one client six weeks to finally summon up the nerve to meet with HAC Case Manager Deborah McDonnell who manages the Falmouth homelessness prevention program. “Every time he tried to come in, there was some excuse, ‘Oh, the car. Oh, this.’ At the point when he came in, he was so ashamed,” she said. “It must have taken so much courage to start telling his story.”

The father, in his 40s, is raising five children on a $4,000 a month salary; his wife is a stay-at-home mother raising their youngest. “His expenses got out of control with the kids,” McDonnell said. “He didn’t know what to do.”

This is just one of the 19 clients McDonnell is currently working with in Falmouth. Of those, six are homeless and the other 13 are at risk of homelessness.

McDonnell has been assisting these clients thanks to a $20,000 grant from Falmouth that covers two days of case management services for Falmouth’s most vulnerable residents who are struggling for a variety of reasons.

When it comes to homelessness, McDonnell said, the first step is addressing the crisis. The next step is to get clients the services they need to provide short-term stability. And the final step is achieving long-term stability.

McDonnell works internally with HAC staff and externally with a variety of agencies, from the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance to Falmouth Human Services to the Falmouth Service Center to Duffy Health Center to Vinfen, to get these clients the help they need to turn their lives around.

“When people ask for help, of course there is help,” McDonnell said. “The thing I say to clients after hearing their story is that this is all going to be a series of steps. I don’t have a magic answer to give to you today. This is all going to be steps.”

Give Hope to a HAC Client

Tags: Homeless on Cape Cod, homelessness prevention, Falmouth, Deborah McDonnell, Falmouth Human Services

HAC Addresses Homelessness in Falmouth

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Mon, Dec 12, 2016 @ 12:43 PM
Belonging to Each Other Edited.jpgEllie Shaver (from left), Alan Burt and HAC's Deborah McDonnell are working to assist Falmouth's homeless this winter to get the services they need to turn their lives around. 

What’s it like to be homeless? “Hell, literally,” said 39-year-old Brian (his name has been changed to protect his identity) on the first day of December as he stood outside a Falmouth motel that will serve as his temporary home over the winter.

For nearly two months, Brian had lived in a tent in the woods in Falmouth. “I wish I could take you there. It is flooded,” he said, before pausing to assess his current situation. “This is great. You sent me angels.”

Brian is one of 13 men and women who will benefit from a joint program between HAC and Belonging to Each Other to assist Falmouth’s homeless, from December to the end of March. An East Falmouth home is being rented to house four of them while the remainder of the men and women will stay at two motels in town.

This fall, HAC received a $9,000 grant from Falmouth Human Services to provide case management for the individuals. HAC’s Deborah McDonnell will serve in that capacity.

The program is being managed by Alan Burt, a longtime homeless advocate and co-founder of Homeless Not Hopeless in Hyannis. Last year, Burt worked with HAC and members of several faith-based groups which formed Belonging to Each Other in an effort to find a way to address homelessness in that Upper Cape community. The results were promising: out of 27 homeless individuals, they were able to place 20 of them into housing.

Addressing the Gap in Services

“Initially this started because you can’t let people die from the cold in the winter,” said Falmouth’s Ellie Shaver, a parishioner at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church which has taken a leading role in the program. “The more you learn about homelessness, the more you realize there is a huge hole on the Cape, that there is a population of people who live here, who were born here, some of whom work here and who just can’t afford housing.”

And so HAC has lent its support and expertise to solve homelessness at a micro level. “What we’re trying to do is work in communities, in the Mid-Cape area and, in particular, highly populated areas, to help the homeless people stay in their communities of origin rather than having people come to Hyannis for shelter,” explained HAC CEO Rick Presbrey.

If successful, Burt said this could potentially serve as a model that could be replicated in other communities across Cape Cod.

For now, the goals are more modest: provide those like Brian with a safe haven over the next few months so he can start to rebuild his life. “This is a godsend,” he said, before he identified what he hoped to achieve over the next few months. “I want to save up my money so I can have my own place.”

Help End Homelessness

Tags: homelessness, Falmouth, Belonging to Each Other, Alan Burt, Deborah McDonnell