Housing Assistance Corporation Blog

HAC Supports Homeless During Arctic Blast

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Thu, Feb 08, 2018 @ 05:24 PM
Derick Bussiere-Edited (2718).jpgHomeless Outreach Specialist Derick Bussiere was one of four HAC staffers to assist the region’s homeless during last month’s stretch of frigid temperatures. 

The start of the new year brought with it one of the longest stretches of sub-freezing weather Cape Cod has seen in recent years. While many were able to retreat safely into the comfort of their own homes, there were some in the region who did not have that luxury.

Understanding the danger facing the Cape’s homeless, HAC lent its expertise and resources to a regional effort to get these individuals off the street and into temporary housing. “This was a result of the community, social service agencies, and the town coming together within probably a 24- to 48-hour window and putting together a plan so it would run as smoothly as possible,” HAC Homeless Outreach Specialist Derick Bussiere said. “It was really about life and death.”

The plan involved HAC and several social service agencies – Vinfen, Duffy Health Center, St. Joseph’s House, and the AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod – working closely with the Barnstable Police Department, the Town of Barnstable, and local churches to identify homeless individuals on the streets and woods of Cape Cod and moving them into area motels.

Funding for the temporary motel stays was provided by the Barnstable Police Department as well as Duffy Health Center’s In From the Streets, a program started in 2005 to support the homeless.

"It was more than likely people would have died. It was that cold out."

- Ann Marie Peters

HAC’s Homeless Outreach team, which includes Bussiere, Deborah McDonnell and Shannon Tracy, were joined by HAC Assistant Director of Family and Individuals Services Ann Marie Peters in conducting assessments and outreach to homeless individuals staying in hotels. They also provided transportation for the homeless to get to the hotels. 

Bussiere estimated that over 30 homeless individuals were placed in area motels, some for as long as 10 days, to keep them safe from the arctic temperatures. 

Last month’s weather, Bussiere said, enabled HAC staff to reconnect with some of the region’s chronic homeless who are typically harder to reach. “It does bring some of them out of the woodwork where we as outreach workers are able to try and engage with the individuals at that time they’re in the hotel or shelter,” he said. “After the weather gets nicer, they may disappear, but at least we’re able to make contact and put a name to a face and start building a relationship for when the individual is ready to try and get services.” 

The most important aspect of the community effort, Peters said, is that everyone had access to safe, secure housing, even if it was temporary. “What would have happened had this group not coordinated services for this population?” she asked. “It is more than likely people would have died. It was that cold out. It was well below freezing and there were many people who would have passed away because they didn’t have adequate shelter.” 

In the spring, HAC will join the community groups and agencies involved in last month’s response to identify a long-term plan moving forward.

Support HAC's Homeless Outreach Efforts

Tags: Homeless on Cape Cod, homelessness, Derick Bussiere, winter, Deborah McDonnell, homeless outreach, Barnstable CCIT, Shannon Tracy, Ann Marie Peters

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

Richard Waystack: Affordable Housing Champion

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Mon, Nov 20, 2017 @ 10:33 AM
HWLW-2 ( Richard Waystack).jpgBernadette and Richard Waystack during this summer's 25th Annual Bob Murray Housing with Love Walk. While in Harwich, they got some support from their granddaughter Juliet. 

With a 31-year career in the real estate industry on Cape Cod, Harwich’s Richard Waystack understands the vital role a home plays in one’s life. “It is the basis of all we do,” he said.

And so it is through housing that Waystack has not only made a living, but given meaning to his life. It started over three decades ago when he was introduced to the late Bob Murray, a former grant writer for HAC and a passionate advocate for affordable housing on Cape Cod.

Waystack helped Murray with a project undertaken by the Harwich Community Development Corporation which built seven affordable homes on Community Way during the 1980s. “When you drive by those houses they are like any other house in the neighborhood,” Waystack said. “And the people that live there are your neighbors and work here in town.”

Since that time, both Richard and his wife Bernadette, an artist and art teacher at Monomoy Regional High School, have been tireless in their efforts to address the region’s housing needs. Richard was a board member for the Harwich Ecumenical Council for Housing (HECH), the former president and director of The Family Pantry of Cape Cod, and has served as a volunteer with Habitat for Humanity of Cape Cod.

Over the past four years, the couple have walked the length of Cape Cod, from Provincetown to Falmouth, for one week every July as part of the annual Bob Murray Housing with Love Walk. They have done so in memory of Richard’s longtime friend Bob Murray, all while raising funds for HAC’s housing programs and services.

Richard said he and his wife were drawn to the agency after meeting HAC’s Margaret Benaka and Deanna Bussiere who have served as the drivers for those taking part in the annual walk. “Because those ladies were so passionate my wife said we should do more to help because HAC seems to be one of the biggest parts of the solution in battling housing insecurity,” Richard said.

The Waystack’s passion for supporting HAC has only grown because of the need for affordable housing that still exists in the region. “I think there are some great opportunities at HAC with a dynamic group of new leadership,” Richard said. “HAC can be the prime force in creating housing security here on Cape Cod.”

It is a cause that Richard, who was recently recognized with a Good Neighbor Award for his volunteerism from the Massachusetts Association of Realtors, will continue to champion. “What people don’t see is the other side of Cape Cod,” Richard said. “There are many people struggling and we’ve got to provide housing for them.”

Why We Give: Homeless Outreach

While Richard Waystack’s passion for addressing the region’s housing issues spans the gamut of services HAC provides, he expressed particular interest in the agency’s homeless outreach program.

Started in June 2016, the program currently consists of three case managers – Derick Bussiere, Deborah McDonnell, and Shannon Tracy – who are connecting the homeless on Cape Cod to the services they need to move into safe, stable housing. That housing can allow them to turn their lives around. From January to the end of September, the trio has worked with 175 clients, placing 26 into permanent housing.

“What that does is give hope to people,” Waystack said of the outreach program. “There are a huge population on the Cape who are not able to afford good, safe, warm housing… With permanent housing people are able to get better jobs and be a part of the economy. And they are able to better their own circumstances in life. Without permanent housing that is difficult for people.”

Support HAC's Homeless Outreach Efforts

Tags: Affordable Housing on Cape Cod, Housing with love walk, Deanna Bussiere, Richard Waystack, Bernadette Waystack, Derick Bussiere, Bob Murray, Margaret Benaka, homeless outreach, Harwich

HAC's Homeless Outreach Program Celebrates One-Year Anniversary

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Jun 09, 2017 @ 12:07 PM
Derick Edited-June 2017.jpgDerick Bussiere, a former housing search specialist at the NOAH Shelter, has served as HAC’s homeless outreach specialist since last June. Bussiere started working at HAC in April 2014. 

No great deed has ever been accomplished alone. It’s a fact of life that HAC’s Derick Bussiere has come to realize over the past year since he assumed the role of outreach specialist in June 2016.

In that capacity, Bussiere is tasked with working with the region’s homeless men and women living in the streets and woods of Cape Cod. His initial aim is to establish a level of rapport and trust with each individual so that he can safely move them into housing.

It’s admittedly difficult work, particularly when those he is trying to help suffer from mental health issues and struggle with substance abuse. “It can be frustrating when you bring someone to detox and a week or two weeks later, they are back,” he said. “Substance abuse is a hell of a thing. It really is.” 

As Bussiere celebrates his one-year anniversary as HAC’s outreach specialist this month, he is buoyed by the fact that he is not in this fight alone. He is one part of a larger group, the Barnstable Community Crisis Intervention Team (CCIT), that are all working towards the same goal – work cooperatively to find ways they can successfully move Barnstable’s homeless into safer housing situations.

The team includes representatives from Vinfen, Duffy Health Center, the Barnstable Police Department, the Barnstable Probation Department, Gosnold, and the AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod. HAC’s Ann Marie Peters, who oversees HAC’s Housing First program that rapidly houses the region’s chronically homeless, and Greg Bar, who conducts housing search for the region’s homeless, also work closely with the CCIT.

“What we try to do is figure out how we can come up with a plan so the people we’re helping can live successfully,” Bussiere said. “That is the goal.”

Sometimes, he said, that goal results in sending individuals off-Cape to the Pine Street Inn, a shelter for the homeless in Boston. “That may be the only solution for people to get an immediate roof over their head,” Bussiere explained.

Other times, the goal results in the individual remaining on Cape Cod. In March, Bussiere was able to help one homeless individual in Dennis secure housing locally. He realizes such outcomes are not always possible. “The elephant in the room is that on Cape Cod it’s harder and harder to find housing, no matter what, whether you’re homeless or not,” he said.

On any one day, Bussiere estimates that there are more than 25 individuals on Cape Cod - the number fluctuates and is difficult to pinpoint due to the nature of homelessness - that he and the CCIT are working to help. These are typically the most severe cases who can be difficult to reach.

It’s a job that Bussiere knows he could never do alone. “It is a big team effort to help a lot of these individuals and come up with solutions,” he said, which is why he backed this approach. “I’m a huge advocate for this Community Crisis Intervention Team. Every agency is really coming together and trying to find a solution because it’s not just one agency’s problem. It is a community-wide issue.”

Give A Home to Others

Tags: Homeless on Cape Cod, homelessness, Derick Bussiere, homeless outreach, Barnstable CCIT

Bussiere Honored with 40 Under 40 Award

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Thu, Sep 08, 2016 @ 08:30 AM


HAC’s Derick Bussiere was presented with a 40 Under 40 Award in June by Cape & Plymouth Business Magazine. The awards place a spotlight on those like Bussiere who are not only excelling in their careers, but making a positive impact on the region at a young age.

Bussiere has been with HAC since April 2014, first serving as a housing search specialist, helping to find housing for homeless men and women at the NOAH Shelter. He recently was promoted to outreach specialist, focused on engaging homeless men and women on Cape Cod and helping them access the services they need to get off the streets.

Prior to arriving at HAC, Bussiere has been a longtime volunteer at the agency thanks to his mother, Deanna Bussiere, who is HAC’s event and resource development coordinator and who has worked here for nearly 15 years. Derick’s volunteerism has included playing music at a number of HAC events, including last year’s Quahog Challenge.

Click here to learn more about Bussiere, his role at HAC and the contributions he has made to those we serve. 

Tags: Derick Bussiere, 40 Under 40

Outreach: A New Role for HAC

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Thu, Jul 28, 2016 @ 10:44 AM


It’s the first Thursday in July. Three 20-somethings are seated on a park bench on the Hyannis Village Green. HAC’s Derick Bussiere is engaged with one, talking about mutual friends they have in Dennis, while Duffy Health Center’s outreach case manager Rick Smillie and recovery support navigator Dominique DeCola are talking to another who mentions he has an appointment at Duffy later that day. The third sits, looking only at his phone, not making any effort to interact with the trio.

This is a typical scenario for Bussiere in his new position as the outreach specialist at HAC. He began the job in June, representing a major shift from his previous one as the housing search specialist at the NOAH Shelter.

The two roles have the same end goal: help find housing for the region’s homeless. But in his new post, Bussiere is meeting these individuals on their turf in hopes of developing a level of trust where he can connect them to services they need so they can get off the streets.

Bussiere partners with agencies, like Duffy Health Center, trying to serve a population that can sometimes be difficult to reach. As Jason Sturgis, a Barnstable police officer on the force’s Community Impact Unit, puts it, those like Bussiere are an invaluable resource for Cape Cod’s homeless. “Someone like Derick or Rick helps them navigate the network of services and are a useful tool for us,” he said.

While Bussiere’s work encompasses the entire Cape and the islands, his focus is Hyannis. Every day, he visits sections of town where the homeless are known to congregate, usually meeting up with those from other organizations that include not only Duffy and the Barnstable Police Department, but Vinfen and M25, an outreach group that works with the Cape’s homeless living in the woods.

Working Towards Progress

Admittedly, Bussiere said the work is difficult and it is harder to judge progress than his previous position because, “you can’t make anybody do anything.” Yes, he can offer assistance, but people do not have to accept it.

The first step in the process, he says, is building a relationship with those he is trying to help. “One of the biggest things is the trust factor,” he said. “It’s a lot of checking in with people and taking it one step at a time… When I did housing at NOAH, a lot of people who were getting housed had already passed a lot of steps. Right now, I’m working with a lot of individuals who are not there yet.”

Bussiere, Smillie and DeCola all listed a number of obstacles – unemployment, substance abuse, scarcity of drug treatment and lack of affordable housing – that can serve to impede those steps.

There is a real complexity to the situations Bussiere is confronted with on a daily basis. He references one 92-year-old World War II veteran who he was able to move into a nursing home with the help of Cape Cod Hospital, Vinfen and the Cape & Islands Veterans’ Outreach Center. It was a small victory that was quickly followed by defeat: 12 hours later that client died.

“I was talking to him one day and all of the sudden, I’m not,” Bussiere said. “The situation is over and you move on to the next person. It is a lot sometimes to deal with.”

Despite these difficulties, Bussiere and those he works with understand they play a key role in helping address homelessness in this part of the state “If we don’t do it, who will?” asked DeCola, mentioning the one thing that keeps them going: “There is always hope.”

Help End Homelessness

Tags: homelessness, HAC, NOAH Shelter, Derick Bussiere

New HAC Employee has Longtime Affiliation with Agency

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Thu, Sep 25, 2014 @ 03:50 PM

Derick Bussiere Photo resized 600

Technically, when Derick Bussiere started working at HAC in April as a housing search specialist he was considered a new employee. But to many he was a familiar face thanks to his longtime involvement in the nonprofit as a volunteer.

The Dennis native is probably best known for his musical contributions to past HAC events. He is currently the drummer for the band Twenty Eight which has performed at the Cape Walk to End Homelessness, the Volunteer Recognition Dinner and on HAC’s 4th of July parade floats.

Along with Twenty Eight, Bussiere has lent his talents to FYI (Free Your Imagination), his father David Bussiere’s band which has also played at several HAC functions.

Derick’s connection to HAC started over 12 years ago when his mother, Deanna Bussiere, the nonprofit’s event and resource development coordinator, was hired. His first days volunteering were spent helping HAC with mailings, including folding this same newsletter he is featured in this month.

His involvement in HAC activities quickly expanded to events ranging from the NOAH Shelter Telethon to the Golf Day to End Homelessness.

His mother recalled that both Derick and her younger son Devin took part in a Fun Day for all the shelters in which children worked on arts and crafts. When the pair came home Derick told his mother that one of the boys he had been working with that day did not have a home to call his own. “I let them both know ‘You should be so grateful for what you have,’” Deanna said.

It is a lesson that Derick, who holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from the University of Massachusetts Boston, has kept with him to this day. His resume includes stints at the Department of Youth Services Metro Pretrial Unit and Massachusetts Mentor, where he worked with children with a host of personal issues.

Those experiences gave him an insight into how adults can find themselves in similar situations. His job at HAC is to provide not only a sense of hope to clients, but a real mechanism by which their lives can change for the better. “My job is to put a roof over somebody’s head,” he said.

He acknowledged that some cases are more difficult than others, but he has been buoyed by the successes he has had so far. That happened with one homeless woman who had been staying at the NOAH Shelter and sleeping on nearby beaches.

“She had been physically and mentally abused and had gotten kicked out of her house,” Derick said. “Just three days after she came in we were able to get her assistance and place her in a home... I gave her a call the other day and she was doing really well and had started a garden at the place. She seems to be getting back on track which is good.”

These type of stories are heartwarming to his mother who praised Derick for the compassion and empathy he has shown for HAC clients. “I’ve listened to other colleagues telling me, ‘My goodness your son is such a great addition to HAC,’” she said. “I’m so proud of his accomplishments and the man he has become today.”

Tags: HAC, Deanna Bussiere, Derick Bussiere