Housing Assistance Corporation Blog

Cape Housing Institute: The Participants

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Tue, Nov 14, 2017 @ 01:55 PM

Since the middle of last month, 140 elected and appointed officials, municipal employees, and members of town boards, committees, and commissions on Cape Cod have come together to learn about ways they can begin to address the affordable housing needs in their communities.

It’s all part of the Cape Housing Institute, a joint initiative between HAC and Community Development Partnership (CDP). During the six-week session, experts in the field of housing, zoning, design, and planning are sharing their insights to assist municipal leaders as they tackle this issue.

Next year, HAC and CDP will be bringing back the Cape Housing Institute while also giving the general public an opportunity to lend their support to the region's housing efforts through Advocacy Training. Click here to learn more and to keep updated on these upcoming housing workshops. 

John Cotton.jpgJohn Cotton
Mashpee Selectman

Why He Enrolled in the Institute: I’m looking to be more informed specifically about the housing challenges on Cape Cod.

Why Affordable Housing is an Important Issue: I think our challenge right now [in Mashpee] is new families starting out. They need a break to get started and to build a family that can grow up on Cape Cod. I think [affordable housing] gives them that capability.

Julian Suso.jpgJulian Suso
Falmouth Town Manager

Why He Enrolled in the Institute: It provides an opportunity to be exposed to, meet with, and discuss with our peers in nearby communities how they are responding to the affordable housing challenges we’re all encountering.

Why Affordable Housing is an Important Issue: Affordable housing is critical because it underlies any community’s ability to really welcome people of all backgrounds and all experiences… It is fundamental to the quality of life in any community to have housing in all price ranges.

Tags: Affordable Housing on Cape Cod, Affordable Development on Cape Cod, Affordable Housing Development on Cape Cod, Mashpee, Falmouth, Cape Housing Institute, Community Development Partnership, Cape Community Housing Partnership, John Cotton, Julian Sus

Editorial: A Responsibility to One Another

Posted by Alisa Galazzi on Thu, Nov 02, 2017 @ 12:05 PM
DSC_3522.jpgAmong the volunteers at this year's Big Fix were a number of high school students on Cape Cod. 

Every Sunday, as a child, I would go to my grandparent’s house for dinner. During those meals, they would give me a list of small chores to accomplish while I was there. 

Embedded in these chores were life lessons; it was a way of showing my love for my grandparents. Doing these tasks was also a reminder of our connection to one another and that, in large ways and small, we all have a responsibility to each other.

As my grandparents got older, their needs grew to the point where they relied on more than just small chores. When I went away to college, my cousins stepped up, making sure my grandparents were not only loved, but received the care and comfort they needed to survive.

Unfortunately, not everyone has this luxury in today’s society. Families are often scattered throughout the country and picking up the phone to have a sister, brother, son or daughter quickly help is not so simple.

Once a year at HAC, we fill this void through our Big Fix. It’s an inspiring event, one that saw 340 volunteers help 18 complete strangers last month as part of our 8th Annual Big Fix in Falmouth.

The volunteers did relatively small tasks – clearing brush, installing new kitchen tile, painting a deck – in a few hours. The work may seem minor in nature, but the homeowners we spoke to admitted there was no way they could have done this on their own.

These people included a 91-year-old World War II veteran, a disabled woman who lost her husband a few years ago, and a legally blind couple in their 80s who have been married for over 50 years. For each, it was not easy asking for help. But when they did, there was no shortage of people who eagerly volunteered their time, talents, energy and enthusiasm to provide a little care and a lot of comfort to our neighbors in Falmouth.

It was a wonderful display of kindness that exemplified the best of Cape Cod. And it was an important reminder of the connection and responsibility we have to one another.

Tags: Affordable Housing on Cape Cod, Big Fix, Falmouth, Alisa Galazzi, Falmouth Big Fix, home repair

Falmouth Big Fix a Display of Community

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Tue, Oct 17, 2017 @ 11:51 AM
Big Fix-17-5.jpgClifford Long repairs a front step during the Big Fix in Falmouth last month. 

With one knee on the ground, Falmouth’s Clifford Long hammered a nail into a piece of wood, repairing the front steps leading into John Martin’s North Falmouth home.

“I think this is something we should do more of,” said Long, taking a short break as dozens of other volunteers around him removed brush from Mr. Martin’s yard. In the back a crew from Home Depot was staining Mr. Martin’s deck. “So many people, we could make their homes affordable if we all put a little love and attention into them.”

About 20 feet away, Mr. Martin sat in a wheelchair inside his home. An Army veteran who served two years in Korea, Mr. Martin marveled at the kindness of complete strangers like Clifford Long. “You know what this is like? You hear people talking about neighborhoods. If this isn’t a sign of a neighborhood, I don’t know what is.”

What Mr. Martin calls a neighborhood, others call community, and in the middle of last month, there was plenty of that on display during HAC’s 8th Annual Big Fix in Falmouth. A total of 340 volunteers – a record for the Big Fix – showed up to make small improvements to 18 homes owned by veterans, seniors and disabled residents in the Upper Cape community.

If that wasn’t enough, one small group dedicated their time to beautifying the Falmouth Senior Center.

Big Fix-17-6.jpgBig Fix recipient Tina Barr (left) with Rev. John Terry of the First Congregational Church in Sandwich and HAC's Meg Chaffee. Rev. Terry, an advocate for affordable housing, organized a group of volunteers, the "First Fixers", from the church. 

“This is really the meaning of community service and it’s what makes the Cape and Islands so special,” said Falmouth Selectman Megan English Braga during the kick-off to the Big Fix at the Lawrence School.

At the kick-off, HAC CEO Alisa Galazzi took a moment to praise the work the volunteers were doing. “It really means a lot to be able to have this community support and to come out and help these [people],” she said. “This helps them stay in place.”

These were people like 91-year-old Jim Crossen who served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. At his home, a small crew of volunteers repaired his garage door while his daughter Jamie spoke about what the Big Fix meant to her. “What I think is really great is that knowing my dad, he has given so much to the community and volunteering his time, and now it’s nice it comes full circle and people are doing the same for him,” she said.

“I never could do this myself,” West Falmouth’s Valerie Tillman said outside her home where volunteers were clearing brush, removing weeds, and mulching her flower beds.

It was a similar scene at Dorothy Sgarzi’s home in East Falmouth, where volunteer Dana Robert remarked, “It is amazing how much work you can do with so many hands” after crews had finished beautifying her yard.

While the calendar may have read September 16, Christine (Tina) Barr of East Falmouth said the Big Fix actually felt like a holiday. “It was like Christmas morning,” she said. “This was much more than I could have ever imagined.”

Donate to the Falmouth Big Fix 

 

Tags: Philanthropy, volunteerism, Big Fix, HAC Volunteers, Falmouth, Falmouth Big Fix, veterans

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 Seeks Volunteers for Falmouth Big Fix

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Tue, Aug 08, 2017 @ 03:23 PM
Big_Fix_Brewster_-_1.jpgHAC is seeking volunteers for its 8th Annual Big Fix which is coming to Falmouth on Saturday, September 16. 

If there was ever a question as to the need for the Big Fix, it was erased when HAC received a record 65 applications from Falmouth homeowners.

“There was a huge response,” said HAC’s Director of Community Relations Laura Reckford. “Now we need volunteers so that we can help as many applicants as possible.”

Now in its eighth year, the Big Fix relies on volunteers to make small home repairs for income-eligible veterans, seniors and disabled homeowners in one town on Cape Cod. It started in Barnstable in 2010 and has since been to Sandwich, Dennis, Mashpee, Yarmouth, Bourne, and, last year, Brewster. This year’s Big Fix is scheduled for Saturday, September 16.

“The Big Fix is volunteer-powered,” said HAC’s Volunteer Coordinator Mary Everett-Patriquin. “There would be no Big Fix without the volunteers.”

HAC is seeking both skilled and unskilled volunteers who will tackle such projects as landscaping; trash removal; repairing stairs, fences, decks, and outdoor walkways; interior and exterior painting; roofing; light carpentry; and basic plumbing and electrical work.

Volunteer for the Falmouth Big Fix

  • You can sign up as a Volunteer or,
  • Sign up as a Fundraising Volunteer (either as a team or individually) or,
  • Do both!

The deadline to register is Friday, September 1. Click the green button below to get started!

Register To Volunteer

The Big Fix will kick off with registration at 8 am at the Lawrence School on Lakeview Avenue in Falmouth. A light breakfast will be provided by Whole Foods Market in Hyannis and Beanstock Coffee in Wellfleet. Following a short ceremony, volunteers will depart to their assigned homes by 9 am. The majority of the work will be completed by noon at which time all volunteers are invited back to the Lawrence School for a lunch provided by 99 Restaurants in Falmouth.

Satisfaction from Helping Others

Everett-Patriquin said one of the most rewarding aspects of the Big Fix is that volunteers get to see the fruits of their labor almost immediately. “I think people get a deep sense of satisfaction from the knowledge that they’ve helped someone in need,” she said. “And I think another part of it is that people get a lot of satisfaction out of the teamwork aspect of it. Sometimes people are serving with a group and it’s a real bonding experience for them.”

This year, HAC has added an opportunity for volunteers to enhance their impact even further by signing up as fundraisers as part of the first-ever Fix-a-Thon.
Funds raised will not only help to offset the nearly $50,000 it costs to organize the Big Fix, but to help address the need witnessed by the large number of recipient applications HAC received.

The Fix-a-Thon will support HAC’s efforts to keep residents in their homes through the agency’s homelessness prevention program, and bolster its foreclosure and reverse mortgage counseling as well as its weatherization program for low-income households. It will also allow HAC to expand its home repair program which would enable the agency to cast a wider net in helping the types of people the Big Fix serves on a year-round basis.

Volunteers who raise $250 or more will receive a special prize and be recognized at the Big Fix kickoff on September 16.

Tags: Mary Everett Patriquin, Fundraising, Big Fix, HAC Volunteers, 99 Restaurant, Falmouth, Laura Reckford, Falmouth Big Fix, Whole Foods, Fix-A-Thon

Housing with Love Walk Celebrates 25th Anniversary

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Jul 07, 2017 @ 02:44 PM
HWLW Harwich 1.jpgJane Goodman (from left), Rev. John Rice, DJ Sullivan, and Richard and Bernadette Waystack during the 2016 Housing With Love Walk. 

Several familiar faces will walk one end of the Cape to the other next week, all to raise awareness to the housing challenges facing the region. A small contingent of those walkers will do so to support HAC’s housing programs on Cape Cod and the Islands as part of the 25th Annual Bob Murray Housing with Love Walk. 

HAC is one of nine housing nonprofits that will participate in the annual event. This year’s walk will begin next Monday, July 10 in Provincetown, with participants walking more than 100 miles and through each town on Cape Cod. It concludes on Sunday, July 16 in Falmouth.

Those walking on behalf of HAC next week include Richard and Bernadette Waystack of Harwich, Rev. John Rice of South Yarmouth, and Nekea Frisbee of Falmouth. While this will be Frisbee’s first year participating in the walk for HAC, both the Waystacks and Rev. Rice have done so in recent years.

On the final day of the event, HAC supporters are invited to meet at the Falmouth Village Green at 11 am and walk the last 3.5 miles to the Church of the Messiah in Woods Hole.

To learn more about the walk, click here. To donate to the walk, click here

Tags: Housing with love walk, Richard Waystack, Bernadette Waystack, Fundraising, Bob Murray, Falmouth, HAC Celebrity Walkers, charitable giving

HAC Seeks Recipients for Falmouth Big Fix

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Wed, Jun 28, 2017 @ 10:58 AM
Brewster_Big_Fix-18.jpgAmong the groups that regularly participate in the Big Fix is AmeriCorps Cape Cod. The organization helped HAC create the Big Fix in 2010 when it was held in Barnstable. Now in its eighth year, the day of service will be going to every town on Cape Cod. 

Last fall, 278 people volunteered their time to participate in HAC’s Big Fix in Brewster. It was a record turnout for the annual event in which volunteers spend a few hours making small home improvements for veterans, seniors and disabled homeowners in one town on Cape Cod.

On Saturday, September 16, the Big Fix will be coming to Falmouth. What can we expect this year? More of the same, according to HAC’s Director of Community Relations and Fundraising Laura Reckford. “We’re hoping for more in Falmouth,” she said. “As a Falmouth resident myself, I am really excited that for the eighth year of the Big Fix, it is in Falmouth. The town, through the Board of Selectmen, has already been very supportive and we have already had a number of people reach out to us to be volunteers.”

HAC is currently seeking Falmouth residents who are interested in becoming recipients of this year’s Big Fix. Applications can be found online at www.haconcapecod.org or at Falmouth Town Hall, the Falmouth Senior Center, and any of the public libraries in Falmouth. The deadline to apply is Friday, July 14.

Applicants must either be an income-eligible veteran, senior or disabled homeowner in Falmouth. HAC anticipates selecting anywhere from 12 to 15 homes for this year’s Big Fix.

The Big Fix began in 2010 in Barnstable. It has since been to Sandwich, Dennis, Mashpee, Yarmouth, Bourne, and Brewster.

Over the course of a few hours, volunteers help make small home improvements that can make a big difference in the lives of recipients. Projects typically include yard work, trash removal, repairing of fences and walkways, interior and exterior painting, and light carpentry and electrical work. Those interested in volunteering can sign up on HAC’s website at www.haconcapecod.org.

This year’s Big Fix will kick off at the Lawrence School in Falmouth with a light breakfast provided by Whole Foods Market and Beanstock Coffee before volunteers head to their assigned homes. Once all work is completed, volunteers will return to the Lawrence School for a free lunch provided by the 99 Restaurant.

If you are interested in becoming a recipient of this year's Big Fix in Falmouth, click the green button below. 

Big Fix Bourne Recipient Application

Tags: volunteering, Big Fix, HAC Volunteers, Falmouth, Falmouth Big Fix, home repair

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

HAC Lends Expertise as Falmouth Takes Steps to Help Its Homeless

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Tue, Mar 08, 2016 @ 12:20 PM
Falmouth_Homeless_1.jpgHAC CEO Rick Presbrey (left) with Paul Rifkin of Falmouth.

A little less than a year ago, a tourist visiting this part of the state wrote a letter to the Cape Cod Times complaining about the homeless in Hyannis.

That one letter kicked off heated dialogue, both in the press and online. Some agreed with the visitor while others, like Paul Rifkin, staunchly opposed the sentiment. “It sparked an outrage in my brain,” he said. “I get offended when the concept of ‘the other’ becomes something less than human and something to be vilified, something to be looked down upon, something to be ignored.”

And so Rifkin, the former owner of the Moonakis Café in Falmouth, contacted Alan Burt, co-founder of the nonprofit Homeless Not Hopeless, Inc. in Hyannis, in hopes of turning the negative discourse into tangible, positive action.

A meeting in Falmouth at the Waquoit Congregational Church was held this past fall, the first step towards enacting change in Rifkin’s hometown. “I called the meeting of people who might be interested in doing something to help Falmouth’s homeless, or houseless, population and a lot of people came to the meeting and there was a lot of interest and energy,” Rifkin said.

Rifkin has relied upon those like Burt and HAC CEO Rick Presbrey, who attended that first meeting and several since, to help guide Falmouth’s efforts to care for its homeless. Presbrey said the goals of the Falmouth contingent are similar to those of a group he is a part of in Hyannis which “is to begin helping people who are homeless remain in their home communities.”

The formula is simple – each town finds ways of serving its homeless internally. In Falmouth, the plan that took shape had a short-term and long-term approach that looked like this – over the winter, provide temporary housing for homeless men and women while trying to secure permanent housing where anywhere from four to eight individuals can receive the services they need in a safe, secure environment in order for them to move forward with their lives. 

Alan_Burt_Photo.jpgAlan Burt (right) speaks at a recent HAC fundraiser while NOAH Shelter director Greg Bar looks on. Burt is lending his expertise to Falmouth's efforts to assist its homeless population. 

While St. Barnabas Episcopal Church offered to house the homeless this winter, state fire codes prohibited that from happening and so an alternative was found: the Falmouth Inn. Relying on church funds and private donations, the volunteer group has been able to provide temporary shelter in recent months to 15 homeless men and women, ranging in age from 20 to 80 years old, as part of a longstanding initiative known as Overnights of Hospitality.

Prior to this pilot program, Burt said that one 80-year-old woman with serious medical conditions had been sleeping in her car for several months. “That troubles me,” Burt said. “The cause of homelessness is not providing enough affordable housing. We all know this so it is troubling to think that we’ve got people suffering and dying on our streets.”

For Rifkin, that was one of the primary motivations for helping to start this grassroots effort. “I didn’t want to wake up in the morning and look at The Falmouth Enterprise and read that someone froze to death,” he said.

HAC’s role in all of this is to provide the support and expertise of those like Presbrey. “We bring another set of skills which is not of any use in helping with Overnights of Hospitality except financially, in terms of raising money, and buying real estate,” he said.

Currently, Presbrey is working with Rifkin to identify potential buildings that could serve to house the homeless as well as finding donors who could help fund such a purchase. And then, it will be on to the next town.

“We’re hoping that Falmouth is the first of several communities to undertake such an effort,” Presbrey said.

“If all the towns do even a little thing, it becomes a big thing for the Cape in addressing homelessness,” Burt added.

And in the process, there is a real difference being made, not only in the lives of those who are homeless, but those who are helping them. “What I have found, and a lot of the volunteers in the program have too, is we’re not just helping the homeless,” Rifkin said. “We’re helping ourselves. It makes you feel good to do this for other people. It makes you feel good that you are serving others.” 

Support Falmouth's Efforts 

Contributions are still needed to assist Falmouth as it works to house its homeless men and women through the end of March. Donations can be made by check and mailed to: 

St. Barnabas Episcopal Church

P.O. Box 203, Falmouth, MA 02541

NOTE: Please write "Belonging to Each Other" in the memo line

Those looking to volunteer are encouraged to email Ellie Shaver at ellie.shaver@gmail.com for more information. 

Tags: Homeless on Cape Cod, Homeless, homelessness, Falmouth