Housing Assistance Corporation Blog

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