Housing Assistance Corporation Blog

Music Therapy for HAC Clients

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Thu, Jun 07, 2018 @ 04:59 PM

 

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Initially, they drummed to their own beat. But once musician Sam Holmstock had concluded his one-hour session with nearly a dozen children living at Village Green II, a workforce housing development located in Hyannis, they were drumming together in unison.

Held during April’s spring break, the activity was organized by HAC Case Manager Jacqueline Smith as a way to offer these at-risk youth a fun, relaxing opportunity to let loose by banging their hands on the drums on a sunny spring day.

This is the second time that Smith, who provides case management to 15 households who have housing vouchers at Village Green II, had brought in Holmstock, owner of Drum Strategies for Healing, to lead a drumming circle for children.

It may have appeared like a simple music class filled with repetitive motions, but it was much more than that. It was therapeutic. “Just smacking their hands on this drum stimulates neurotransmitters in the brain,” Holmstock said. “Generally speaking, although it’s not obvious walking out of that room, it generally calms people down… On one level it’s moderate physical exercise, but more than that it’s stimulating the brain.”

It’s something Smith has noticed by observing the two sessions held at Village Green II this year. “You can see how much calmer they are after doing it,” she said.

Holmstock, who co-founded the band Entrain, now focuses his musical talents on using drumming as a healing mechanism for a host of groups, from at-risk youth to incarcerated teens to those with Alzheimer’s to veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

Sam Holmstock and Jacqueline SmithSam Holmstock with HAC's Jacqueline Smith following April's drumming session at Village Green II. 

It allows Holmstock to use his talents to reach populations that can truly benefit from music therapy. “Just giving them this opportunity and being able to sort of reach them on a certain level,” he said is part of the reward. “Maybe they don’t even realize in their thinking brain that there are positive things going on when they’re just banging on the drums.”

Tags: music, music therapy, Jacqueline Smith, Village Green II, Hyannis, Sam Holmstock, drum circle, Drum Strategies for Healing, Family and Individual Services Department, Leased Housing

New Case Manager Helps Tenants at Hyannis Development

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Wed, Apr 18, 2018 @ 09:48 AM
Jacqueline Smith-1Jacqueline Smith, HAC's new case manager, works with clients at Village Green II in Hyannis.

Tenants in a recently completed affordable housing development on Independence Drive in Barnstable are benefitting from the support of a new case manager at HAC.

The program is part of a contract HAC has with HallKeen Management, the property manager for Village Green II, a 60-unit development that was built by Dakota Partners for the region’s workforce. 

Since the start of February, HAC has been providing case management two days a week to 15 clients who hold Section 8 or Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP) vouchers that help stabilize their rent.

Jacqueline Smith, who earned her master’s degree in social work from Simmons College last May, has been responsible for working with those 15 tenants, as well as any others at Village Green II seeking support, to connect them to the necessary resources that allow them to maintain their housing, improve their community connections, and work towards self-sufficiency.

The majority of her work so far, she said, has been focused on assisting clients with budgeting.

During February vacation, Smith organized a drumming circle led by Sam Holmstock, a family friend and co-founder of the band Entrain. “I knew Sam and he goes around to nursing homes and does drumming circles and works with at-risk youth,” Smith said. “I said why not try it here and let’s see what comes of it.”

Sam will be returning to Village Green to lead a similar exercise for families during April vacation. Smith has related ideas – yoga, meditation, and fitness – to add a holistic layer to the current offerings she is providing to clients at Village Green II.

Her underlying goal, she said, is to point these clients to the services “they need to help them grow.”

“She has kind of jumped in with both feet,” said HAC’s Director of Family and Individuals Services Cassi Danzl. “She is really committed and looking at what resources are available to make sure tenants in this development have access to them.”

Tags: Jacqueline Smith, Hyannis, Village Green II, case management, Section 8, Leased Housing, MRVP, Cassi Danzl, Family and Individual Services Department

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

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

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