Housing Assistance Corporation Blog

Editorial: Optimism for our Future

Posted by Alisa Galazzi on Thu, Mar 09, 2017 @ 04:05 PM

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It has been a whirlwind—in the best way. I have spent the past two months getting to know the staff and dozens of programs at HAC. Each day, I have been amazed at the range of services that this agency accomplishes, the programs that lift people up and build community here on Cape Cod.

Rick Presbrey has built HAC into one of the largest and most comprehensive nonprofit social service agencies on Cape Cod. I am honored to have been chosen to take the reins of the agency and continue the good works that HAC is known for throughout the region.

HAC not only runs four family shelter programs—housing 174 families last year alone—but also runs the largest rental assistance program in the region, with over 1,100 households. Our homeless prevention program ensured 198 families did not become homeless last year. Our Energy and Repair department continues to help families save money by making homes more energy efficient. Our Housing Consumer Education classes and counseling supported everyone from seniors whose homes were at risk of foreclosure to young couples looking to purchase their first home.

I am looking forward to getting to know you, HAC’s supporters. Your support makes these programs possible and your input is important. As we assess HAC’s programs and their impact, I’d like to hear what you think.

There is a lot of work to be done and it is a challenge I welcome. Working with the HAC staff and with others throughout our community, I know we can make strides, together.

Tags: Family Shelter, Affordable Housing on Cape Cod, HAC, homeless prevention, Alisa Galazzi

Cape Family Goes From Homelessness to Housing

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Thu, Mar 02, 2017 @ 04:09 PM
HAC Richard Photo.jpgLast month, HAC's Al DiMuzio (right) donated a recliner to Richard as a way to provide stability to his living situation. 

On the first day of the new year, 57-year-old Richard and his two teenage boys became homeless. “That’s when I had to make the choice of living in our car or in a motel room,” he said. “It was so unbearable, especially with the children. It was very stressful.”

The slide into homelessness was relatively sudden for Richard, who had lived in Bourne for over 44 years. It started with the death of his 84-year-old mother Jean in October. He and his children had moved in with her several years ago and he was serving as her caretaker.

“It was devastating,” he said, noting it was particularly difficult for his children who had already lost their own mother. “When she [their grandmother] passed, they were very sad. Very sad. She had been like their mother in a way.”

His mother’s death was compounded by the fact that she had taken out a reverse mortgage on her house. Richard, who is on disability, was unable to pay back the loan so the bank seized the home.

“So we became homeless,” Richard said.

Nearly all of their belongings were gone. Richard was able to keep some family photos and personal keepsakes as well as his father’s military records and medals.

They even had to temporarily relinquish their boxer Bruno who had been a part of their family for nearly seven years, letting a friend take him in. Through the entire ordeal, Richard said, his children were most worried about their dog. “They have known him since they were little kids,” he said.

Initially, the family stayed a few nights in a motel before Richard quickly ran out of money. With the assistance of the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development, they were placed in a shelter in Fall River. Though he was appreciative of having a safe place to sleep, Richard admitted that, “it wasn’t the same as living in our own house.”

Family Transitions Out of Shelter

In February, Richard was able to transition out of shelter and into a rental house in Bourne. He was connected to HAC and has been working with Housing Specialist AnnMarie Torrey who helped secure him $8,000 in HomeBASE funds through the state. Those funds are given to families in shelter or to families who are at imminent risk of homelessness as a way to stabilize their housing.

Roughly half of that has gone to pay his first and last month’s rent as well as the security deposit. The remainder will be used to pay a portion of his monthly rent as Richard’s Supplemental Security Income (SSI) will cover the rest. It leaves the family, Torrey said, in a tenuous financial position as he will have little additional money to spend on food and other necessities each month.

Thanks to HAC’s Welcome Home Gift Basket Program (see page 7), Torrey was able to provide him with basic household necessities such as bed sheets and kitchen appliances. HAC staff have done their part with Quality Control Inspector Jim Ames donating a used couch and Al DiMuzio, director of the agency’s Energy and Repair Department, a used recliner to help furnish the family’s home. “I have always found that helping is better than not, and sometimes synchronicity works in strange ways,” DiMuzio said. “So, for Richard, his need for a chair just happened to fit my desire to do a little downsizing.”

Torrey is working with him to find a part-time job that can increase his income to add even more security to his housing situation.

All of this has Richard feeling grateful for HAC’s support. “They have been indispensable,” he said. “If HAC didn’t help, I don’t know where we would be right now.”

Torrey is hopeful that Richard and his family will never have to experience the horrors of homelessness again. “Being in shelter really scared him and the boys,” she said. “He told me he is determined that he will never be in that position again and that is pretty much 90% of it – determination and having the will to succeed.”

Help End Homelessness

Tags: housing, AnnMarie Torrey, HomeBASE, Family Shelter, homelessness, shelter

New Role a Perfect Fit for Carriage House Director

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Tue, Jan 31, 2017 @ 10:29 AM

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Yvonne Rivers likes helping others.

That may explain why she is more than suited to her newest position at HAC as the facility director of Carriage House in North Falmouth. “I’ve always been a caretaker, even with my mom, she was young when she passed away at 49,” Rivers said. “I have taken care of people my whole life and I like taking care of people.”

At Carriage House, a homeless shelter for women and their children, Rivers is doing just that. The shelter, which primarily caters to first-time mothers, has the capacity to house 10 women at any given time.

A mother of three – Shiniqua, 33; Robin, 28; and April, 21 – Rivers understands what many of those at Carriage House are going through. Though she was never homeless, Rivers did rely on government assistance as she raised her first daughter. “I was a young mom, about 19 when I had my first,” Rivers said. “I know the struggle of being a young mother and juggling multiple jobs… I feel like this is a perfect opportunity to give back and to give something to these young girls and say, ‘You can do it. Don’t think you can’t.’”

It is that attitude that Rivers brought to HAC when she was initially hired by the agency roughly eight years ago. At the time, Rivers had spent over 11 years as a Certified Nursing Assistant at Royal Megansett Nursing Home in North Falmouth. “I was looking to go in a new direction,” she said.

So she began volunteering at HAC’s NOAH Shelter, where her father Joseph N’kunta had worked since 2001. There she heard of an opening at The Village at Cataumet where she first worked as substitute staff, then the overnight shift and, finally, as a case manager prior to her new position at Carriage House, which she started last May.

As the director, she is not only connecting mothers to housing services, but employment opportunities, financial literacy workshops, counseling and parenting classes so they can become self-sufficient when they eventually leave shelter. Rivers knows that achieving that goal is possible, something she learned as a young parent more than three decades ago. “I do feel like I have a lot to offer these young ladies,” she said. “I feel like I can give them some hope.”

Give Hope to a HAC Client

Tags: Family Shelter, homelessness, Carriage House, Joseph N'kunta, Yvonne Rivers

Toy Run Epitomizes Meaning of the Season

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Mon, Dec 19, 2016 @ 11:24 AM
HOG Run 16-5.jpgMotorcycles make their way onto Old Main Road in North Falmouth, delivering toys to our Carriage House shelter. Over 150 motorcyclists participated in last month's toy run, ensuring our children in shelter will have gifts to open during the holidays. 

What compels people to give to complete strangers during the holidays? “So this guy doesn’t have to work so hard,” Cotuit’s David Andrade joked as Santa Claus walked by him on the first Sunday of November at HAC’s Carriage House shelter in North Falmouth.

It may have been a comment made in jest, but Andrade and over 150 motorcyclists with nothing to gain other than the satisfaction of helping others, did just that as part of the 17th Annual Chris Wetherbee Memorial Toy Run. They came from all over Cape Cod as well as the South Shore, Boston and even Rhode Island to deliver over $3,000 worth of toys that will go to children living in HAC’s shelters as well as $2,600 in monetary donations to support HAC’s housing work on Cape Cod and the islands.

The toy run has actually been taking place for the past 27 years. In 1999, it was named in honor of longtime organizer Christina Wetherbee, who died of cancer the following spring. Since then, her husband, Joe Wetherbee, and his second wife, Clarissa, have organized the run with the help of the Cape Cod Harley Owners Group (HOG).

“It’s all for the children,” Joe said, a statement echoed by several of the ride’s participants. “It is not their fault they are in shelter and a lot of times it is not the parents fault.”

HAC CEO Rick Presbrey expressed his appreciation for those who participated in the toy run as it will help HAC’s three family shelters and bring a little joy to the nearly 50 families staying there over the holidays. “It’s really the beginning of the holiday season for us,” he said. “It gets the spirit going early, and that’s a good thing.”

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To view more pictures from last month's toy run, visit our Facebook page here. And to give to our families in shelter, click here

Tags: Family Shelter, Philanthropy, Carriage House, Chris Wetherbee Memorial Toy Run, charitable giving, holiday giving

New Playground at Cataumet a Favorite with Kids

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Thu, Nov 10, 2016 @ 01:00 PM
Cataumet Playground-2.jpgBoth HAC staff and The Village at Cataumet staff and clients were joined by representatives from Cape Cod Senior Residences during a dedication for the shelter's new playground last month. 

What do you get when you combine two swings, a climbing cargo net, a slide and a faux rock wall? A whole lot of fun.

That is exactly what kids at The Village at Cataumet have been having since a new playground arrived at the shelter in September. The set was paid for thanks to a donation from Cape Cod Senior Residences, an independent and assisted living community in Pocasset, following a casino night in June which raised more than $1,600 for the HAC shelter. Residents at the assisted living facility decided they wanted to use that money towards filling a need at The Village at Cataumet.

“They [the kids] love it,” said shelter director Paula Mallard, during a playground dedication in the beginning of October. “It is awesome. It’s really sturdy and going to last us a long time.”

Cataumet Playground-9.jpgChildren enjoying the new playground at The Village at Cataumet. 

Mallard said that it’s been a few years since the shelter had a usable playground. The last one was made of wood and had to be removed because it became unsafe for children.

As a small contingent of children swung, slid and climbed the playground, Michael LeBrun, executive director for Cape Cod Senior Residences, spoke about why this was an important gift for his organization. “I think it is great to be able to help the kids and be a part of the community,” he said.

Support The Village at Cataumet

Tags: Family Shelter, homelessness, The Village at Cataumet, Paula Mallard, Cape Cod Senior Residences, Philanthropy, donations

From Intern to Case Manager

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Tue, Oct 18, 2016 @ 10:16 AM

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Starting over can be difficult, something HAC’s Julie Munson knows all too well. In recent years, she experienced that when she said farewell to a 25-year career in the military to pursue an entirely new path in social services.

That may be why she is so well suited to her new position as a case manager at The Village at Cataumet which allows her to assist HAC clients in a similar situation. At that HAC shelter, clients are trying to rebuild their lives, starting anew, as they look to find employment, permanent housing and stability. “I help clients get back on their feet,” Munson said. “I teach them how to become independent.”

Sometimes progress is slow which Munson herself dealt with when she first started working at HAC in May 2012, as an intern at The Village at Cataumet at the age of 41.

Prior to that, she had spent her entire adult life serving in the Air Force. She was most recently stationed at Otis Air National Guard Base where she attained the rank of Senior Master Sergeant and was employed as a personnel readiness manager. While in the military, Munson said she enjoyed “helping people. In my last position I did deployments so I briefed family members of people going to Afghanistan and Iran and I prepared them for what might happen.”

It is not unlike her current position in which she is working with shelter clients. “Here, I am doing the same thing: I’m giving people the resources they need to succeed,” she said.

Munson balanced her internship at The Village at Cataumet with courses at Cape Cod Community College where she eventually obtained an associate’s degree in human services.

As an intern, Munson served as the shelter’s activities director, bringing children who live at the shelter to the park, playground, museums, the library and even mini-golfing. At the end of her internship, she was able to continue at HAC, working per diem at not only Cataumet, but Carriage House and NOAH.

Paula Mallard, facility director at Cataumet, said that Munson “has a lot of compassion for the clients,” calling her an asset to the shelter.

In May, Munson’s relationship with HAC grew when she was promoted to case manager, filling the vacancy left when Yvonne Rivers was named the facility director at Carriage House. Just a few days later, Munson was receiving her bachelor’s degree in social work from Bridgewater State College. “It was overwhelming,” she said. “All in one week my life changed and it was all positive.”

Her story serves as an example to shelter clients that progress does not always happen overnight. It takes time and requires hard work and patience, along with the support of staff like Munson whose recent experiences have given her an understanding of how to handle significant transitions in life.

Tags: Family Shelter, homelessness, Village at Cataumet, Julie Munson

A Plea

Posted by Julie Wake on Sat, Feb 15, 2014 @ 09:00 AM
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A typical family shelter stay lasts nine months, roughly the length of a school year. Wouldn’t it be a huge benefit to have a statewide standardized educational curriculum for those staying at shelters?  Nine months is a long time to waste.

I am particularly worried about the children in shelters.

The Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless has determined
that the average age of a homeless person in Massachusetts is eight years old.

I am concerned that these kids are growing up without adequate parenting.

Not too long ago a woman came into our office who was very pregnant. With more than a touch of mental illness, she resisted letting us do anything for her for several hours, while various concerned staff members tried to offer their skills in resolving the situation. Early in her visit, the woman went outside on a very cold day insisting that her unborn baby liked the cold—as people stood next to her trying to talk her into coming inside. Finally she was convinced to allow us to take her to a motel for a few days. Ten hours later the baby was born.

Another child, Joshua (not his real name) is now seven. He lives with his mom in a cramped apartment in a small town on the Cape. They are living on money from strapped family members who have given them just enough to keep their car going and to pay the relatively modest rent. The mom has little or no other income and keeps promising to find a job but hasn’t yet. The boy goes to school most of the time and comes home to clutter and confusion.  
Both moms have mental health problems and backgrounds of abuse and/or addiction. 

There are many such situations on Cape Cod right now: Moms who have no money, no job, no secure housing, with abuse, addiction and perhaps mental illness in their lives.

What future do their kids have? Many of these women are in shelters which, in some ways, is a good thing. Shelters at least provide a calming environment, socialization, and people to lean on for advice.

But shelters are not a permanent home and they are not funded to do the job they need to do.

Most of us have gotten to where we are in life with few of the handicaps listed above and many years of mostly full time parenting and schooling. How can we expect people to be healthy, competent parents and be financially self-sufficient without those? How can we expect shelters to make a difference without adequate funding to provide a comprehensive life skills education program? Here at HAC, we used to do such a program, but funding cuts over the years have reduced what we can accomplish. Some shelter clients are given activities and chores but these are not enough.

And, what about the kids and their futures?

Tags: Homeless on Cape Cod, HACbeat, Family Shelter, HAC, housing assistance corporation, Rick Presbrey

Mark Your Calendar: Shelter Cape Cod Telethon on December 11

Posted by Laura Reckford on Fri, Nov 22, 2013 @ 06:17 PM

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The biggest fundraiser of the year for Housing Assistance Corporation is the Shelter Cape Cod Telethon. This year, the telethon is benefiting all four of HAC’s shelters: NOAH Shelter, Angel House in Hyannis, Carriage House in North Falmouth, and the Village at
Cataumet in Bourne.

The show airs live on Wednesday, December 11 from 4 to 9 p.m. on the Cape’s local cable access channels and is also streamed live on the web at www.capemedia.org.

Once again, the master of ceremonies this year will be Mindy Todd, the host of The Point on WCAI. On air guests will include Paul Pronovost, editor of the Cape Cod Times, Matt Pitta, news director at WXTK and Sean Corcoran of WCAI. There will be videos of a variety of local musical entertainers, from Cape singer/songwriter Sarah Swain to the children’s choir at St. Pius X School in South Yarmouth.

There is still a need for people who want to be “fundraisers” on the air, manning the phone bank of 16 red phones. Join local politicians, celebrities and neighbors to sit on the phone bank and telephone friends and family to ask them to donate for this important cause. To volunteer at the telethon, which takes place at Cape Cod Community Media Center in Dennisport,
contact Mary Everett-Patriquin at volunteer@haconcapecod.org or 508-771-5400 ext. 279.

To donate to the telethon, visit sheltercapecod.org.

Tags: Homeless on Cape Cod, Family Shelter, HAC, NOAH Telethon, NOAH Shelter, Village at Cataumet, Carriage House, Angel House

HAC Bids Farewell to Allison Alewine

Posted by Laura Reckford on Sun, Oct 20, 2013 @ 09:47 PM

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A festive retirement party was held in September for Allison Alewine, who worked at Housing Assistance Corporation for more than 25 years, most recently as vice president of operations in the Family Housing Services Department.

Allison was hired at HAC on October 5, 1987 to work in the family services department. Allison says her passion is Project Prevention, and so she will continue to work to spread the word about this important program that helps people experiencing a temporary difficulty in paying their rent or mortgage payment.

Among those attending the party at the Lighthouse Inn in Dennis were old friends and new, including people Allison worked with over the years and people she helped along the way.

The message on her cake said it all, “Congratulations Allison, Forever on the Team.”

Tags: Project Prevention, Family Shelter, Prevention, HAC, housing assistance corporation

Cindi Maule Honored

Posted by Laura Reckford on Sat, Oct 19, 2013 @ 10:26 PM

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Housing Assistance Corporation’s Cindi Maule was selected in Cape & Plymouth Business’s 40 Under 40 award program for business people under the age of 40 have made a mark in our region.

Cindi, who has been at HAC since 2008, manages a staff of 10 and an $8 million program that administers six federal and state rental subsidy contracts comprising over 900 vouchers.

She has recently been promoted to director of Leased Housing and Family.Services at HAC. The 40 Under 40 awards were given out June 19 at the CapeCodder Resort & Spa in Hyannis.

Tags: Family Shelter, HAC, MA Rental Voucher Program