Housing Assistance Corporation Blog

Angel House Clients Build Life Skill Competencies

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Thu, Sep 28, 2017 @ 10:52 AM
Angel House-17.jpgHAC HCEC Manager Cheryl Kramer (fourth from left) with several of the Angel House clients who took her most recent financial literacy classes. 

Last fall, a client at Angel House took a series of financial literacy classes taught by HAC’s Housing Consumer Education Center (HCEC) Manager Cheryl Kramer. 

When Kramer brought that series – Creating a Budget, Rebuilding Your Credit, and Be a Successful Tenant – back to the shelter in June, that same client opted to take them again. Kramer said the client told her, “I’m so glad you’re back… Last fall I was focused on having my baby and not really focused on what you were teaching. I’m coming to the end of my time at Angel House and I really need to hear what you have to say.” 

It is one example of why these classes are so important, especially for the mothers at Angel House, who are dealing with the trauma of homelessness, overcoming addiction, and learning how to be a proper parent to their child. “Having the class available more than once, they’re able to build on what they learned the first time,” Kramer said. 

On average, 10 clients took part in each of the classes Kramer offered this summer. In August, she awarded 19 certificates of completion to the clients; some received multiple certificates because they took more than one of the classes. 

“One of the greatest values is that this is a concrete way for them to build their life skill competencies,” shelter director Lin Rohr said. “We do a lot of stuff on healing, recovery and parenting. This teaches them how to do a budget. If you spend everything you make in your first week, how are you going to eat?” 

Amanda, a 23-year-old client at Angel House, said the classes provided her with basic skills that she had overlooked or had no knowledge about. “I never knew anything about my credit,” she said. “And it made me open up my eyes about a lot of things like the money I spend on Dunkin’ Donuts alone.” 

“It’s amazing, isn’t it?” Rohr said. “If you spend $5 a day for coffee, that’s $35 a week.” 

Another client, Cassandra, admitted she has poor credit and was considering filing for bankruptcy. Kramer “showed me that is not my only option,” Cassandra said. “Now I’m almost amped up about it. I can fix it. It’s not too late.”

Cassandra is one of nine Angel House clients who plan on meeting with Kramer one-on-one to focus on their individual financial needs. “That is a huge thing she is offering,” Rohr said. “If they had to pay for that kind of outside support that is not doable for a lot of them. It’s a wonderful gift she [Kramer] is giving them.” 

In October, Kramer will return to Angel House to offer the classes to clients again. “It is part of the [Angel House] program now,” Kramer said. “When they come to that class, they are awake, they are vested and come with good questions… They are not just there because they have to be which makes it more fun to teach. And I make sure I’m giving them the info they want to hear and need to hear.”

HAC Receives CCYP Grant

For the second straight year, HAC has been the recipient of a grant from the CCYP's Giving Circle Fund of the Cape Cod Foundation. This grant will allow HAC to provide the following classes for free, for a limited time, on a first-come, first-served basis: 

Tags: HCEC, Family Shelter, Angel House, Cheryl Kramer, Lin Rohr, housing consumer education, financial literacy

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

HCEC Classes a Gift to Angel House Clients

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Feb 03, 2017 @ 11:17 AM
HCEC Angel House Edited-1.jpgHCEC Manager Cheryl Kramer (third from left) with several of the Angel House mothers who have benefitted from her financial literacy classes. 

Over the course of 45 minutes in the middle of November, Cheryl Kramer, HAC’s Housing Consumer Education Center (HCEC) manager, walked seven mothers staying at Angel House shelter in Hyannis, through the nuances of one’s credit and how best to rebuild it.

Kramer began with an explanation of credit scores. She then spoke about ways to build credit. And she followed with the importance of paying off debt, budgeting, types of credit cards and how to read a credit report.

She was offering simple, but practical advice for women who have been homeless and have struggled with addiction, and are now taking steps to move forward with their lives.

It was part of an ongoing effort by Kramer to bring three HCEC workshops – Creating a Budget, Rebuilding Your Credit and Be a Successful Tenant – to the shelter. She initially did so last summer and reintroduced the series of three classes to Angel House clients in October, November and December.

“You want to make sure your housing is protected for you and your family,” Kramer told the women during the November session on credit. “So first, pay your rent. Then your utilities. If you’re working, then you have to have transportation, whether you’re using the bus or getting a ride with a friend or you have your own car… If you can’t get to work, then you lose your job and then you lose your housing. It has a trickle-down effect.”

Planning for when the clients leave shelter, Kramer encouraged the women to find ways to reduce their financial burdens by utilizing local food pantries for groceries and agencies like HAC for assistance in purchasing Christmas gifts for their children.

After the November session, several of the mothers talked about how Kramer’s classes have impacted them. “I get worried because my daughter is due in January and where I kind of messed up my credit, I want to be able to financially support her,” Nicole said. “What Cheryl teaches us, it is very helpful and makes you feel hopeful that there is a way out.”

Jocelyn, another client, said the sessions have given her a roadmap to pay off her debt and build up her credit “so that I can eventually buy a house. I have three children so my goal is to eventually buy a house so I don’t have to keep moving around from place to place.”

And for Hayley, the classes are just another example of how Angel House has helped her. “It is teaching me how to be the best mother I can,” she said. “If it wasn’t for this place I wouldn’t have my son. I’m definitely grateful to be here because it gives me time to work on myself.”

In December, Cheryl Kramer attended the Citizens’ Housing And Planning Association (CHAPA) Homeownership Collaborative meeting in Boston, where she was presented a certificate recognizing HAC’s dedication and commitment to continually providing homebuyer education services to low- and moderate-income households since the Collaborative’s inception in 1996. To learn more about HAC's Housing Consumer Education Center offerings or to sign up for a class, click here

Tags: HCEC, Angel House, Cheryl Kramer, housing consumer education, financial literacy