Housing Assistance Corporation Blog

St. Pius School Students Show Compassion for the Cape's Homeless

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Dec 05, 2014 @ 10:13 AM

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At the St. Pius X School in Yarmouth, students have set some lofty career goals. One wants to be an actress. Another wants to be an author.

Sixth grader Ana Wolfe, 11, wants to one day live in Washington D.C. where she hopes to serve as an ambassador to Paris, France. Why? “Because I love to do ballet and there are a lot of good ballet companies there,” she said.

Not one said they wanted to be homeless.

And if one were to visit the NOAH Shelter in Hyannis, the clients there would all admit that they never envisioned they would be homeless when they were the same age.

So on the Friday before Thanksgiving, those clients had some advice for a group of roughly 36 St. Pius students in fifth through eighth grade. They were simple, but powerful messages like:

  • Avoid drugs and alcohol
  • Get an education
  • Have compassion for people
  • Pay it forward
  • Set goals you can reach

Those messages were delivered to the students by NOAH Shelter director Greg Bar who took part in the school’s first-ever Cardboard City project that was aimed at introducing the idea of homelessness to the children.

In the days leading up to the event, students decorated their own individual cardboard boxes with some, like sixth grader Mary Skordas, opting to write inspirational quotes like this one from Anne Frank:

“No one has ever become poor by giving.”

And for a brief moment on one November night, students had a chance to empathize with the homeless by spending an hour in those boxes not long after having a basic meal of soup, sandwiches and fruit and hearing from Bar and Ginny Lewis of the Dennis Yarmouth Ecumenical Council for the Prevention of Homelessness (DYECH).

As to how people end up homeless, Bar said, it could be substance abuse, job loss or divorce. “There are a lot of situations out there and it is all sad. It is really sad,” he said. “When you end up at a place like the NOAH Shelter it is just the worst tragedy that has happened in your life.”

DSC 6865 resized 600Greg Bar addresses middle schoolers at St. Pius X School about homelessness on Cape Cod.

Maura Gogan, the business manager for St. Pius, served as the inspiration for the project based on a similar one she observed at a high school in Santa Clara, California, where she previously lived. There the students spent an entire weekend in a cardboard box to raise awareness and funds for the homeless situation in that West Coast city.

Having moved to Cape Cod two years ago, Gogan said, she was surprised to see so many homeless in this part of the state. She was hopeful that this project would inspire St. Pius students to “show compassion and empathize with the homeless,” she said. “Instead of ignoring them, they may now look at them as a person. And even if they can’t give them money, they can help them with a smile… Whatever they can give, hopefully they give from the heart.”

St. Pius teacher Christine Guzman took Gogan’s idea and ran with it, overseeing the students’ efforts which ended with some creating posters that will go in the NOAH Shelter and writing notes to shelter clients.

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For at least one student, fifth grader Morgan Silva (pictured above), 10, the project was the start of something bigger.

His goal is to one day open a shelter like NOAH or, at the least, offer the homeless a place to stay for a night or two. “I think we can really do more than what we’re doing,” he said. “I want to eradicate homelessness.”

Tags: Homeless, NOAH Shelter, Greg Bar, St. Pius X School, cardboard city

Cape Cod Restaurateur Lends Expertise to Kitchen at NOAH Shelter

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Mon, Jul 21, 2014 @ 03:35 PM

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As the owner and executive chef of The Naked Oyster Bistro and Raw Bar in Hyannis, Florence Lowell knows a thing or two about kitchens.

So when the Main Street Business Improvement District (BID) helped make the NOAH Day Center a reality in May, Lowell decided to use her expertise to help the shelter the best way she knows how – in the kitchen. “Elizabeth Wurfbain of BID put out an email saying the shelter needed help,” Lowell said. “I deal with kitchens all day long. That’s what I do so it is something I could easily take on which would benefit everybody.”

Lowell visited NOAH the week after the day center opened its doors to clients and was impressed with what she found. “I think they have a pretty nice facility when it comes to the kitchen,” she said.

Still, she saw room for some minor improvements. When NOAH director Greg Bar expressed interest in offering a Sunday breakfast Lowell bought the shelter a griddle.

Beyond that, Lowell is planning on putting a team together to spend a day and organize the kitchen so people can access food and ingredients better. “I think what they immediately need is to get a few things organized with labels so everybody can find things right away,” she said.

She also noticed the large freezer needs shelving, another project she has on her to-do list at NOAH.

And Lowell hopes to serve as a connection between her restaurant’s vendors and NOAH as a way to provide fruits and vegetables to shelter clients.

Volunteering has always been important to Lowell, who is from the Bordeaux region of France, first making stops in Houston and Austin, Texas before arriving on Cape Cod a little more than eight years ago. “In Houston I worked for the women’s shelters there,” she said. “We would make sure we spent at least one day a month cooking for people.”

Lowell has maintained her charitable giving on the Cape, where she is actively involved in fundraisers for Cape Abilities Farm in West Dennis, as well as Spaulding Rehab, where her husband Dr. David Lowell is the chief medical officer.

She views her recent work at NOAH as another way to give back to the community. “Everybody is talking about the homeless situation in Hyannis. It is a constant thing I hear,” Lowell said. “So I want to provide a better environment to entice people to stay at the shelter during the day.”

Tags: Homeless on Cape Cod, Homeless, Florence Lowell, NOAH Shelter, Greg Bar, Naked Oyster Bistro, Elizabeth Wurfbain

Finding a Home on Cape Cod Thanks to the NOAH Shelter

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Thu, Apr 17, 2014 @ 02:10 PM

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Sit down with Tracey Dalton for even a minute and you will encounter someone who is largely positive, and considers herself blessed. “I’ve never been happier in my entire life,” she says honestly.

But it was not always this way. Less than a decade ago Dalton was lost, emotionally, physically and spiritually. For a seven-year period Dalton bounced around Atlanta, Miami, Maine and Cape Cod, a woman without a home or a purpose.

Her bed was wherever she could lay her head. On some nights it was in her Ford pick up truck. On other nights it was in an abandoned warehouse in less than ideal neighborhoods. Then there were the nights when she would sleep on the back porches of homes owned by complete strangers.

Alcohol and drugs were common, partially the result of two major car accidents that left her with a brain injury.

Her plight became so bad that she was losing that which meant the most in her life – her children, twins Heather and Sara Read, 32, of Miami, and Jessica Read-Feeley, 31, of Yarmouth. “I really just had the clothes on my back,” she said.

From that abyss, Dalton was able to find herself. Hers is a story of redemption, one that happened here on Cape Cod, where she moved to be closer to her youngest child. Dalton credits a number of organizations that starts with Housing Assistance Corporation (HAC) and includes Cape Cod Hospital and Duffy Health Center, among others, for providing a light at the end of what had been a dark tunnel.

None of this was easy. In fact, Dalton admits, the most difficult moment of her life was the day she walked into NOAH, HAC’s homeless shelter in Hyannis. It was the first time she had ever entered a homeless shelter during her seven years of homelessness.

“It was the most horrific and terrifying and traumatic decision I have ever had to make,” she said.

This type of reaction is one that Greg Bar sees frequently in his capacity as the shelter manager. “Nobody wants to be there,” he said.

Finding Comfort at NOAH

Despite that initial hesitation Dalton grew to find comfort at NOAH, through its staff and Bar’s guiding hand.

“It is a non-judgmental zone,” she said, emphasizing the importance of having this type of atmosphere in what can be a stigmatizing environment. “They were compassionate to people and loving, and it really made me feel better.”

And she returned that positivity to those she took shelter with at NOAH. “I’d walk in there and the first thing I’d say is, ‘It’s all about the love!’ and they would start laughing,” she said.

Dancing to music – Sister Sledge and the Pointer Sisters were favorites – and watching movies became ways for Dalton to bond with those at NOAH who all shared similar experiences of life on the streets. And it created a sense of home when she had long been without one.

“Tracey always had a brightness about her,” Bar said. “She was bright intellectually, but she also had a bright disposition and she was eager to improve her situation.”

And eventually she did, landing a rental apartment in Orleans through that town’s housing authority after spending several months at NOAH and navigating the mountain of paperwork that comes with subsidized housing.

“It looks like something out of the Bahamas,” Dalton says of her apartment which has given her not only security, but hope. This is her piece of paradise, here on Cape Cod.

Today she has turned her life around to the point she is helping others. She volunteers with the Eastham and Orleans councils on aging, the Wounded Warrior Project and she maintains her sobriety by attending regular AA sessions.

Most importantly, she has reconnected with her three daughters, and is the proud grandmother to four healthy and happy grandchildren.

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Dalton shared her story of success with HAC staff and supporters at its annual meeting earlier this month as proof that no matter what the circumstance “you can rebuild your life,” she said. “Now I have a new soul.”

She is just one example of many, Bar said, that homelessness is not permanent, noting that when he previously served as a housing search specialist in HAC’s Individual Services Department he would help find homes for at least 10 people a month who had been in similar situations to Dalton. “We hope that everybody comes to that point and we do what we can to get to that point. When somebody has lost hope you ask, ‘How do you help them find hope again?’” he said. “It is a question we are always trying to find the answer to.”

Tags: Homeless on Cape Cod, Homeless, HAC Annual Meeting, NOAH Shelter, NOAH, Greg Bar, Tracey Dalton