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

Rick Presbrey Retires After 43 Years

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Thu, Mar 02, 2017 @ 01:10 PM
Rick Retirement-1.jpgHAC founder and former CEO Rick Presbrey with office manager Lynne Perry at his retirement luncheon which took place at the end of January. 

In 1974, Rick Presbrey founded HAC, operating the fledgling nonprofit out of a cramped West Yarmouth garage converted into an office. The agency had just one program, overseeing the state’s Chapter 707 Rental Assistance to provide affordable rental apartments for Cape Cod’s workforce, seniors and disabled residents.

Forty-three years later, HAC has grown in size and scope, but the one constant has been Presbrey. Under his leadership, HAC has served more than 160,000 clients, providing them with access to safe, secure housing through a variety of programs aimed at low- and middle-income residents.

While that figure is one way to quantify Presbrey’s accomplishments, his colleague Nancy Davison preferred looking at it another way. “I hope his legacy is that you should always treat people the way you want to be treated,” she said. “The main substance of Rick has always been to treat people well.”

That may explain why on the final day of January there were lots of tears and plenty of hugs as HAC staff said farewell to its founder and former CEO. “In the past year I have adjusted very reluctantly to the idea of not being here,” Presbrey said during his retirement luncheon where he talked about his desire to continue helping others.

Several of Presbrey’s coworkers spoke about witnessing that trait in action, highlighting his generosity to both clients and staff. 

Davison praised Presbrey for supporting single mothers like herself as they balanced raising a child with their work at HAC. “You know I always thought that if we were helping families then the families we were helping had to include the staff,” Presbrey explained.

Creating a welcoming environment at HAC was important to Presbrey who implemented several programs which embodied that spirit. “The idea is to be a positive influence in people’s lives in every way,” he said.

Presbrey, who plans on finding ways to continue giving back to those in need, imparted these words to staff as they move forward under CEO Alisa Galazzi’s tenure: “All you have to do to be just as happy and productive as ever is to make sure HAC’s mission is primary in the work that you do.” 

Tags: housing, Nancy Davison, HAC, Rick Presbrey, HAC History

Editorial: Many Ideas, Many Opportunities

Posted by Rick Presbrey on Fri, Jan 20, 2017 @ 09:36 AM

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With the New Year comes a fresh start for HAC. Our Incoming CEO Alisa Galazzi has begun work, starting a period of orientation before officially becoming the CEO.

With her arrival here in the office, there is lots of talk and laughter as she meets office staff. She will be on the road visiting our four family shelters and meeting staff and clients there, as well as meeting our many partners within the community through the Cape, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, and even up in Boston.

It is an exciting time for the agency but, I have to admit, it is anxiety-producing for me. I have always loved what I do, but my time for exiting has come.

At HAC, our focus is helping people. That means that we work with others to get the job done, whether it is counseling a family to prevent foreclosure, bringing a homeless individual in for services, repairing a heating system in the home of a senior citizen, or sheltering a homeless family.

When someone approaches us asking for help, we try to always, say “Yes, we can help.” I know that this is not the way most of the world works, but for me, that’s how I like it. I know that the agency will be able to do even more good in the next 40 years and that it will remain a culture of sensitivity to the needs of others and our community.

I have found solace in the quote, “Decisions of the heart are always right.” I’m not sure who said it, but I have heard that it was Gandhi. Others try to make decisions through their intellect. I suspect the truth is that neither way is always the right way, but the decisions you make based on heart or intellect may be very different.

I will miss HAC. I will miss the new projects in the works and I will miss the wonderful staff. But be assured, I will keep busy. It has been so long since I started anything new that I had forgotten that starting new things is part of my DNA. There are many ideas and many opportunities in store, both for me and for HAC. And I know that helping people will remain the focus for both.

Tags: housing, Affordable Housing on Cape Cod, HAC, Rick Presbrey, Alisa Galazzi, retirement

Painting a Picture of Hope for HAC Clients

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Wed, Dec 28, 2016 @ 03:50 PM

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In her spare time, Dolores Barbati-Poore likes to paint. She has over a dozen original paintings in her Bourne home, the result of the popular paint nights that allow friends to socialize, all while nurturing their creativity.

If Dolores were to create a painting that epitomized her nearly 28 years at HAC, it would most likely represent a picture of hope. “Dolores brought compassion, empathy and she never really gave up on people, some of whom were our toughest clients,” HAC’s AnnMarie Torrey said in describing her coworker. “She took a person at face value. There was never any judgment. She was always trying to save people, trying to help people.”

On the Friday before Thanksgiving, Dolores said farewell to a career spent helping people get the housing services they needed to move forward with their lives. Her time now will be spent with her husband, Edward, a retired glass artist, and her family. She has two children, John and Kara, who live in Bourne, and he has two children, James and Mary Ann.

Dolores first started with HAC in February 1989, processing Chapter 707 certificates with Michael Sweeney, before becoming an assistant to Allison Alewine. Her role at HAC quickly expanded; over the years, she was the family shelter director, helping the agency start the Village at Cataumet in Bourne. She retired as director of the agency’s Project Prevention program which provides emergency funding for those at risk of homelessness due to illness, loss of job or family crisis.

“If the agency was an arrow, she would represent the very tip of it,” said HAC CEO Rick Presbrey. “She is the one that penetrated the target and was able to provide counsel and assistance to even the most difficult clients to get them into housing.”

Having a job where she could affect real change was the most rewarding aspect of her time at HAC. “I’ve been so lucky to have a job where I can help people and get paid for doing it because I like helping people progress in life,” Dolores said.

Give Hope to a HAC Client

Tags: Project Prevention, homelessness, HAC, Rick Presbrey, hope, Michael Sweeney, Dolores Barbati-Poore

Post-NOAH: Family Shelters, Outreach, Affordable Housing, All Priorities at HAC

Posted by Rick Presbrey on Sat, Dec 24, 2016 @ 09:45 AM

rick_at_big_fix.jpgMany people were surprised a few months ago when the Boston Globe came out with a comprehensive nationwide study of the causes of homelessness. Turns out, lack of affordable housing is a bigger factor than poverty when it comes to homelessness. That’s why Hawaii has more homeless people per capita than Mississippi.

Those findings make sense when you apply them to Cape Cod where, in recent years, we have seen an increasing population of homeless families, as the price of housing continues to rise.

For more than 25 years we have run four emergency shelters for homeless families on the Cape. They don’t get the same attention that our NOAH shelter did, perhaps because most people do not know they exist.

One of the shelters is behind a white picket fence on a main road in Hyannis. Another is a former motel in Bourne and a third is in a grand shingle-style historic home in Falmouth. The fourth, our Scattered Site program, consists of apartments for families in four buildings in Hyannis and Yarmouth.

Although we have turned over our NOAH shelter in Hyannis to Catholic Social Services, we still work with the homeless in our family shelters, which last year housed 174 families, including 195 kids.

We also are continuing to work with homeless individuals through our Outreach Program in which our workers go into the woods and other gathering places to try to bring homeless individuals to services and to get them situated in permanent housing. We also work with chronically homeless individuals through our case managers, who work with recently housed individuals to ensure they stay housed and don’t end up back on the street.

Preventing Homelessness on Cape Cod

Preventing homelessness is also the focus of our Project Prevention program for individuals and families. When there is a crisis such as a major car repair, health emergency, job layoff or other unforeseen event, we step in to help out financially by paying rent, a mortgage payment, a utility bill or other expenses to make sure that individual or family does not lose their home. It turns out that type of assistance also saves taxpayer dollars, because the cost to shelter people is much more expensive than the cost to keep people in their homes.

What is the best way to deal with homelessness—putting individuals and families in a shelter or finding a more permanent solution? Of course, one is short term and one is long term, but we try our best to focus on both. When all else fails, shelter is the solution and then we work to address the individual’s or family’s problems and get them into a good housing situation.

While we will always help homeless individuals and families on Cape Cod with emergency needs, we are also stepping up our efforts to create more affordable housing, because getting people into long-term housing is the ultimate goal. To accomplish that, it is sometimes necessary for families to move into the safe haven of a shelter while they participate in programming to help them get back into permanent housing and to find ways to secure an adequate income and become more self-sufficient. 

Help End Homelessness

Tags: Homeless on Cape Cod, homelessness, homelessness prevention, HAC, Rick Presbrey, NOAH Shelter

HAC Names Alisa Galazzi as New CEO

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Mon, Dec 12, 2016 @ 11:08 AM

galazzi family.jpgAlisa Galazzi with her husband, Chris, and their three children, Francesca, Michela and Eliana. Alisa will start her now role at HAC on January 3. 

Over 3,000 miles and three time zones separate Los Angeles from Cape Cod, but that West Coast city is where Alisa Galazzi was first exposed to nonprofit work and issues related to housing during the mid-90s. “I started volunteering at an organization, Inner-City Arts, in downtown skid row and they provided free art programming for children there who were homeless,” she said. “Watching the transformation that happened in the lives of those kids and the families was very moving and powerful and intoxicating.”

That was enough to prompt a career shift for Galazzi, who had previously worked in the field of television. Following 9/11, Galazzi and her husband Chris, the current executive director for the Cape Cod Maritime Museum in Hyannis, moved to Cape Cod to be closer to family.

Over the past 15 years, Galazzi has honed her skills and talents as an executive in the nonprofit world – she is currently the Chief Operating Officer for Gosnold on Cape Cod and previously served as the Executive Director for Alzheimer’s Services of Cape Cod & the Islands, all experiences she will draw upon in her newest role: CEO of HAC.

Last month, HAC’s Board of Directors announced the hiring of Galazzi, who lives in Orleans with her husband and their three children Francesca, 15, Michela, 14, and Eliana, 12. “Alisa has the perfect blend of leadership experience, proven skills, and personal passion to build on the great foundation of HAC’s services,” said David Augustinho, chair of HAC’s board of directors.

Galazzi will replace HAC’s current CEO and President Rick Presbrey, who founded the agency in 1974. Presbrey expressed confidence in Galazzi’s ability to lead the agency. “It is probably more important to me than anyone that HAC gets left in good hands,” he said. “Alisa is a very intelligent, well-organized, very talented and committed person.”

Galazzi is looking forward to helping address the region’s affordable housing issues. “Personally, I have seen firsthand how having stable, secure housing in a loved one’s life is literally a game changer,” she said. “This is an expensive place to live where wages are low. We have to think about the Cape from a broader perspective and the needs of our region and our workforce and trying to tie it all together. It is more than housing. It is economic development and it is self-sustainability.”

Tags: HAC, Rick Presbrey, Alisa Galazzi

Editorial: Day One

Posted by Rick Presbrey on Fri, Nov 11, 2016 @ 03:06 PM

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It is Monday morning and the office next to mine is empty. Looking in, there are lots of reminders of previous occupancy. A yellow pad with familiar handwriting. Family pictures not yet removed. Paint rubbed off the wall from the desk chair hitting it as the occupant moved around. The echo of my words, “Hey, Michael” still hangs in the air from my many calls to him for help in solving a problem or for his memory of past events. But he will be in to finish cleaning out his office. Something to look forward to.

After 35 years at HAC, Michael Sweeney retired on Friday. He was the Chief Operating Officer. He was good at a long list of things that I am not good at. And he was always here getting it done.

Can we go on without him? I know we can. People have left before. But it won’t be the same. How do you fill the void of decades of working together with less than five minutes total of even mildly angry words? How do you fill the space inside you that completely trusts someone and depends on that person to be here in all situations? How do you replace the emptiness inside where the steadiness and dependability of a human relationship used to be?

At his retirement party Friday night my wife reported that when talking about Michael, I said that he wasn’t really a friend. I don’t remember saying that but if I did say it I know why. For me a friend is someone you hang around with for the fun and camaraderie you receive from that friendship. In Michael’s case we shared some of that. But 99% of our relationship was about our work at HAC. Yes, we shared social time, sometimes during working hours and sometimes on weekends, but Michael was not central in our social circle and we weren’t part of his. With Michael we worked together every day. We solved problems together every day. We sat in each other’s office every day. We passed in the halls every day. We went to the dump together every Saturday and talked about work most of the time and family some of the time. We spent a lot more hours together than I ever have spent with a “friend.”

There must be another word that describes our relationship. People who serve in the military, particularly in battles, refer to those they were closest to and who they experienced difficult times with as their “buddies.” I have never understood that term, but maybe it applies to Michael and me.We certainly qualify as buddies. The buddy bond will always be there. That comforts me. But I miss his presence now.

You can read more about Michael Sweeney's 35-year career at HAC and his contributions to those we serve by clicking this link.

Tags: HAC, Rick Presbrey, affordable housing, Michael Sweeney

New Report Shows HAC's Economic Impact on Cape Cod

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Oct 21, 2016 @ 11:15 AM

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On the surface, there is an economic value to the work HAC does. But how specifically is that value measured?

HAC intern James Boyd provided those key details this summer, working with staff to update the agency’s Economic Impact Study which was first prepared in 2003. The paper looks at the impact that both HAC’s housing programs and the organization, as an employer, have on the Cape Cod economy.

James, the 2015 class valedictorian at Mashpee High School, is now a sophomore at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York.

From a programmatic perspective, the study stresses that not only is HAC’s work socially and morally important, “but as a growing body of economic research and analysis confirms, it is an economic necessity in a services driven economy.” That work ranges from developing affordable housing to providing shelter to the homeless to helping clients achieve homeownership through education, counseling and financial support.

Because of these programs, nearly $17 million of HAC’s $23.6 million budget in fiscal year 2016 came to the agency from off-Cape sources. These sources included the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD); the state Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA); the state Department of Mental Health (DMH); and the state Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD).

The economic boost this funding provides to the region can be seen in the $9.7 million in rental subsidies HAC managed in 2015. Those funds had a direct, tangible impact on Cape Cod, keeping 1,019 low- and moderate-income residents – these included workers, seniors and disabled people – safely housed. But it added another value as 77% of those funds ($7.47 million) went to Cape property owners who serve as landlords for rental units that provide affordable housing on Cape Cod.

James_Edited.jpgHAC intern James Boyd with HAC staffers Laura Reckford (from left), Mary LeClair, Margaret Benaka, Deanna Bussiere and Mary Everett-Patriquin. During his internship, James updated HAC's Economic Impact report to show the value the agency has on the region.

Another HAC program that provides an economic boost to the region is the Down Payment and Closing Cost Program, which HAC administers through Barnstable County using HUD funds. Last year, the program provided 10 families with $81,668 in down payment and closing cost assistance, helping them purchase homes in Barnstable County. Those funds had an additional economic benefit, going to support local real estate agents, attorneys and lenders who helped those families in the home buying process.

Impact as an Employer
HAC’s economic impact on the region goes well beyond the services it provides to clients. As one of the largest human service agencies on Cape Cod, the impact can also be seen in its role as an employer. With a payroll of $6.3 million, HAC employed 136 people in 2015. Of that number, 128 live on Cape Cod. The study estimates that HAC employees spent $3.6 million of their income on non-housing related expenses, keeping a large portion of that money in the local community.

“The salaries and wages HAC paid to its employees are important parts of HAC’s regional economic impact,” the study states. “These earnings enable employees to support themselves and their families and generate economic benefits for their communities and the businesses they use.”

The report anticipates that HAC’s impact on the region will only continue to grow in conjunction with the need for quality affordable housing to sustain Cape Cod’s economy. This will serve to strengthen not only the agency, but the region as well. “A greater HAC contribution to the region’s economy inevitably means greater interdependence,” it reads. “More than ever, partnerships between HAC and municipal, state, and federal government agencies, as well as between HAC and the Cape Cod businesses with which it operates, will be a prerequisite for growth.”

Tags: HAC, Economic Impact, Report, James Boyd

What Drives Homeless Rates? It's Not What You Think

Posted by Rick Presbrey on Wed, Sep 14, 2016 @ 10:06 AM

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An August 25 article in the Boston Globe made the case that housing costs, not poverty, drive up the rates of homelessness. The article analyzed homelessness rates nationwide and discovered that homelessness is most prevalent in states where housing costs are highest. New York, Massachusetts, Hawaii and California are examples of states with the highest rates of homelessness, with Hawaii first and New York second. The states with the lowest homeless population rates are Mississippi and Alabama. Interestingly, the article makes the point that Massachusetts does the best job of providing housing and/or shelter for homeless families, but does not do as well for individuals.

The article doesn’t talk about incomes, but it is obvious they are higher in the states with the highest rates of homelessness. This usually results in those states spending the most to deal with the problem. The article cites the three main reasons for homelessness as a sudden life crisis, a breakdown in social support from friends and family, and a lack of housing at the bottom end of the market.

After reading the article it is hard not to see Cape Cod as having the perfect storm for homelessness: high housing costs, low wages, high rates of addiction, and an extreme lack of available housing at the low end of the market. While there has been a big state response to homelessness here on the Cape, we have made the problem even more difficult to solve because of the following: few areas zoned for multi-family rental housing, large lot zoning, lack of public wastewater infrastructure, development patterns that make public transportation difficult, and limited opportunities for good paying jobs. At the same time, state resources have been targeted primarily towards families as opposed to individuals.

Generous state resources were made available to the Cape in the 1980s when we had the highest rate of family homelessness in Massachusetts. Thousands of families were housed and since then, as resources have shrunk, hundreds of families have moved, and been helped to move, to areas of Southeastern Massachusetts where rental housing is more plentiful and less expensive, and where there are more available jobs.

What remains, especially in the urbanized area of the Mid-Cape, is a relatively large number of homeless individuals. State resources are increasing to help with the problem, and social and municipal leaders are working hard to find resources and to employ the best approaches to helping people secure housing and services they may need.

Help End Homelessness

Tags: homelessness, HAC

HAC Welcomes Walter Phinney to Agency

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Jul 29, 2016 @ 01:50 PM

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The next few years at HAC will see significant changes in leadership as longtime, dedicated staff step down, paving the way for new faces to make their mark on the agency.

Those changes started in earnest last month when HAC welcomed Walter Phinney to its ranks as its Chief Operating Officer (COO). Phinney, who lives in South Dennis, replaces Michael Sweeney, who will retire in October after 35 years at HAC.

On his first official day, Phinney was treated to a brunch where CEO Rick Presbrey introduced him to his colleagues. “I think he’ll bring a lot to the organization,” Presbrey said, before delving into his work experience.

Phinney most recently served as COO at Arbour Counseling Services which runs mental health and addiction centers throughout Massachusetts. Prior to that, he was COO at Outer Cape Health Services in Wellfleet, where he was responsible for clinical operations, including behavioral health.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Boston College and a master’s degree in health care administration from New England College.

As much of his recent work has been focused off-Cape, Phinney expressed an excitement that he would be able to make a difference here. “Rick mentioned that I was driving all over so I’m looking forward to making an impact in my community as opposed to Worcester and Lawrence and Haverhill and Lowell and Medford,” Phinney said. “There is something nice about knowing you’re affecting the people who are your neighbors.” 

Tags: HAC, succession planning, Walter Phinney