Housing Assistance Corporation Blog

HACbeat Editorial: Hope is the thing with Feathers

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Sat, May 16, 2015 @ 08:40 AM
DSC 7325 resized 600The Cornell students with children from The Village at Cataumet at the Hyannis Youth & Community Center.

By CORNELL STUDENTS

Hope is found in many different forms at HAC. It can be seen in a little boy who keeps trying to skate after falling more than 20 times. It can be found in a home reunited after overcoming mental illness or a lack of housing stability. It can be seen in the loving looks between a couple trying to make their lives better for their first child they are expecting in July. Hope can even be seen in a clean room to sleep in for a night at the NOAH shelter. 

Hope, and often a second chance, is what HAC provides for the individuals it serves on a daily basis.

Being in the office for a week, our team was able to interview many staff and clients. The staff welcomed us with open arms and told stories of challenging themselves to be more successful in leading their clients towards stability. While all acknowledged that the work they do can be tiring at times, the way their faces lit up as they told stories of success and happiness showed where their motivation came from.

We came to HAC hoping to help the agency, but instead found ourselves reaping the benefits of working with such courageous staff and client population. The positivity and stories of conquering adversity, showed us that no matter where one ends up in life, there is always someone who will have their back. And that is something that should give us all hope.

Tags: Cornell, HACbeat, Cornell University, HAC, NOAH Shelter, hope

Staff Take Advantage of HAC Services

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, May 15, 2015 @ 01:19 PM

 

By CORNELL STUDENTS

One of the qualities HAC employees are known for is their compassion for the people they serve. That compassion may lie in the fact that occasionally staffers are clients, and therefore understand the emotions one goes through when seeking help from HAC.

Ann Rebello, HAC’s accounts payable clerk, is a prime example. A few years ago, she was struggling to afford the high costs of rent on Cape Cod so she moved in with her daughter to lessen the financial blow. When her daughter eventually moved out, Rebello looked to colleague Cheryl Kramer, manager of HAC’s Housing and Consumer Education Center (HCEC), for guidance.

“I wanted to see if I could get a consolidated loan to pay my bills so maybe I could afford a little more (rent),” Rebello said. “But when Cheryl saw my credit, she said, ‘Why don’t you try to buy?’ I didn’t think I could afford to buy, but she told me that mortgages are less than rent.”

That one meeting led Rebello to work with Gael Kelleher, the director of real estate for HAC’s Cape Community Real Estate (CCRE), in 2013 to find an affordable home she eventually purchased in South Yarmouth. “Being able to buy a house at my age with my income is nothing short of a miracle,” Rebello said.

Today, Rebello could not be happier. At the end of July, she will be celebrating her second anniversary as a homeowner on Cape Cod.

At HAC, Rebello is not alone. Volunteer coordinator Mary Everett-Patriquin and her husband, who moved to Massachusetts in the spring of 2008, ran into financial complications while trying to sell their previous home in Arizona in the midst of one of the worst economic recessions in recent history.

As a result, the couple moved in with Everett-Patriquin’s mother, saving money to afford their own place. During that time, she was hired by HAC’s communications and development team, and enrolled in the nonprofit’s Homebuyer Education class.

Afterwards, she utilized HAC’s services as Kelleher acted as their real estate agent and was able to find them a condominium in Yarmouth that the couple moved into about a year and a half ago. Like Rebello, Everett-Patriquin could not be more pleased with the assistance she received as a client.

And both agreed that one of the most satisfying aspects of their home purchases was that it was able to generate a profit for HAC. As a nonprofit real estate company, CCRE supports itself and generates funds for HAC programs every time they help a client buy or sell a home. For Kelleher that is the strength of her department. “We don’t make it for profit,” she said. “We make it to do good.”

Tags: alternative spring break, HACbeat, Cornell University, HAC, Mary Everett Patriquin, Gael Kelleher, Ann Rebello

Rising from the Ashes: HAC's Stabilization Program

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Wed, May 13, 2015 @ 11:11 AM
Charlene & Maryanne resized 600Charlene (left) with HAC’s AnnMarie Torrey.

By CORNELL STUDENTS

Motivation comes in many forms. For some, it is internal. For others, it is external.
With Charlene, her motivation was the latter, using her daughter and granddaughter as inspiration to find a home where they could safely live together.

Not long ago, that concept was merely a dream that Charlene thought was impossible. But with HAC’s help, Charlene discovered that some dreams are attainable. You just need a little encouragement and a lot of support. At HAC, Charlene received both.

She turned to HAC about five years ago when she was at one of the lowest points in her life. Her daughter had just been diagnosed with a mental illness, and Charlene was given guardianship of her granddaughter.

In the midst of this, she was dealt another devastating blow when the house she had lived in for 20 years was sold to a new owner who did not want to continue renting it. Due to her income and the high cost of apartments on Cape Cod, Charlene’s housing options were limited.

With nowhere else go to, she looked to HAC for guidance, working with caseworker AnnMarie Torrey to find housing not only for her, but her entire family.

Torrey steered Charlene to Massachusetts’ new HomeBASE program which assists people who are homeless, facing eviction or those living in subsidized hotel or motel rooms paid for by the state, helping them find secure housing. Thanks to the program and HAC’s help, Charlene was able to move into a new condo with her granddaughter, staying there for two years.

During that time, she continued to work with Torrey, filling out applications for Section 8 subsidized housing. That persistence paid off as she was able to be placed in a new apartment in Centerville, all while she continues to wait for her Section 8 voucher.

“Because Charlene was diligent in filling out her forms, her name came to the top of the MRVP (Section 8) list which qualified her for extended subsidy,” Torrey said. “She now pays only 40% of her income for housing.”

For Charlene, HAC has been a blessing, providing her family a safety net when they needed it most. It does not “just give you a place to live, it enables you to get our life in order so that things are as they should be,” she explained. “You can pick yourself up and have the strength to get to a good place like we are now.”

Today, Charlene and her family are thriving. Her daughter received treatment for her illness and has since moved in, making Charlene’s dreams come true. “All three of us are doing very well and thanks to the assistance of HAC and their programs, it literally saved three lives,” she said. “Three people’s lives would have been torn apart if not for their assistance and I’m truly grateful to have received that help.”

Learn more about the HAC project Cornell University students did

on their alternative spring break this year by clicking this link.

Tags: alternative spring break, HACbeat, Section 8, Cornell University, AnnMarie Torrey, HomeBASE, HAC

Cornell Students Commandeer HACbeat

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, May 08, 2015 @ 03:25 PM
DSC 0780 resized 600Cornell University students Joon Jeong (from left), Allison Laphen, Irene Bae, Anum Chaudhry, Breanna Ross and Nupur Bhatt spent their alternative spring break “hijacking” HACbeat, creating content for this month’s newsletter. 

Staff in HAC’s communications and development department have the chance to interact with a wide array of clients and colleagues with incredible stories, ranging from tragedy to triumph and everything in between.

“We get to see people at all different levels,” Julie Wake, the director of that department, said. “It is very exciting, especially because people are very interesting to me.”

Wake made the statement on the first of a four-day session in which six students from Cornell University had a chance to “hijack” HACbeat, taking over the responsibility of writing HAC’s monthly newsletter from Chris Kazarian and meeting the nonprofit’s employees who deliver housing services as well as clients who are the recipients of their hard work.

It provided the Ivy League contingent with an opportunity to immerse themselves in HAC culture, whether it was learning about the Cape Homes program that assists the region’s homeless from client services manager Anne Marie Peters or talking with shelter clients like Connie Pinkney about their dreams for the future. Pinkney’s goal was simple: she wants to one day be able to take care of her husband.

The students saw the gritty side of Cape Cod, in the form of a homeless couple, roughly the same age as them, staying at The Village at Cataumet, trying to get back on their feet, not just for themselves, but for the baby they were expecting. What they took out of these types of interactions during their short time here was not despair, but something much more positive.

“I found them to have a lot of hope considering their situation,” said Anum Chaudhry, a master’s student at Cornell. “They were ready to fix their situation for their baby. That was really an inspiration for me. And they were so young which was interesting because they have experienced more in life although they are younger than me.”

The trip leader, Breanna Ross, a sophomore from New Jersey studying industrial and labor relations, agreed, saying that she saw a resilience in those that HAC serves. “It seems like there are a lot of good people who had trouble in life and are going through bad times and are doing everything they can to get out of it and continue to live their life and live their dreams,” she said.

Junior Nupur Bhatt of Indianapolis, acknowledged that HAC has been successful in helping clients realize their dreams. “Clearly what you are doing is making a difference,” she said.

DSC 7349 resized 600Trip leader Breanna Ross with one of the cookies she baked, in the shape of Cape Cod, at HAC's Angel House shelter in Hyannis. 

Over the course of their time at HAC, the students – sophomore Allison Laphen of Rittman, Ohio, freshman Irene Bae of Long Island, New York, and sophomore Joon Jeong of Dallas, Texas, rounded out the group - had a chance to explore the NOAH Shelter, bake Easter-themed cookies with mothers at Angel House, go ice skating in Hyannis with children living in shelter and visit the National Seashore.

The trip concluded on Thursday with a dinner in which the group shared photos and stories from their alternative spring break with HAC staff and local Cornell alumni Barbara Conolly of Mashpee, and John Banner of Falmouth. HAC CEO Rick Presbrey expressed a genuine appreciation for students and the 11-year collaboration between the college and the nonprofit. “You all are impressive folks,” he said. “It is so amazing to meet people who have their heads screwed on right.”

While he acknowledged the agency always learns something valuable from the students that visit HAC on an annual basis every spring, it was apparent that this year’s group experienced a similar enlightenment. “I wanted to do something useful on my spring break instead of being home and wasting time,” Nupur said. “I learned a lot and I’ve definitely been inspired to continue volunteering within my own community.”

DSC 7396 resized 600The Cornell contingent were joined at their farewell dinner by alumni from the Cape Cod chapter of the Ivy League school Barbara Conolly (far left) of Mashpee, and John Banner (far right) of Falmouth. 

Tags: Cornell, alternative spring break, HACbeat, Rick Presbrey

Making Connections at NOAH Shelter

Posted by Julie Wake on Tue, Mar 11, 2014 @ 07:30 PM
“A minimal amount of human contact can change a life,” said Greg Bar, manager of HAC’s NOAH Shelter, about a new volunteer project at NOAH Shelter. 
Bill Dado resized 600
One night Bill Dado had a dream he was working with the homeless in Hyannis.  “When I woke up I just had to go to the computer and Google shelters in Hyannis,” said Bill Dado.  Dado moved to the Cape two years ago and is a retired high school guidance counselor from Sturbridge, MA.   “The next thing I knew I was filling out an online application to volunteer for HAC, meeting with the volunteer coordinator and being quickly introduced to Greg Bar.”

Dado’s concept is to create a “pen pal” type relationship with NOAH clients and high school students.  Students would be connected to a client and would initiate a letter exchange as simple as, “I’m thinking of you and I care.”  Clients would receive a letter with just the student’s first name and vice versa. Letters would be managed through the school’s community service person.

In Dado’s previous career as a guidance counselor, he saw major benefits when “at risk” students were connected to a teacher on a one on one basis.  “I thought if we applied this to the homeless, even though the gesture is small, we might really make a personal impact on so many levels,” said Dado.

Sturgis West and Cape Cod Academy have signed on to be pilots for the program. 

Tags: Homeless on Cape Cod, Homeless, HACbeat, volunteers, Volunteer Cape Cod, Volunteer coffee hour, housing assistance corporation, NOAH Shelter, NOAH, volunteering

A Plea

Posted by Julie Wake on Sat, Feb 15, 2014 @ 09:00 AM
describe the image
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

A New Playspace for Cataumet, Thanks to Horizons

Posted by Julie Wake on Fri, Feb 14, 2014 @ 10:38 AM
Every four years, Horizons for Homeless Children “reinstalls” one of the children’s playspaces in the family shelters at Housing Assistance Corporation. So, this fall, Horizons staffers worked on the playspace at the Village at Cataumet, the family shelter in Cataumet.
cataumet playspace04 resized 600
The Horizons for Homeless Children playspace program was begun in 1990 and is based on the belief that play is essential for child development. The program ensures that each child living in a homeless shelter in Massachusetts has the opportunity for developmentally appropriate play.

The new play area was dedicated to the donors who made the reinstall possible. The plaque acknowledged donors Fotene and Tom Cote and their friend Suzy. All three donors, who are from the Boston area, attended the event at the Village of Cataumet.

As children ran into the play area to check out all the new toys and games, parents watched and smiled. Krista and Michael watched their son Matthew, 4, play while they held their son Noah, 1. Krista said Matthew particularly loves finger-painting.

Sandy Burke of Gray Gables in Bourne, a volunteer Playspace Activity Leader (PAL) , said, “I like seeing how the kids improve by getting some individual attention and some socialization skills.”  

Tags: HACbeat, housing assistance corporation, Village at Cataumet, Horizons for Homeless Children

Editorial: Finding Nemo by Rick Presbrey

Posted by Julie Wake on Fri, Mar 15, 2013 @ 09:00 AM
describe the image
For those of you who don’t know, HAC has a farm. It is a small farm, in Sandwich, where there is a 44-plot community garden, a 1.5-acre market garden, three goats and 22 chickens. The caretaker, who lives in the Curio House on the property is Jim MacDougall. Jim takes care of the complicated zero-net-energy house, the land, the gardening equipment and various improvements. This year he will be building an equipment storage barn, for example. Jim also has five years of professional experience taking care of chickens and recently attended “goat” school in Maine. Jim, as you can tell, is a skilled and versatile guy.

On Feb. 7, the day before this winter’s big blizzard, Jim was preparing for the animals to be safe and secure. He was disturbed to note that one of the chickens, who had become increasingly sickly during the few days prior, was not eating and could barely walk. He had been concerned for the chicken, but with the storm coming he felt that there was no way that the chicken would survive. With the resolve of a professional chicken farmer, Jim did something that he had done many times when working on a large chicken farm. He put the chicken out of its misery by breaking its neck. Since the ground was frozen, he temporarily disposed of the body in a square plastic compost bin behind the goat house. It was the second chicken that had been lost (the other was run over by a car) and each one was a loss for Jim, but he reasoned only losing two over the course of two years was not too bad.

The farm is an uncomfortable place in the winter. The sky is gray, the ground is barren with the refuse from last year’s crops, making people huddle inside by the warmth of the hearth, and animals huddle in the coop and goat house, sharing the warmth from each other.

The storm, winds and cold came as predicted followed by a second snow storm. After the second storm tapered off, on Feb. 18, Jim was cleaning up the coop and the goat house and went to put some material in the composter.

Farmers know that compost “cooks.” Deep in the center of any compost pile, if it is working as we expect, it is warm. And within that compost pile, the ingredients that eventually become nourishing soil are breaking down.

When Jim went to add to the compost, he expected a little warmth, but what he didn’t expect was a healthy energized chicken! His neck-breaking skill must have eroded over the years, leaving a sick but alive chicken in the protected warmth of the nourishing compost for about 11 days. Jim, who loves his chickens, had fortuitously put the chicken in the intensive care unit of his farm. The bright golden brown chicken, now known as Nemo, is now happy and healthy and back to the business of laying eggs.

Too often, perhaps, we give up on each other, when a little warmth and nourishment may make all the difference.

Tags: HACbeat, Community Green, housing assistance corporation, Housing on Cape Cod

Editorial: A Hand Up, Not a Hand Out

Posted by Julie Wake on Wed, Jan 30, 2013 @ 07:50 AM
describe the imageAs the CEO of an organization that manages a variety of different programs, all of which help people in need of a decent home, I am always looking for ways to be more effective. Often I, we, have a pretty good idea of how to improve what we do, but more often than not it takes money. So, we raise money the best we can.

Two areas where we would like to improve what we do are sheltering families and sheltering individuals. We do the sheltering part pretty well. All of our shelters are carefully managed to create as safe and healthy an environment as possible. We have a pretty good track record in that respect.

We also have a very good record of getting people into housing. Of course, the more resources we have the more people get placed. At times in the past we have had almost adequate money to house a large proportion of families in need, but we have never had much to house homeless individuals. These days we have less money to house either population, families or individuals.

Besides more money for housing, which we are working on, we’d like to be able to find funds to create and manage programmatic activities that make stays in shelter more valuable for both populations. Individuals often need detox, health services and mental health services. Families frequently need the same. What both populations need is pre-employment training. In today’s world, unless you have a serious and verifiable disability, you need to work to support yourself. Most of the people we serve are not personally equipped to obtain and maintain a job that pays that much. A well-organized curriculum of personal self-management and pre-employment training, as well as some funding and staffing to supervise internships, might well make the difference many need.

People, in my experience, want to work, to support themselves and have productive lives. Circumstances have been cruel and unforgiving to them, and they need kindness, patience and a hand up.

We are determined to develop and implement such a plan.

Tags: Homeless, HACbeat, Affordable Housing on Cape Cod, Prevention, Rick Presbrey

HAC Knows Housing

Posted by Julie Wake on Tue, Jun 12, 2012 @ 04:00 PM

Rick PresbreyEditorial by: Rick Presbrey, HAC CEO/Founder

One of the blessings of getting older is beginning to figure out who you really are. The young ask, “What am I going to be when I grow up?” During middle-age we ask ourselves, “Who am I?”  And for sure, late in life, we find out. If it isn’t all bad, it is pretty nice to know and to learn to accept who you are.

So it is with institutions and so, then, is it with HAC. HAC is a middle-aged agency asking itself the question, “Who or what are we?”

Are we a housing organization? Or are we a social service organization? Are we concerned about the environment? Are we concerned about growth? Energy? Jobs? Water quality?

Do we do too many different things? Would we do a better job if we didn’t try to do too much? Is it good to try, as we do, to be all things (housing) to all people?

If, as the Supreme Court has decided, corporations are people, then we exist as a collection of people – paid staff, volunteers, funders and donors, all in the process of acting out who we are. What I see, or at least hope I see, is a large group, all of whom are concerned about our local and global worlds. As such, we try to act responsibly and honestly in addressing the problems that we are directly (housing) and indirectly responsible for addressing. We try to be responsible for careful use of our funds, for careful stewardship of our services to cause the greatest positive result, and to do it all with concern for all people and the environments (economic, social and natural) in which we all exist.

We are chartered, as are most nonprofits, as an educational organization. Without question our most important product is information and we believe that the more information the better. Hence, 21 years of monthly HACBeats.

I haven’t answered my original question, but in time we will know the answer. I do know that we know housing and need to do more of what we do and do it better.

Tags: Homeless on Cape Cod, HACbeat, housing assistance corporation