Housing Assistance Corporation Blog

New Outreach Specialist Dedicated to Helping Cape's Homeless

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Mon, Dec 11, 2017 @ 04:32 PM
Shannon Tracy-1.jpgHAC’s new outreach specialist Shannon Tracy with her colleague Deborah McDonnel’s dog Ida. Tracy moved to Cape Cod in September.

Working with the homeless can be challenging, but HAC’s newest outreach specialist Shannon Tracy understands those difficulties are far outweighed by the positives. “Knowing you can at least assist them on the next step of their journey is the rewarding part of it,” she said.

Hired in October, Tracy may be a relative newcomer to Cape Cod, but she has extensive experience working with vulnerable populations. Since graduating with a bachelor’s degree in psychology from SUNY Old Westbury in 2010, she has worked with the homeless, helping find permanent housing for clients at Penates, an emergency shelter on Long Island, New York.

“I was always interested in helping people,” Tracy explained of why she became a social worker. “I started as a shelter worker to get my feet wet and enjoyed working with the population.”

What she has discovered over the past seven years is that homelessness “doesn’t discriminate… I think that is a major misconception. People don’t think it can happen to them when it can really happen to anyone.”

Cassi Danzl, HAC’s director of family and individuals services, said Tracy has a perfect skillset to effectively work with at-risk populations.

She has brought those skills to HAC where she is one of three staff – Derick Bussiere and Deborah McDonnell are the others - that conduct outreach with the homeless living in the streets and woods of Cape Cod. She works closely with several local agencies, including Duffy Health Center, Vinfen, Homeless Not Hopeless, and CHAMP Homes, to ensure the region’s homeless have access to the services they need to move into stable housing.

Housing, Tracy said, is the key component that can enable homeless individuals to turn their lives around. “I think it gives them a sense of purpose and independence, and provides them the stability to move onto their next goals,” she said.

Support HAC's Homeless Outreach Efforts

Tags: Homeless on Cape Cod, Homeless, Derick Bussiere, Deborah McDonnell, Family and Individual Services Department, homeless outreach, Cassi Danzl, Shannon Tracy

HAC Lends Expertise as Falmouth Takes Steps to Help Its Homeless

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Tue, Mar 08, 2016 @ 12:20 PM
Falmouth_Homeless_1.jpgHAC CEO Rick Presbrey (left) with Paul Rifkin of Falmouth.

A little less than a year ago, a tourist visiting this part of the state wrote a letter to the Cape Cod Times complaining about the homeless in Hyannis.

That one letter kicked off heated dialogue, both in the press and online. Some agreed with the visitor while others, like Paul Rifkin, staunchly opposed the sentiment. “It sparked an outrage in my brain,” he said. “I get offended when the concept of ‘the other’ becomes something less than human and something to be vilified, something to be looked down upon, something to be ignored.”

And so Rifkin, the former owner of the Moonakis Café in Falmouth, contacted Alan Burt, co-founder of the nonprofit Homeless Not Hopeless, Inc. in Hyannis, in hopes of turning the negative discourse into tangible, positive action.

A meeting in Falmouth at the Waquoit Congregational Church was held this past fall, the first step towards enacting change in Rifkin’s hometown. “I called the meeting of people who might be interested in doing something to help Falmouth’s homeless, or houseless, population and a lot of people came to the meeting and there was a lot of interest and energy,” Rifkin said.

Rifkin has relied upon those like Burt and HAC CEO Rick Presbrey, who attended that first meeting and several since, to help guide Falmouth’s efforts to care for its homeless. Presbrey said the goals of the Falmouth contingent are similar to those of a group he is a part of in Hyannis which “is to begin helping people who are homeless remain in their home communities.”

The formula is simple – each town finds ways of serving its homeless internally. In Falmouth, the plan that took shape had a short-term and long-term approach that looked like this – over the winter, provide temporary housing for homeless men and women while trying to secure permanent housing where anywhere from four to eight individuals can receive the services they need in a safe, secure environment in order for them to move forward with their lives. 

Alan_Burt_Photo.jpgAlan Burt (right) speaks at a recent HAC fundraiser while NOAH Shelter director Greg Bar looks on. Burt is lending his expertise to Falmouth's efforts to assist its homeless population. 

While St. Barnabas Episcopal Church offered to house the homeless this winter, state fire codes prohibited that from happening and so an alternative was found: the Falmouth Inn. Relying on church funds and private donations, the volunteer group has been able to provide temporary shelter in recent months to 15 homeless men and women, ranging in age from 20 to 80 years old, as part of a longstanding initiative known as Overnights of Hospitality.

Prior to this pilot program, Burt said that one 80-year-old woman with serious medical conditions had been sleeping in her car for several months. “That troubles me,” Burt said. “The cause of homelessness is not providing enough affordable housing. We all know this so it is troubling to think that we’ve got people suffering and dying on our streets.”

For Rifkin, that was one of the primary motivations for helping to start this grassroots effort. “I didn’t want to wake up in the morning and look at The Falmouth Enterprise and read that someone froze to death,” he said.

HAC’s role in all of this is to provide the support and expertise of those like Presbrey. “We bring another set of skills which is not of any use in helping with Overnights of Hospitality except financially, in terms of raising money, and buying real estate,” he said.

Currently, Presbrey is working with Rifkin to identify potential buildings that could serve to house the homeless as well as finding donors who could help fund such a purchase. And then, it will be on to the next town.

“We’re hoping that Falmouth is the first of several communities to undertake such an effort,” Presbrey said.

“If all the towns do even a little thing, it becomes a big thing for the Cape in addressing homelessness,” Burt added.

And in the process, there is a real difference being made, not only in the lives of those who are homeless, but those who are helping them. “What I have found, and a lot of the volunteers in the program have too, is we’re not just helping the homeless,” Rifkin said. “We’re helping ourselves. It makes you feel good to do this for other people. It makes you feel good that you are serving others.” 

Support Falmouth's Efforts 

Contributions are still needed to assist Falmouth as it works to house its homeless men and women through the end of March. Donations can be made by check and mailed to: 

St. Barnabas Episcopal Church

P.O. Box 203, Falmouth, MA 02541

NOTE: Please write "Belonging to Each Other" in the memo line

Those looking to volunteer are encouraged to email Ellie Shaver at ellie.shaver@gmail.com for more information. 

Tags: Homeless on Cape Cod, Homeless, homelessness, Falmouth

Activities Director Hired for NOAH Shelter

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Tue, Sep 01, 2015 @ 05:04 PM

Lonnie Daniels Photo resized 600

When HAC first opened the Day Center at NOAH last May, it looked to Lonnie Daniels to assist the nonprofit as it began this new endeavor.

At the time, Daniels was hired as a part-time consultant to the day center, juggling the role with his post at Father Bill’s in Quincy, where he oversaw the day-to-day operations at that homeless shelter.

This past March, Daniels’ responsibilities shifted as HAC named him the first-ever activities director for the day center. In this part-time role, consisting of roughly 20 hours a week, Daniels oversees programs for day center clients.

Though still new to the position, Daniels has invited representatives from both the Department of Transitional Assistance in Hyannis, and the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission to NOAH where they have worked with those at the shelter.

Daniels views his primary role as bringing vital services to the homeless at a time when they need it most. “What this role does is provides services for them so they’re not just sitting around,” he said. “And it keeps them engaged.” 

Tags: Homeless, homelessness, HAC, Lonnie Daniels, NOAH Shelter

NOAH Meal Volunteers Fill Clients With Hope

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Thu, Aug 27, 2015 @ 09:59 AM
DSC 0076 resized 600HAC’s Darrell Thomas (middle right) talks to the volunteers that serve meals at the NOAH Shelter.

Whenever an individual comes to the NOAH Shelter in Hyannis, they have experienced serious trauma.

It could be the result of mental illness, addiction, loss of a job, divorce or medical problems. So they look for small beacons of hope that will ultimately lift them out of the darkness. And that hope is what they receive every night when complete strangers, out of the goodness of their hearts, prepare dinner for upwards of 60 homeless men and women staying at the shelter.

“Just by being here and showing a little love is a huge thing,” shelter director Greg Bar told roughly three dozen such volunteers at the end of February when he offered tips for those serving meals and introduced his colleague Darrell Thomas as the new kitchen manager for the shelter.

What these HAC volunteers provide for Cape Cod’s homeless population, Bar said, is a little normalcy when they need it most.

“What you all provide for us is immeasurable,” Thomas added, before acknowledging that he knows exactly what NOAH’s clients are experiencing. “We were in a situation 

like them. My family had no place to stay. We got to HAC and they helped me and my family get back on our feet.”

Thomas, who was hired at HAC in the summer of 2010, has witnessed firsthand the positive impact meal volunteers can have on those who are homeless.

One has been dubbed the “soup lady,” providing two different types of soups to clients every week.

Bar encouraged them to go beyond just serving a meal. “If you want to give them words of encouragement, do it. If you want to pray with them, do it,” he said. “Any investment that builds these people up is a good thing.”

“It just makes you feel good,” said Beth Heiden, a member of Our Lady of Victory Parish in Centerville, who has been preparing meals at NOAH for roughly two years.

“We could be on the other side,” said Francoise Rocher, also of Our Lady of Victory Parish. She first served a meal at the shelter about seven years ago. As to why she has continually come back, she explained it this way: “Coming here reassures me that there are people in the world who are concerned and care.”

Tags: Homeless, volunteers, Darrell Thomas, HAC, NOAH Shelter, Greg Bar

Homelessness on Cape Cod: One Family's Story

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Thu, Aug 13, 2015 @ 10:11 AM

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There are many ways to celebrate a birthday, but living at a campground with three children is probably not the way 30-year-old Amanda* envisioned the transition to 31 would occur.

But just a few weeks before her 31st birthday, that is exactly where she found herself – homeless, living in a tent with four sleeping bags, one each for her and her children Joseph, 9, Connor, 6, and Beth, 3.

With no vehicle, the family spent the better part of May, June and July relying on the kindness of strangers and the support of HAC to receive the essentials they needed – food and clothing – to survive the outdoors. During one significant storm, HAC was able to temporarily transition them into a local motel for two nights before they returned to the campground.

While many situations involving the Cape’s homeless population handled by HAC are difficult, family housing services department administrative assistant Monica Mitchell was particularly struck by the troubling nature of this one. “This was an extreme situation where they didn’t have anything except the clothes on their back,” Mitchell said.

“It’s been a struggle,” Amanda admitted, sitting on one of five folding chairs situated around a fire pit on a warm, sunny day during the second week of June.

About 20 feet away, on a picnic table covered with a plastic tablecloth sat much of the family’s belongings. There was a plastic bin full of small toys – dinosaurs, rubber balls, action figures and children’s books, all donated by strangers – to keep her kids entertained.

A small cooler was used to keep perishables cold with more important food kept inside the tent so that animals, like the raccoon that visited the night before, would not take what little they had. Food was cooked on either a small portable propane stove or over the fire pit.

“I’m trying to keep it as simple as possible,” Amanda said, when asked what she makes. That meant lots of hot dogs, fresh fruit, vegetables and granola bars.

Trips to the nearby restrooms or showers required bringing the entire family to ensure everyone was safe.

For adventurers seeking a weekend getaway, there is a romantic notion to living like this. But when it is about survival, it is a much different story.

There is a sadness to their situation which Amanda never acknowledged. Her focus, since becoming homeless in April when she left her husband and their religious community, was protecting her children in hopes they will soon have a better, more stable life.

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To that end, HAC staff, along with TEAM M25, have provided the family with everything they need until they are eventually placed into an affordable apartment using HomeBase funds from the state that are intended for extreme cases like this.

These are the small steps called progress, better than having to call a tent your home.

Being homeless is difficult enough and has only been compounded for this family by several factors: according to HAC staff, Amanda appeared to have been mentally abused; they had no belongings; and the children, due to their religion, had never been vaccinated.

Through it all, Amanda has maintained a positive, upbeat attitude, displaying a courage that has impressed Mitchell who has been in contact with her on an almost daily basis this summer. “She has given me an unbelievable amount of strength watching her,” Mitchell said. “She is always calm, always focused. She knows this is a tiny blip and that this too shall pass.”

And it will when the family eventually moves into a three-bedroom apartment on Cape Cod, representing a stability that Amanda and her three children have been seeking for months. “Most of our lives, our whole family has been cramped into one room,” Amanda said. “This will feel like we’ve won the lottery, living in a three-bedroom house.”

She makes the statement as her oldest son, puts the finishing touches on homemade sassafras tea, and her other son rollerblades around the camp site. Her daughter, meanwhile, is taking a nap in the tent that provided them with safety for several weeks in the late spring and summer of 2015 when they had nowhere else to go.

They look as normal as you or I, only they are homeless.

*NOTE: The names of the client in this story have been changed. 

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Tags: Homeless, HomeBASE, homelessness, Cape Cod, TEAM M25

Winter's Impact on Cape Cod's Homeless

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Wed, Feb 11, 2015 @ 10:17 AM

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The first snowstorm of 2015 was a significant one, dropping over two feet of snow on most parts of Cape Cod and shutting down schools, businesses, government and commerce for nearly two days.

While most people spent their time in the comfort of their own homes, the Cape’s homeless men and women did so wherever they could find safety. For 60 people that meant HAC’s NOAH Shelter which had a line of people waiting to get in the facility when it opened at noon on the Monday the first snowflakes started to fall. “We don’t see that usually,” shelter director Greg Bar said. “That just goes to show you whether you are rich or poor, storms get you panicky.”

In preparation for the blizzard, Bar stocked up on essentials – flashlights, first aid kits and food in the event dinners from donors did not make their way to the shelter. Blankets were stockpiled to make them accessible if the power went out. “We looked ahead to make sure we were one hundred percent self-sufficient,” he said.

With the shelter at capacity, he anticipated a small contingent would have to sleep in the foyer.

Anytime these types of extreme weather events hit the region, Bar said, it can create a mixture of tension and boredom in the shelter as cabin fever starts to set in. It is why Bar welcomed any sort of entertainment – a guest leading a group activity or discussion or a musician entertaining clients – in the future when a similar-sized storm starts to subside.

In what has been a stroke of good fortune, Bar said that the Cape’s homeless have been relatively lucky as “there have been no tragedies because of the weather. I hope that continues.”

Of course, that could always change. In advance of the January storm, there were a few homeless who were planning on remaining outside despite pleas from advocates like Bar and Dan McCullough, director of TEAM M25, a homeless outreach group on the Cape.

McCullough, who often works with the homeless who sleep in camps in the woods, said most were finding temporary shelter elsewhere, whether being put up at a local motel, couch surfing with a friend or at NOAH.

He knew of a small group that had planned to stay in the basement of an abandoned building near the Hyannis Airport. “We have done the best we can,” he said, noting that those who did stay outside were given extreme weather gear, from tents to sleeping bags to blankets to clothes, and understood the risks involved.

With 20 years of experience working with the homeless on Cape Cod, McCullough said he realizes that there are those who “have the capacity, intelligence and imagination to stay outside in weather like this. And they almost always survive if they can put up with the discomfort.”

Still, the preference for those like McCullough and Bar is that these homeless people accept help in storms like this. “There are alternatives for people,” Bar stressed.

Tags: Homeless, snow, NOAH, Dan McCullough, Greg Bar, winter, M25

11th Annual Shelter Cape Cod Telethon a Success

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Mon, Jan 26, 2015 @ 03:07 PM
DSC 1196 resized 600WCAI's Sean Corcoran sings "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" with several students from the Nathaniel H. Wixon Innovation School.

During the first hour of the 11th Annual Shelter Cape Cod Telethon, State Representative Timothy Madden made his way onto the festively decorated set at the Cape Cod Community Media Center and spoke with hosts Mindy Todd and Sarah Colvin about the homeless situation on Cape Cod.

“This is our community and people have to step up now and contribute,” he said. “We can’t continue to live in a place like Cape Cod and have people who are homeless.”

The sad reality is that there are homeless people on Cape Cod and the telethon raises funds that go directly to HAC’s four shelters which serve that vulnerable population. In December more than $90,000 was raised during the five-hour live event to help support the programs and services at the NOAH Shelter in Hyannis, Angel House in Hyannis, Carriage House in North Falmouth and The Village at Cataumet in Bourne.

That money ranged from small $10 and $15 donations from individuals to large ones like a $5,000 check from Heroes in Transition that the Mashpee nonprofit’s co-founders, Cynthia and Kenneth Jones, and one of its directors, Roberta Cannon, presented to HAC on air.

Each donation represented one small step towards giving HAC clients a better life through programs intended to not only provide them with the basic essentials – food and housing – but the tools and confidence to become self-sufficient. Paul Melville, a consultant who runs a parenting group for fathers living at The Village at Cataumet, spoke about his experience working with clients and the benefits his program has brought to them. “They talk about parenting tips and their successes and we talk about their hopes and dreams,” Melville said.

And while he has never been homeless, he said, he has lived in subsidized housing, allowing him a chance to relate to what the parents he works with at the shelter are going through. “I remember thinking [when I was in subsidized housing] this isn’t where or how I wanted to raise my children,” Melville said. “I get them to open up and to realize this isn’t long term.”

If anything, the telethon was an indication of the help, and hope, that the community provides to HAC’s clients. This year’s event saw over 75 sponsors, ranging from Comcast to Clancy’s Tavern in Dennis Port to Hyannis Toyota to Cape Associates in Yarmouth Port to Falmouth Lumber, as well as roughly 170 volunteers that called friends and family throughout the evening asking them to donate to the telethon.

DSC 0920 resized 600Volunteers from Shepley Wood Products were in the holiday spirit.

A team of phone volunteers from Shepley Wood Products was adorned in Santa hats while a group from the Home Builders & Remodelers Association of Cape Cod wore pink construction hats.

Among those providing entertainment during the evening were several HAC staffers, including Alison Reid who sang a live rendition of the Jackson Five’s “Give Love on Christmas Day” as well as Greg and Karin Bar and Derick Bussiere who performed a pre-taped acoustic version of James Taylor’s “You’ve Got a Friend.”

WCAI’s Sean Corcoran, who served as a co-host during the evening, led several children from the Nathaniel H. Wixon Innovation School in a sing-a-long of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” while David Kuehn, executive director of the Cotuit Center for the Arts, was joined by actress Hannah Carrita in performing a Christmas-themed medley.

DSC 0770 resized 600State Representative Timothy Madden (right) talks about homelessness on Cape Cod with telethon co-hosts Mindy Todd (left) and Sarah Colvin.

Underlying the performances was the theme of action, one that several speakers touched upon throughout the night. “We’ve got to do better and we will do better,” Madden said. 

“Homelessness is a national disgrace,” said David Augustinho, chair of HAC’s executive board. “Everybody needs to solve this problem together.”

It is a problem that not only HAC is working to solve, but those in the community. Dr. Nate Rudman, an emergency room physician at Cape Cod Hospital, noted that he sees homeless men and women spend anywhere from 140 to 170 hours in the ER because they have nowhere else to go.

“There are so many people in need,” Hyannis Fire Chief Harold Brunelle said. “I think so many people are just one paycheck away from being homeless and we already have a big homeless population on the Cape.”

Thank you so much to all our sponsors (click here for the full list) who helped make this telethon our best yet!

Even though the telethon is over, you can still help support HAC's shelter program. Click the button below to do so today!

Support HAC's Homeless Shelters

Tags: Homeless, Shelter Cape Cod Telethon, Cape Cod, NOAH Shelter, Village at Cataumet, Carriage House, Angel House, shelter

Dennis Fifth Grader Raises Funds for NOAH Shelter

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Thu, Jan 22, 2015 @ 10:38 AM
DSC 6915 resized 600Glen Baker collected donations at the Stop & Shop in South Yarmouth.

In many ways Glen Baker is your average fifth grader. He plays football and baseball and enjoys hanging out with his friends at the Nathaniel H. Wixon Innovation School in South Dennis.

It is there, while attending a school assembly focused on the issue of homelessness in November, Glen was inspired to do something unusual for an 11-year-old. He wanted to make a positive difference in his community.

So in the three days leading up to Thanksgiving, Glen set up a table and some bins inside the Stop & Shop in South Yarmouth, and spent a few hours after school collecting donations – money, food and clothes – for Cape Cod’s homeless men and women.

As he manned the table the first night, Baker said he was taken aback at the assembly when he learned that, “some of my friends were homeless at a point in their lives.”

Feeling sympathy for them was not enough. Baker wanted to help them, and others in similar situations, by organizing a drive with all donations going to the NOAH Shelter in Hyannis.

With his mother, Darlene Baker, and older brother, Drew Cochran, 17, by his side, Glen smiled as one store employee commended him for his efforts. “This is awesome,” she said. “I’m so proud of you.”

“Here’s a few dollars. You might want to stuff it in there,” one customer said, handing Glen a donation to put in a small, clear plastic container.

Another customer, having just won $100 on a scratch ticket, paid it forward by giving some of her winnings to Glen’s drive for the homeless. “This is my lucky day so it’s your lucky day,” she said.

As his donations began to slowly pile up, Drew marveled at the small act of kindness his brother was displaying. “It is pretty neat,” Drew said. “It caught me off guard when he said he was going to help out the homeless. He is only 11 years old. You wouldn’t think an 11-year-old would do this.”

DSC 6925 resized 600Glen Baker with Greg Bar of the NOAH Shelter

In total, Glen was able to collect over $1,000 worth of donations that included coats, gloves, toiletries, food and $583 that will go to help those staying at the NOAH Shelter.

A little less than a week after he finished his drive, Glen had a chance to meet those he was helping when he stopped by the shelter to drop off the donations. “This is Glen,” said shelter director Greg Bar as he introduced him to the roughly 20 clients sitting in the NOAH Shelter common room. “This 11-year-old kid had an idea that, ‘Hey, I can do something to help people.’ So he set up a table at Stop & Shop and people dropped off food, coats and gloves for people who are in need. Isn’t that cool?”

Tags: Homeless, fundraiser, NOAH Shelter, Greg Bar, Glen Baker

Toy Run Brings Holiday Cheer to Families in Shelter

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Tue, Dec 23, 2014 @ 05:06 PM

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The calendar said November 2, but the light snow falling on the ground and cold winter breeze made it seem more like December 25.

But it was not solely the weather that added to the festivity of the day. It was the spirit of giving, encompassed by more than 100 motorcyclists who showed up to the Carriage House Shelter in North Falmouth, to show their support of those who are less fortunate.

That charitableness was tied to the 15th Annual Chris Wetherbee Memorial Toy Run, an event in which bikers from on Cape and off gather at the Buzzards Bay Eagles Hall and make the trek to Falmouth to deliver toys to children staying at HAC’s three family shelters - Carriage House, The Village at Cataumet in Bourne, and Angel House in Hyannis.

For the past 25 years the Cape Cod Harley Owners Group (HOG) have been collecting toys and monetary donations every fall to go to the region’s homeless children during the holidays. In 1999, the run was named in honor of Christina Wetherbee, a longtime participant in the annual event.

Though Christina died of cancer in April 2000, her husband Joe Wetherbee and his second wife Clarissa, continue to organize the event in her memory. In addition to the dozens of toys collected, participants raised $1,513, funds that will be distributed to HAC’s shelter programs as well as families in need during the holiday season, including previous clients.

The giving did not end there as Joe commemorated the occasion by donating a handmade wooden rocking horse to Carriage House that he modeled after a motorcycle with a license plate reading, “Mass 15 Toy Run” on the back.

DSC 6547 resized 600Toy run organizer Joe Wetherbee address the crowd. 

“It’s really because of the children. That is why we are here," Joe Wetherbee said. “We try to give them a Christmas.”

Because of the harsh weather the toy run was missing one aspect – the roar of 200 motorcycles driving down Cape roads – that makes the event so impressive. Still HAC CEO Rick Presbrey said it did not diminish from this year’s run. “I thought it was great that so many people were there on such a horrible day,” he said.

East Falmouth’s Steve Webster was the only participant to brave the inclement weather and ride his motorcycle to Carriage House as others wisely chose to drive their cars and trucks. “I’ve been doing this for about 10 years,” Webster said, acknowledging that he does it, like others do, “for the kids. It is a great cause.”

Inside the shelter he was able to warm up with chili, clam chowder, hot dogs, warm apple cider and coffee, provided by Seafood Sam’s of Sandwich and Falmouth as well as Starbucks of Hyannis. Brothers Jeff and Michael Lewis, who own the respective Seafood Sam’s eateries, were joined by Bob Courtemanche of Mashpee, and Chris Lerch of Sysco Boston, in preparing the food.

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As they worked in the kitchen, several clients sat in the Carriage House living room, playing with their children as they waited for participants to arrive. “I think it is awesome,” said Stephanie Anagnos, who is seven months pregnant and was joined by her 20-month old daughter Althea. “I think it is really cool that so many people care about the situation we are in. I appreciate it a lot.”

It was a sentiment her counterparts shared including Brianna Sheinis. This Christmas, she said, her two-year-old daughter Taryn hopes to get more Barbie dolls.

As for what she wants, it is something not found in a store. “I want a safe home,” Brianna said, her voice lingering for a second. “A safe, stable home. Definitely. It would mean the world to me and it would allow my daughter to thrive and mean that I would be safe and comfortable. It is tough having to bounce around, especially with a child. It is very tough.”

Give Your Own Gift to Shelter Clients

Tags: Homeless, Carriage House, Chris Wetherbee Memorial Toy Run

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