Housing Assistance Corporation Blog

Items Needed for HAC Clients

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Jun 08, 2018 @ 04:04 PM

 

HAC Items Needed (June 2018)

In a few short weeks, HAC will move 5 formerly chronically homeless adults into a home in Hyannis. We are currently in need of a variety of small home furnishings for the house, including: 

  • A kitchen table with 6 chairs 
  • 5 XL twin bed frames
  • 5 XL twin mattresses (new)
  • 5 dressers
  • 5 small night stands
  • 1 leather/vinyl couch
  • 1 TV stand
  • 1 area rug
  • 1 microwave

We ask that these donated items either be new or gently used. 

Those able to donate should contact HAC Director of Community Relations Laura Reckford at either lreckford@haconcapecod.org or 508-771-5400, ext. 273. 

NOTE: This post has been updated (6/11/18 at 11:30 am) with items still needed in bold. All other items have already been donated. 

Tags: Homeless on Cape Cod, Homeless, homelessness, homeless shelters, donations, HAC donors, Hyannis

St. Pius Students Knit Blankets for HAC Clients

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Wed, Feb 21, 2018 @ 02:23 PM
St. Pius Martin Family.jpgHAC's Mary LeClair (from left) with Maeve, Effie and Beatrice Martin. Maeve and her fellow St. Pius X classmates knit over 60 blankets for our clients in need. 

Every November, middle school students at St. Pius X School in Yarmouth try to better understand the plight of the homeless by spending a portion of one evening inside cardboard boxes set up in the gym.

This year, roughly 40 students turned that understanding into action by also knitting over 60 homemade blankets that will be given to HAC clients in shelter. Last month, St. Pius X eighth grader Maeve Martin, 13, dropped off those blankets with her mother, Katie Martin, and her two sisters Effie, 11, and Beatrice, 5.

“I like that we were able to do something nice for others,” Maeve said.

Her mother said the school project was rewarding because it taught children the importance of helping others. “It’s amazing how happy the kids felt helping someone else and stepping outside of themselves,” she said.

Give Hope to a HAC Client

Tags: Homeless on Cape Cod, Family Shelter, homelessness, shelter, St. Pius X School, Mary LeClair, blankets

HAC Supports Homeless During Arctic Blast

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Thu, Feb 08, 2018 @ 05:24 PM
Derick Bussiere-Edited (2718).jpgHomeless Outreach Specialist Derick Bussiere was one of four HAC staffers to assist the region’s homeless during last month’s stretch of frigid temperatures. 

The start of the new year brought with it one of the longest stretches of sub-freezing weather Cape Cod has seen in recent years. While many were able to retreat safely into the comfort of their own homes, there were some in the region who did not have that luxury.

Understanding the danger facing the Cape’s homeless, HAC lent its expertise and resources to a regional effort to get these individuals off the street and into temporary housing. “This was a result of the community, social service agencies, and the town coming together within probably a 24- to 48-hour window and putting together a plan so it would run as smoothly as possible,” HAC Homeless Outreach Specialist Derick Bussiere said. “It was really about life and death.”

The plan involved HAC and several social service agencies – Vinfen, Duffy Health Center, St. Joseph’s House, and the AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod – working closely with the Barnstable Police Department, the Town of Barnstable, and local churches to identify homeless individuals on the streets and woods of Cape Cod and moving them into area motels.

Funding for the temporary motel stays was provided by the Barnstable Police Department as well as Duffy Health Center’s In From the Streets, a program started in 2005 to support the homeless.

"It was more than likely people would have died. It was that cold out."

- Ann Marie Peters

HAC’s Homeless Outreach team, which includes Bussiere, Deborah McDonnell and Shannon Tracy, were joined by HAC Assistant Director of Family and Individuals Services Ann Marie Peters in conducting assessments and outreach to homeless individuals staying in hotels. They also provided transportation for the homeless to get to the hotels. 

Bussiere estimated that over 30 homeless individuals were placed in area motels, some for as long as 10 days, to keep them safe from the arctic temperatures. 

Last month’s weather, Bussiere said, enabled HAC staff to reconnect with some of the region’s chronic homeless who are typically harder to reach. “It does bring some of them out of the woodwork where we as outreach workers are able to try and engage with the individuals at that time they’re in the hotel or shelter,” he said. “After the weather gets nicer, they may disappear, but at least we’re able to make contact and put a name to a face and start building a relationship for when the individual is ready to try and get services.” 

The most important aspect of the community effort, Peters said, is that everyone had access to safe, secure housing, even if it was temporary. “What would have happened had this group not coordinated services for this population?” she asked. “It is more than likely people would have died. It was that cold out. It was well below freezing and there were many people who would have passed away because they didn’t have adequate shelter.” 

In the spring, HAC will join the community groups and agencies involved in last month’s response to identify a long-term plan moving forward.

Support HAC's Homeless Outreach Efforts

Tags: Homeless on Cape Cod, homelessness, Derick Bussiere, winter, Deborah McDonnell, homeless outreach, Barnstable CCIT, Shannon Tracy, Ann Marie Peters

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

Dine at the 99 Restaurant

Posted by HAC Staff on Wed, Oct 25, 2017 @ 03:28 PM

99logotag.jpg

Several times a year the Dennis-Yarmouth Ecumenical Council for the Prevention of Homelessness (DYECH) offers an easy opportunity to keep families in their homes and off the streets.

They will do so once again tomorrow (October 26), when they invite you, your family and friends to dine at the 99 Restaurant at 14 Berry Avenue in West Yarmouth. From 11 am to 8 pm, the restaurant will be donating 15 percent of your guest check to prevent families on Cape Cod from becoming homeless.

In order to participate, you must present your server with this flier

You can make your impact go even further by paying for your meal with a gift certificate to 99 Restaurant purchased through the Cape Cod Caring Cards program. By doing so, DYECH will earn an additional 13% which will go towards our homelessness prevention efforts.

There is no extra cost to purchase a 99 Restaurant gift certificate through the Caring Cards program which helps ensure families and individuals, who are struggling with their bills, can remain in their homes. To learn more about the program or to purchase a gift certificate contact HAC’s Margaret Benaka at mbenaka@haconcapecod.org or 508-771-5400, ext. 272.

Tags: Homeless on Cape Cod, DYECH, homelessness prevention, 99 Restaurant

HAC Supports Falmouth's Most Vulnerable Residents

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Mon, Sep 11, 2017 @ 03:58 PM
DSC_0240.jpgHAC Case Manager Deborah McDonnell has been assisting Falmouth residents in need since July as part of a Falmouth Human Services grant to serve those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

In July, HAC began a new program working with the Town of Falmouth’s Human Services Department to prevent homelessness for Falmouth residents. 

Sometimes asking for help can be the hardest part of homelessness prevention. It took one client six weeks to finally summon up the nerve to meet with HAC Case Manager Deborah McDonnell who manages the Falmouth homelessness prevention program. “Every time he tried to come in, there was some excuse, ‘Oh, the car. Oh, this.’ At the point when he came in, he was so ashamed,” she said. “It must have taken so much courage to start telling his story.”

The father, in his 40s, is raising five children on a $4,000 a month salary; his wife is a stay-at-home mother raising their youngest. “His expenses got out of control with the kids,” McDonnell said. “He didn’t know what to do.”

This is just one of the 19 clients McDonnell is currently working with in Falmouth. Of those, six are homeless and the other 13 are at risk of homelessness.

McDonnell has been assisting these clients thanks to a $20,000 grant from Falmouth that covers two days of case management services for Falmouth’s most vulnerable residents who are struggling for a variety of reasons.

When it comes to homelessness, McDonnell said, the first step is addressing the crisis. The next step is to get clients the services they need to provide short-term stability. And the final step is achieving long-term stability.

McDonnell works internally with HAC staff and externally with a variety of agencies, from the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance to Falmouth Human Services to the Falmouth Service Center to Duffy Health Center to Vinfen, to get these clients the help they need to turn their lives around.

“When people ask for help, of course there is help,” McDonnell said. “The thing I say to clients after hearing their story is that this is all going to be a series of steps. I don’t have a magic answer to give to you today. This is all going to be steps.”

Give Hope to a HAC Client

Tags: Homeless on Cape Cod, homelessness prevention, Falmouth, Deborah McDonnell, Falmouth Human Services

HAC's Homeless Outreach Program Celebrates One-Year Anniversary

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Jun 09, 2017 @ 12:07 PM
Derick Edited-June 2017.jpgDerick Bussiere, a former housing search specialist at the NOAH Shelter, has served as HAC’s homeless outreach specialist since last June. Bussiere started working at HAC in April 2014. 

No great deed has ever been accomplished alone. It’s a fact of life that HAC’s Derick Bussiere has come to realize over the past year since he assumed the role of outreach specialist in June 2016.

In that capacity, Bussiere is tasked with working with the region’s homeless men and women living in the streets and woods of Cape Cod. His initial aim is to establish a level of rapport and trust with each individual so that he can safely move them into housing.

It’s admittedly difficult work, particularly when those he is trying to help suffer from mental health issues and struggle with substance abuse. “It can be frustrating when you bring someone to detox and a week or two weeks later, they are back,” he said. “Substance abuse is a hell of a thing. It really is.” 

As Bussiere celebrates his one-year anniversary as HAC’s outreach specialist this month, he is buoyed by the fact that he is not in this fight alone. He is one part of a larger group, the Barnstable Community Crisis Intervention Team (CCIT), that are all working towards the same goal – work cooperatively to find ways they can successfully move Barnstable’s homeless into safer housing situations.

The team includes representatives from Vinfen, Duffy Health Center, the Barnstable Police Department, the Barnstable Probation Department, Gosnold, and the AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod. HAC’s Ann Marie Peters, who oversees HAC’s Housing First program that rapidly houses the region’s chronically homeless, and Greg Bar, who conducts housing search for the region’s homeless, also work closely with the CCIT.

“What we try to do is figure out how we can come up with a plan so the people we’re helping can live successfully,” Bussiere said. “That is the goal.”

Sometimes, he said, that goal results in sending individuals off-Cape to the Pine Street Inn, a shelter for the homeless in Boston. “That may be the only solution for people to get an immediate roof over their head,” Bussiere explained.

Other times, the goal results in the individual remaining on Cape Cod. In March, Bussiere was able to help one homeless individual in Dennis secure housing locally. He realizes such outcomes are not always possible. “The elephant in the room is that on Cape Cod it’s harder and harder to find housing, no matter what, whether you’re homeless or not,” he said.

On any one day, Bussiere estimates that there are more than 25 individuals on Cape Cod - the number fluctuates and is difficult to pinpoint due to the nature of homelessness - that he and the CCIT are working to help. These are typically the most severe cases who can be difficult to reach.

It’s a job that Bussiere knows he could never do alone. “It is a big team effort to help a lot of these individuals and come up with solutions,” he said, which is why he backed this approach. “I’m a huge advocate for this Community Crisis Intervention Team. Every agency is really coming together and trying to find a solution because it’s not just one agency’s problem. It is a community-wide issue.”

Give A Home to Others

Tags: Homeless on Cape Cod, homelessness, Derick Bussiere, homeless outreach, Barnstable CCIT

Shelter Telethon Puts Face to Cape's Housing Issues

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Jan 20, 2017 @ 04:24 PM

Telethon Thank You Email.jpg

Holding a microphone in her right hand and a handwritten essay on a piece of paper in the other, Autumn Rivieccio’s words came out slowly and softly. “When I slept in my car one night with my mom and dad I really learned what homelessness was,” she started.

Perhaps no moment during last month’s Shelter Cape Cod Telethon was more poignant than that one; the moment when a 10-year-old student at the Nathaniel H. Wixon Innovation School in South Dennis, spoke about her experience of sleeping in a car and living in motels.

There were “six or seven motels” to be exact. Perhaps the worst part, Autumn said, is that “we couldn’t have friends over.”

In September, that changed when Autumn and her parents moved into a home in West Yarmouth. “I feel like an actual family because friends and family can come over,” she said, adding that, “my favorite thing is my own room that I can decorate.” Her favorite decoration is a poster with a white kitten holding onto a rope; on it are three simple words: “Hang in There.”

Now in its 13th year, the telethon not only raised awareness to the region’s housing issues, it helped put a face to those impacted by them. People like Autumn Rivieccio and Cathy Gibson, the chair of HAC’s Constituency Committee.

Gibson, a former client, praised HAC for assisting her, first through its voucher program and then its Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program. “The programs run by housing assistance really need to be exactly what they are intended to be: a leg up to be able to set yourself on a path that leads towards self-sufficiency,” she told co-host Matt Pitta of Cape Cod Broadcasting.

Throughout the night, both Pitta and co-host Mindy Todd of WCAI, spoke to those within the agency as well as those outside HAC about ways they are working to address the Cape’s housing issues.

The event also served as a way forward, raising nearly $80,000 for HAC in support of its mission to ensure that all on Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket have access to safe, secure housing.

Since 1974, when CEO Rick Presbrey founded the agency, it has been committed to that work. At the end of the night, Pitta took a moment to ask Presbrey about his legacy as he will be retiring in March. “The organization is going to continue. It’s helped 160,000 people and that’s going to continue,” Presbrey said. “I have tried to establish very positive values in how to treat people, how to be honest, and essentially to always be respectful to others, and I think that will stay and I feel good about that.”

Support HAC's Housing Programs

 

Tags: housing, Homeless on Cape Cod, Affordable Housing on Cape Cod, homelessness, Shelter Cape Cod Telethon, Mindy Todd, Fundraising, Rick Presbrey, Matt Pitta

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

Editorial: A Lot to Be Proud of with NOAH Shelter

Posted by Rick Presbrey on Fri, Oct 07, 2016 @ 03:47 PM

rick_at_big_fix.jpgThirty-two years ago, a representative from a committee within the Town of Barnstable came to my office to ask if HAC would agree to open a shelter in Hyannis for homeless individuals. I remember the moment well. I didn’t want to do it. I asked if other organizations could do it and I was told that the most likely one had refused.

I thought about our mission to help people obtain decent housing and how this was “off mission” and would be a distraction. But my sense that someone needed to do it won out. At that moment and ever since, I have felt a “moral imperative” (a phrase coined by one of our Board members) to provide a safe haven for the neediest of our brothers and sisters.

I feel great pride in what we have been able to accomplish. For 32 years, 365 nights per year, we have provided a safe place for people to sleep, take a shower, and receive two nutritious meals a day. In the worst of weather we have kept people alive.

Thousands of volunteers from all across the Cape have helped in dozens of ways. An evening meal has been prepared by volunteers almost every night, serving more than a half a million meals over more than three decades.

We have put three additions on the building where our offices had previously been in order to improve our ability to provide a variety of services. We have made it possible for men and women to be entirely separate, including separate entrances.

In recent times, we opened a day center, keeping the facility open 24 hours a day rather than only at night. We have placed approximately 3,000 of our guests in permanent housing as well as many in part- or full-time jobs.

Perhaps most important of all, we have engaged everyone who was willing in discussions on how to improve their lives by addressing their biggest problems. Thanks to a great staff and leadership and the tireless work of a half dozen committed people in the community, NOAH is the best it has ever been, which is very satisfying for me and I hope for all those who work and volunteer at NOAH.

Locally, we have absorbed lots of criticism, but we have kept the faith and kept on working, doing our best to provide a safe, stable and decent emergency shelter.

But change is always inevitable. About six months ago another agency came forward and expressed interest in taking over the operation of NOAH. The organization operates other shelters and has a fantastic track record in raising money. They are convincing in their belief that they can do the job well. The HAC Board has encouraged me to consider this option of turning over the day-to-day running of the shelter.

The arguments for making the change are that the operation of the NOAH Shelter, and raising the money we need to stay open, takes an inordinate amount of time of many who work at HAC, including myself, and that if we were to give up the day-to-day operation we could develop and raise money for a more comprehensive approach to getting many more homeless individuals in to housing, which is central to our mission. There is a decision to be made. For me it has been a difficult one, especially since it is likely I will retire within the next 18 months and I want to hand off as doable a job as I can to my successor.

By the time you read this our Board will have made this decision. My recommendation will be to move ahead with the transfer. I am at peace with my recommendation because, if this change goes forward, we can do more to house homeless individuals and we will be leaving this work in good hands. Thirty-two years is a long time. I think we have a lot to be proud of.

Read more about the NOAH Shelter decision by clicking this link.

Tags: Homeless on Cape Cod, homelessness, Rick Presbrey, NOAH Shelter, Catholic Social Services