Housing Assistance Corporation Blog

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

Cape Cod's Top Musicians Fight Homelessness at Christmas Cavalcade

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Dec 12, 2014 @ 08:42 AM

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Some people give once a month. Some people give once a quarter. And some like Eastham’s Chandler Travis do so once a year.

Over the past decade the popular musician has done so at a time when giving is en vogue, the holidays, using his connections to bring together the Cape’s most talented artists for one night of seasonal fare. He will do so again this year as part of the 11th Annual Cape Cod Christmas Cavalcade this Sunday, December 14 at 7 PM at the Jailhouse Tavern in Orleans.

There is a suggested donation of $25 to attend and all money raised from the holiday concert will go to benefit the NOAH Shelter which serves Cape Cod’s homeless men and women.

Sponsors include Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank, Goff Brothers Construction Company, Cape Air and the Wellfleet Beachcomber.

Among the acts that will be performing at the Cavalcade are The Ticks, Fred Fried, The Rip it Ups, Christine Ernst, Steve Shook & the Elftone All-Girl Ukelele Revue, Polka Dan & the Beetbox Band, Sarah Burrill, Edwige Yingling, Sarah Swain & the Oh Boys, Toast & Jam and Travis’ own band the Chandler Travis Philharmonic.

As to why he organizes the event, Travis said, “it is important to me because I have a very selfish lifestyle and it’s nice to have one day a year when I can do something for somebody else. And it is fun for me because I really like Christmas music. I like a holiday that has its own music and the music is as bipolar as the holiday.”

The Cavalcade is enjoyable for the musicians because it allows them to play songs, “they are not sick to death of already,” Travis laughed.

The allure for fans is that they get to see the Cape’s best musicians come together for one night of holiday-themed music. “It’s always a blast,” Travis promised.

Tags: Homeless on Cape Cod, homelessness, Chandler Travis, housing assistance corporation, Christmas Cavalcade

Cape Cod Restaurateur Lends Expertise to Kitchen at NOAH Shelter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HAC Opens NOAH Day Center

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Mon, Jun 16, 2014 @ 12:38 PM
 NOAH Day Center Photo resized 600NOAH Shelter Director Greg Bar talks with Rick Presbrey, CEO of HAC, and Michael Sweeney, HAC's vice president of administration and finance, at the opening of the day center. 

“The place is booming,” HAC CEO Rick Presbrey said to Michael Sweeney, HAC’s vice president of administration and finance, in the parking lot outside the NOAH Shelter the day before Memorial Day weekend was set to begin.

“I think it is stunning,” Sweeney added.

“It shows you people are interested,” Presbrey said.

That interest is in a new program – a day center for the homeless – HAC ushered in at the end of last month.

Expectations for the program were modest. Greg Bar, director for the NOAH Shelter, said prior to the opening that he would be pleased if anywhere from six to a dozen people showed up on any given day. On the first day those expectations were shattered when more than two dozen homeless men and women accessed the shelter.

Some used the shelter for rest, others for socialization and still others as a way to get off the streets, working with HAC’s employment specialist Carolann Gillard to find jobs and with HAC’s housing specialist Derick Bussiere to find permanent housing.

The day center is a pilot program and a collaboration of several municipal and local organizations – the town of Barnstable, the Barnstable Police Department, Duffy Health Center, the Hyannis Main Street Business Improvement District and HAC – to provide shelter to homeless individuals during the day.

Through Labor Day NOAH will be open an additional 37 hours per week with the possibility that will increase in the fall and winter. The program requires all guests to be dry, meaning no client can be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

While there are future plans to offer more learning and social opportunities – art and computer classes and financial assistance have all been mentioned as possibilities - Bar said he plans on “keeping it pretty simple right now,” stressing that he wants to focus on providing only the essentials initially: shelter, food and access to employment and housing services.

Tangible Benefits to Clients

He gave two specific examples of how the day program can help current clients, starting with Casey (his name has been changed) who does not drink or do drugs, but has medical issues for which he has to take prescription medicine. “When he takes his meds he falls asleep and when he does he falls asleep outside on a bench,” Bar said. “With the day center he can put his bags down and go to sleep here.”

Similarly, Sue (her name has been changed) has mental problems so severe she sits outside on benches, rocking back and forth while talking to herself. “Maybe she can come inside our dining room and have a safer place to do that,” Bar said. “This gives an option for people to come and be safe and they will be in a caring environment and will be more exposed to our housing and employment advocates.”

Ultimately, Bar said, he will judge the success of the program much differently than others, but if the first day was any indication HAC is taking a major step to serving an unmet need on Cape Cod.

Mitchell Rose, a 27-year-old Cape native who has found himself homeless, said NOAH has served as an invaluable resource as he takes small steps toward independence. “They all seem like they generally care for us and that helps keep you motivated to do what you need to do to get out of here,” he said.

He has aspirations to become an EMT or paramedic and views the day center as a safe and secure environment where he can study and do his homework, efforts that will one day translate into having a home to call his own. “I am sick of living like this because it is not easy living like this,” he said. “It can be a job in and of itself, being homeless.”

Presbrey said that those like Rose are indicative of how important the day shelter is. “It is a beautiful day out today,” he said, noting that these clients could have chosen to be elsewhere. “But they came because they like the safety and the acceptance of NOAH and they are willing to engage and seek out the help they need to get better.”


Donate to the Day Center

Tags: Homeless on Cape Cod, Homeless, NOAH Day Center, NOAH Shelter, NOAH

Help Prevent Homelessness by Dining at the 99 Restaurant

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Mon, Jun 02, 2014 @ 11:29 AM

This Thursday the 99 Restaurant in West Yarmouth has kindly offered to donate 15 percent of your check to the Dennis-Yarmouth Ecumenical Council to Prevent Homelessness (DYECH).

That money will then be funneled to HAC's Project Prevention program which helps Cape Codders struggling with their bills to remain in their homes.

In order to participate in the fundraiser simply print out this voucher and present it to your server on Thursday, July 5 between 11 AM and 8 PM.

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Tags: Homeless on Cape Cod, Homeless, DYECH, Project Prevention, HAC

Finding a Home on Cape Cod Thanks to the NOAH Shelter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finding Comfort at NOAH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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. 
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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
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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

Seven-Year Old Truro Boy Gives Birthday Presents to Homeless Children

Posted by Julie Wake on Thu, Feb 13, 2014 @ 01:00 PM
Ryder Mamo, 7, of Truro stopped by the offices of Housing Assistance Corporation on West Main Street in Hyannis the other day accompanied by his mother and a bag full of toys.

They were toys Ryder received on his birthday that he decided to donate to homeless children.

truro001 for hacbeat resized 600Ryder, who is in second grade at Truro Central School, got the idea from the movie, “The Red Wagon,” which he watched with his family two days before his birthday. The movie is about a young boy who starts a nonprofit to help needy children after a storm leaves local families homeless. After seeing the movie, Ryder decided to include on his birthday party invitations that presents would be donated to homeless children so people should bring unwrapped presents for boys and girls.

Ryder’s mother, Amy Kandall, said she had asked her son what he wanted for his birthday and he said, “I don’t need anything” and he suggested, “Why not give the gifts to someone else less fortunate?”

“We both realized it would be really good to do some community service,” Amy said.

Tags: Homeless on Cape Cod, housing assistance corporation

Starting Young With Literacy

Posted by Julie Wake on Wed, Feb 12, 2014 @ 10:21 AM

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Jodi, 30, is a reader. She is also a homeless single mother. So when the Cotuit Library recently invited Jodi and other homeless mothers to a special family literacy program, she decided to take full advantage of it. “I think it is amazing,” Jodi said.
Jodi’s son, Max, who is almost nine months old, sported a wide smile during the sing-a-longs and paid close attention during a recent reading session at the library.
Jodi and Max live at Angel House, a homeless shelter located in a former apartment complex in Hyannis.
Angel House, one of four shelters operated by Housing Assistance Corporation of Hyannis, is for families in which the parent is recovering from drug and alcohol addictions.
The “Increasing Digital and Family Literacy” program for the families living at Angel House began at Cotuit Library this fall and includes songs and stories for the children plus information for the mothers about the importance of reading to children. The library pairs the family literacy program with a digital literacy program for the mothers about online etiquette and safety.
But it was the family literacy program that was on full display recently at the library as the mothers and their young children sang songs, danced and then settled down to read books together.

Since starting the program, Jodi said she has incorporated reading to Max’s bedtime routine. “Bath, book, breast-feed and bed,” Jodi said. “The four b’s.”
During a recent session, she took out four books for Max. The library allows the mothers from Angel House to take out as many books as they want for the standard two week periods.
On a recent weekday morning, Jodi and six other mothers who from Angel House were participating in the reading program led by Cotuit Library Youth Services Director Lenora Levine.
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Levine, who has been at the Cotuit Library for just two years but has worked in libraries for 30 years, said the business of libraries is changing.

“It’s not just a building. We’re a service,” she said. Modern libraries are looking for ways to reach out to the community. Besides the program with the Angel House mothers, the library also has outreach programs at a local preschool and is considering starting a program at the hospital.
“It’s getting to kids when they are little. Starting them off on the right foot,” Levine said about encouraging the Angel House mothers to read to their children. “I think we’re reaching an audience that might not make use of the library.”
Cotuit Library Director Jenny Wiley said she got the idea of approaching Angel House from her wife, who is coordinator of the human services program at Cape Cod Community College. “I was looking for a way for us to do outreach in the community. This is probably the easiest collaboration I’ve ever had,” Wiley said,
When Wiley called Angel House to propose the program to staff there, the response was an immediate and enthusiastic “yes.”
In addition to the program on book literacy, the program with Angel House includes classes on digital literacy.
Wiley said teaching digital literacy has become a common role for modern libraries. In fact, she said when she was going through her master’s degree program in library sciences, about 60 percent of the program focused on digital information.

For the Angel House clients, the program focuses on online etiquette, privacy and safety, including how to find accurate information online. “In the last few years, it has become increasingly important,” Wiley said.
In the first class on online literacy for the Angel House clients, Wiley taught them how to change their privacy settings on Facebook. “They didn’t know about it,” she said. There was also discussion about what information they should and should not post on Facebook.
Between the program on family literacy and the classes on digital literacy, Angel House staff said the Cotuit Library partnership has benefited their clients. “It’s been wonderful,” Angel House Family Therapist Marty Woods said.

This article and these photos are reprinted by permission from Cape Cod Wave (www.capecodwave.com).

Tags: Homeless on Cape Cod, Angel House, Cotuit Library