Housing Assistance Corporation Blog

Preventing Homelessness on Cape Cod

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Mon, Sep 10, 2018 @ 03:15 PM

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When it comes to money, $500 may not seem like much. But at HAC, it often is the difference between keeping a client in their home and them becoming homeless.

Over the past 25 years, HAC’s Project Prevention has worked to prevent homelessness through one-time emergency funds that go to pay utility bills, rent or mortgage arrears for individuals and families on Cape Cod and the Islands.

“A relatively small amount of money can resolve a really big problem,” said HAC’s Information and Client Services Manager Liz Belcher who assists individuals at risk of becoming homeless. Monica Mitchell, HAC’s family services supervisor, assists families at risk of becoming homeless.

Among Belcher’s recent clients is a woman in her 30s who holds a Section 8 voucher and was unable to work due to an injury. While she filed for unemployment and an adjustment on her rent, Belcher said, “both of those take time” so HAC used $439 from Project Prevention funds to cover her rent.

A frequent request, Belcher said, is individuals seeking money to prevent their utilities from being shut off. “Usually anywhere between $150 and $450 we give as a down payment on someone’s utility arrearage,” said Belcher. “And then we get them on a payment plan. It is really a leg up.”

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On average, Belcher said, she sees at least 15 clients a week who need funds to keep them in their homes or apartments.

That funding comes from two sources – the Dennis Yarmouth Ecumenical Council for the Prevention of Homelessness (DYECH) and the Barnstable Interfaith Council (BIC).

DYECH’s funding supports HAC’s homelessness prevention efforts for families while BIC’s funding goes towards individuals in danger of becoming homeless. Both raise funds for HAC through the sale of gift certificates to local supermarkets and restaurants that are sold at face value to the public. Because the faith-based groups purchase those certificates in bulk, they receive a discount, allowing five percent of each purchase to go towards HAC’s homelessness prevention efforts.

Since it was formed in 1993, DYECH has raised over $1.5 million to help keep local families in their homes and apartments and off the streets. BIC has raised nearly $400,000 for individuals.

For roughly 20 years, Deacon David Akin of St. Pius X Parish in South Yarmouth, has been involved in DYECH’s efforts to support HAC’s Project Prevention. “It is good for the soul,” he said of his involvement. “You’re doing something good for another human being or family.”

HOW YOU CAN HELP

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If you shop for food at a supermarket, then you can help prevent homelessness on Cape Cod. It’s that simple.

HAC sells gift certificates at face value to the following stores: Lambert’s; Shaw’s/Star Market; Stop & Shop; Ring Brothers; Peterson’s Market & Fancy’s in Osterville; Roche Brothers; Cape Cod Natural Foods; and Whole Foods as well as Country Garden; CVS; 99 Restaurant & Pub; and Dunkin’ Donuts.

Because the Dennis Yarmouth Ecumenical Council for the Prevention of Homelessness (DYECH) and the Barnstable Interfaith Council (BIC) purchase those certificates in bulk, they receive a 5 percent discount on them. For each certificate sold, that 5 percent goes to HAC to prevent individuals and families from becoming homeless.

Deacon David Akin of St. Pius X Parish in South Yarmouth said, “it should be a no-brainer” for people to participate in the program. “We are supposed to support our neighbors.”

Those interested in purchasing gift certificates to support HAC’s homelessness prevention efforts can do so at our office at 460 West Main Street in Hyannis.

Along with selling gift certificates, DYECH organizes free concerts twice a year where they collect donations on behalf of Project Prevention. It also works with local restaurants who donate a portion of their patrons’ checks to Project Prevention several times a year. Visit www.dyech.org for details on upcoming fundraisers.

 

Tags: homeless prevention, homelessness prevention, grocery cards for prevention, Gift Cards for prevention, Project Prevention, homelessness, DYECH, Liz Belcher, BIC, Barnstable Interfaith Council, David Akin

Donor Spotlight: Meg Chaffee

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Wed, Aug 01, 2018 @ 11:58 AM

 

Meg Chaffee Photo

She has worked at HAC for more than 17 years, but Meg Chaffee’s connection to the agency goes back even further when she was once a client.

“I left a domestic violence situation and was allowed to go into one of HAC’s shelters,” she said. At the time, it was only her and her son, Justus, whose name is a combination of two words – “just” and “us” – that defined all the two had when they sought help from HAC.

In HAC, Meg and her son found the necessary support and resources to make their way through that difficult period in their lives. “There’s a lot HAC has helped me with,” she said, which included providing her with two cars from the agency’s now-defunct Wheels to Work Program. “I used to take the B-Bus with my son in Hyannis. Sometimes it would take an hour and a half to get to work when I worked at Toys R Us. When I got the car, it was nice because I could go to the grocery store and laundromat on my own.”

When Chaffee left the shelter, she received a Section 8 voucher that has provided her with financial assistance in paying her rent on Cape Cod.

In 2001, HAC had an opening for a Section 8 program representative which she applied to because she wanted to find a way to give back to those in need. “I wanted to help other people,” she explained.

A Commitment to HAC

While she has done that in her role, helping to administer HAC’s Section 8 vouchers, she has taken her commitment a step further – as a HAC donor.

In May, she was one of several longtime donors to be recognized at HAC’s Annual Dinner & Volunteer Recognition as part of the agency’s Loyalty Circle. She has donated annually to HAC for over 10 years in a row.

At $10 a month, it is admittedly not a lot, but she knows that she is doing her part so the agency can help others in need. She has her monthly donation taken directly out of her biweekly paycheck.

She hopes her giving will inspire her fellow HAC employees – the agency has a total of 111 full- and part-time staff – to do the same. “I’d like to challenge all of our employees, if they’re not already donating, to make that donation,” she said.

That challenge is coming during a significant milestone in her life. Last month, she gave up her housing voucher and is now able to pay her full rent. Chaffee is just one example that the agency’s programs provide tangible results.

When asked what HAC does best, she laughingly asked, “one thing?” before answering in this way: “It makes a better community.”

Why I Give

Along with her monthly donation to HAC, Meg Chaffee participates in the agency’s Cape Cod Caring Cards program, regularly purchasing Shaw’s gift certificates which result in donations that help keep individuals in their homes and off the streets.

Organized through the Barnstable Interfaith Council (BIC), the program allows the public to purchase gift cards at face value to participating stores and restaurants, including Lambert’s; Shaw’s/Star Market; Stop & Shop; Ring Brothers; Peterson’s Market & Fancy’s in Osterville; Roche Brothers; Country Garden; Cape Cod Natural Foods; Whole Foods; CVS; 99 Restaurant & Pub; and Dunkin’ Donuts.

Because the stores sell the gift certificates to BIC in bulk, they are discounted, which allows five percent of every purchase to go towards HAC’s Project Prevention for individuals, a program to prevent homelessness.

While it does not cost her anything extra, Chaffee said, purchasing the gift cards gives her the satisfaction of knowing that she may be helping an individual who may need emergency financial assistance to either stay in their home or to find a new, more stable place to live.

Gift certificates for BIC can be purchased at HAC’s office at 460 West Main Street in Hyannis. Click here for more info on the Cape Cod Caring Cards program. 

Tags: Meg Chaffee, HAC staff, Family Shelter, Donor Spotlight, HAC donors, Barnstable Interfaith Council, BIC, Project Prevention, homelessness prevention, homeless prevention

Editorial: Helping People Helps the Economy

Posted by Alisa Galazzi on Mon, Mar 26, 2018 @ 09:51 AM

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When we think about all we do at Housing Assistance Corporation to help people, from homeless outreach to sheltering families, homeless prevention and first-time homebuyer counseling, among our many programs, we can sometimes forget about the beneficial economic impact to the Cape Cod regional community of not just Housing Assistance Corporation, but also other local nonprofits.

Housing Assistance Corporation is one of the largest human service agencies on Cape Cod, and our positive impact on the local economy on Cape Cod is significant.

In our most recent count, the 105 full- and part-time jobs at HAC resulted in $6.7 million in salaries to Cape Codders. In addition, HAC’s contracted services resulted in 74 jobs and $11.8 million in spending. Using a standard multiplier formula to determine the economic impact of our agency on Barnstable County —adding the employee spending and the vendor and contractor spending—results in a grand total of $28.4 million dollars in impact plus 274 jobs created through HAC’s presence on Cape Cod.

We are helping people to live in safe, secure housing, and we are also helping landlords. As the largest supplier of rental vouchers in the region, with more than 1,200 vouchers, our leased housing program generates $750,000 per month in government funds to local landlords in rents. Of that total, $219,000 per month is paid for 328 rental units in the town of Barnstable—a total of $2.6 million annually in federal funds that are passed through HAC to the town of Barnstable.

Our impact to the town of Barnstable and the village of Hyannis, where our headquarters is located, has a positive impact on the community. Of the approximately 5,300 clients that we help every year, about one-sixth are town of Barnstable residents, for a total of 888 individuals and families assisted in the Town of Barnstable last year.
Taking a close look at that figure through some of our larger programs, the impact to the townspeople of Barnstable is quantifiable. For instance, our homeownership assistance program, which includes foreclosure prevention counseling, assisted 260 Barnstable residents.

Our homeless prevention program assisted 117 individuals and families in the town of Barnstable to prevent them from falling into homelessness.

Our energy, weatherization and home repair program assisted 183 low-income homeowners in the town of Barnstable to stay comfortable in their homes and save money on heating and cooling.

We are currently in pre-development on a housing project that I wrote about in this column last month. The project will bring $1.6 million in investment to an economically challenged corner of Hyannis.

As CEO of Housing Assistance Corporation, I am so proud of the impactful work we do to help people throughout Cape Cod. This is our social imperative. One benefit of having a nonprofit mission is that we reinvest money into the community. I am equally proud of the important role that we play in driving the local economy in the town of Barnstable and in the region.

Tags: Economic Impact, Alisa Galazzi, job creation, Section 8, affordable homeownership, foreclosure prevention, homeless prevention, Housing Development, Affordable Housing Development on Cape Cod

DYECH Celebrates Fundraising Milestone

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Apr 07, 2017 @ 11:26 AM
DYECH Edited.jpgAt its meeting last month, DYECH presented HAC's Cassi Danzl with an $8,000 check which pushed its fundraising total to $1.5 million since the group's inception. The money has been used to prevent families on Cape Cod from becoming homeless.

In the grand scheme of things, $8,000 may seem like a relatively small amount of money, but in the beginning of March, it represented a major milestone for a group of residents committed to helping their neighbors in need.

When that donation was given to Cassi Danzl, HAC’s director of Family and Individual Services, it pushed the group, better known as the Dennis-Yarmouth Ecumenical Council for the Prevention of Homelessness (DYECH), over $1.5 million raised since it was formed in 1993.

HAC founder Rick Presbrey said the genesis of DYECH was “to prevent people from entering shelters and motels and keep them in housing,” an effort spearheaded by the late Bob Murray in conjunction with parishioners and staff at Christian churches in Dennis and Yarmouth that had reached out to HAC asking how they could support the agency.

And so DYECH was born. Golf tournaments, ham and bean dinners, chicken pot pie suppers and community concerts are just a few of the ways they have raised money to prevent homelessness on Cape Cod and the Islands over the past 24 years.

DYECH has also been able to raise funds from the bulk purchase of gift certificates to participating stores such as Shaw’s, Stop & Shop, Whole Foods and CVS. It then sells those gift certificates at face value to those in the community. For every dollar spent, DYECH receives five percent that goes directly to HAC’s homelessness prevention efforts for families.

Debbie McDevitt-Hayes of Yarmouth, who has been involved with DYECH since the beginning, recalled that the late Art Kimber, a member of the clergy at St. David’s Episcopal Church in Yarmouth, and Deacon David Akin of St. Pius X Parish in South Yarmouth, were instrumental in the launch of DYECH and bringing neighboring churches into the fold.

DYECH’s Early Days
“Those early days were exciting days for sure,” she said, noting that it was less about the money raised and more about the number of families they were able to help. “HAC was good at keeping us posted as to putting a personal face on what was happening. Sometimes you’d meet some of the clients that you helped which was really exciting.”

As to DYECH reaching this fundraising milestone last month, she said, “I’m sure if we put the faces on that $1.5 million it would have a huge impact.”

Akin said the reason for the continued dedication to DYECH is simple: there are people in need. “They say that for 60 or more percent of Cape Codders, if one or two paychecks don’t come, the party is over,” he said. “There is a real hand-to-mouth economy for the have nots.”

“I think we all have to help each other,” said Yarmouthport’s Barbara Lussier, who manages the gift certificate program for DYECH. “Some of us are more fortunate than others, but I think it’s important for us to give back.”

While all agreed there is still more to do, current DYECH President Steve Sozanski was proud of all the group has accomplished. “It’s mind-boggling to think we’ve raised that much money organizing meals and concerts three or four times a year and buying and selling gift cards in bulk,” he said.

Presbrey agreed, calling DYECH’s work “amazing, actually. For them to do it all these years is impressive and also the energy with which they do it. They’ve kept up the program and prevented people from being homeless and keeping them in their current housing. It’s been a huge thing, really.”

To learn more about ways you can help prevent homelessness simply by purchasing a gift card to a local supermarket, store or restaurant, click this link.

You can also purchase gift cards at HAC's office at 460 West Main Street in Hyannis. Contact Margaret Benaka at 508-771-5400, ext. 272, or at mbenaka@haconcapecod.org for more information. 

Tags: DYECH, homeless prevention, Cassi Danzl, Project Prevention, homelessness prevention, Gift Cards for prevention, Steve Sozanski, Rick Presbrey, David Akin, Barbara Lussier, Debbie McDevitt-Hayes, St. Pius X School

Cassi Danzl Leads Family and Individual Services

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Mon, Mar 13, 2017 @ 11:25 AM
Cassi Edited-1.jpgCassi Danzl joined HAC in January. She oversees the agency's Family and Individual Services Department which includes housing search, homelessness prevention, HAC's financial literacy workshops and homeless outreach efforts throughout Cape Cod. 

One of the first things visitors to Cassi Danzl’s office at HAC will notice are the framed pictures that decorate the walls. There are photos of Greece, Scotland and even some of Cape Cod, all taken by Danzl.

Travel has been a huge part of Danzl’s life ever since she was a child. “I’m originally from Chicago,” she said. “My dad worked for a railroad so we moved from Chicago to Minnesota. Then we returned to Chicago, then Pennsylvania and then back to Chicago, where I graduated high school.”

The common thread from her globetrotting adventures has been volunteerism. “I volunteered a lot as a kid,” she said. “We grew up doing work trips to different parts of the United States in Alabama, Kentucky, on a Native American reservation in South Dakota. We were always active in terms of helping.”

So it should come as no surprise that Danzl, HAC’s new director of Family and Individual Services, chose a career in the social services. Following her high school graduation, she received a bachelor of arts in psychology from the University of Indianapolis in 2007 before earning her master’s degree in counseling psychology from Assumption College in Worcester in 2010.

While at Assumption, Danzl started working as a case manager at a residential facility for intellectually disabled adults for Arbour Counseling Services in Worcester. Over the next four years, she remained in Central Massachusetts, becoming a mental health clinician – she is a certified mental health counselor – and then a senior site coordinator, overseeing a community-based program that provided intensive therapy for families with children under the age of 21 who had significant emotional and mental health issues.

Moves to the Cape

Roughly three years ago, Danzl moved to Cape Cod to become the center director for Arbour Community Services’ outpatient mental health clinic in West Yarmouth.

She arrived at HAC in January and currently oversees a staff of 11 employees. She manages HAC’s Housing Consumer Education Center (HCEC) which includes intake counselor Liz Belcher, who is typically the first point of contact for clients who walk through HAC’s doors seeking assistance with their housing issues. The programs in Danzl’s department include housing search; homelessness prevention; permanent supportive housing; outreach to the homeless living in the streets and woods of Cape Cod; financial literacy workshops; and the agency’s housing counseling efforts on Martha’s Vineyard.

Under her purview, HAC serves a range of clients, from those most in need to people looking to purchase their first home. “I think it’s easy to see how impactful we can be, from prevention where $200 can change someone’s housing situation to our first-time homebuyer’s classes,” she said. “We’re dealing with both ends of the spectrum. It is pretty broad.”

One of the lessons Danzl said she has learned from all her travels is that different parts of the world struggle with different issues. “Here on the Cape, the housing stock and affordable housing is obviously an issue,” she said.

She is excited to help HAC play a role in solving those issues, tying into her goals as a child when she knew she wanted to pursue a career that allowed her to help others. “Existentially, my goal is that when I leave or die, that I’ve left something different than what it was when I started, hopefully, in a positive way,” she said. “I don’t want to just be a visitor while I’m here. I want to be invested in making a difference.”

Tags: Cassi Danzl, Family and Individual Services Department, homeless prevention, homelessness, homeless outreach, financial literacy, HCEC, housing consumer education

Editorial: Optimism for our Future

Posted by Alisa Galazzi on Thu, Mar 09, 2017 @ 04:05 PM

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It has been a whirlwind—in the best way. I have spent the past two months getting to know the staff and dozens of programs at HAC. Each day, I have been amazed at the range of services that this agency accomplishes, the programs that lift people up and build community here on Cape Cod.

Rick Presbrey has built HAC into one of the largest and most comprehensive nonprofit social service agencies on Cape Cod. I am honored to have been chosen to take the reins of the agency and continue the good works that HAC is known for throughout the region.

HAC not only runs four family shelter programs—housing 174 families last year alone—but also runs the largest rental assistance program in the region, with over 1,100 households. Our homeless prevention program ensured 198 families did not become homeless last year. Our Energy and Repair department continues to help families save money by making homes more energy efficient. Our Housing Consumer Education classes and counseling supported everyone from seniors whose homes were at risk of foreclosure to young couples looking to purchase their first home.

I am looking forward to getting to know you, HAC’s supporters. Your support makes these programs possible and your input is important. As we assess HAC’s programs and their impact, I’d like to hear what you think.

There is a lot of work to be done and it is a challenge I welcome. Working with the HAC staff and with others throughout our community, I know we can make strides, together.

Tags: Alisa Galazzi, Affordable Housing on Cape Cod, HAC, homeless prevention, Family Shelter

Prevent Homelessness on Cape Cod While Doing Your Holiday Shopping

Posted by HAC Staff on Wed, Nov 30, 2016 @ 06:30 AM

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The Dennis-Yarmouth Ecumenical Council for the Prevention of Homelessness (DYECH), which supports HAC’s Project Prevention, has gift cards available for purchase to over 100 stores, restaurants and movie theaters (from Amazon to Zappos). When you purchase gift cards through this program, merchants give a percentage of the sale to homelessness prevention. For example, if you buy a $25 gift card for the Gap, your gift card is worth the full $25, but the Gap donates 14 percent ($3.50) to Project Prevention.

All of the money raised through this program is given directly to families in need, providing them with emergency funds so they can remain in their homes and off the streets. To purchase gift cards, go to www.shopwithscrip.com. The enrollment code to help DYECH and HAC is 561B698219989.

Cards can be picked up at Yarmouth Appliance Clinic at 61 White’s Path in Yarmouth one week after you place your order. Don’t forget to place your order early!

If you have questions about the program please email DYECH at dyech@comcast.net

Tags: Project Prevention, DYECH, homeless prevention, Gift Cards for prevention, holiday shopping

Jazz Ensemble to Perform for DYECH Fundraiser

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Mon, Jun 27, 2016 @ 10:30 AM

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For more than 15 years, the Dennis-Yarmouth Ecumenical Council for the Prevention of Homelessness (DYECH) has organized a free concert twice a year, all in an effort to support those in need. 

DYECH will do so once again tomorrow (Tuesday, June 28) at 7:30 pm when the Cape Cod Conservatory Jazz Ensemble performs at the St. Pius X Life Center in South Yarmouth. It's an event that demonstrates the power of music in opening up people's hearts, helping to raise funds for HAC's Project Prevention program which ensures residents struggling with their bills are able to remain in their homes and off the streets. 

"We usually raise about $1,000 a concert," said DYECH's Steve Sozanski. That money is raised through a free-will offering. 

Sozanski said the concert is always well-attended, giving residents and tourists alike the opportunity to listen to "music you won't hear on the radio. It is the old classic music that makes you tap your toes like Benny Goodman and Count Basie. It is really good and the people who attend it really love it. Sometimes people will even break out into dancing on the floor." 

Tags: DYECH, Project Prevention, homeless prevention, Cape Cod Conservatory Band

Walking Towards a Better Cape Cod

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Tue, Jun 09, 2015 @ 08:45 AM
Bernadette and Richard Waystack resized 600The Waystacks brave heavy rains during last year’s Bob Murray Housing with Love Walk.

Last summer, Bernadette and Richard Waystack walked one end of the Cape to the other, over the course of seven days, enduring everything from blisters, sore muscles and even stress fractures, all to raise awareness about the housing issues facing the region.

So when asked to participate in the Bob Murray Housing with Love Walk again, the Waystacks didn’t hesitate, emphatically saying yes. Why? “Homelessness has not gone away,” Bernadette said. “My husband, who was the past president of The Family Pantry of Cape Cod in Harwich, once coined the phrase that, ‘Hunger doesn’t take a vacation on Cape Cod.’ Guess what? Homelessness doesn’t either.”

This July, the Harwich couple will be walking in the annual event on behalf of HAC, raising funds for the nonprofit’s services which includes its four homeless shelters, homelessness prevention programs, affordable housing development and housing education workshops.

The pair’s motivation goes beyond simple charitableness. They have a personal connection to the type of work HAC is doing because they have witnessed the impacts homelessness has had on a family member. That is why, when Richard ended up with stress fractures during last year’s walk, he refused to give up.

“You know it’s uncomfortable and hard, but you’re only doing it for one day and every night you get to go home to a nice, safe and secure home,” said Bernadette, who is an art teacher at Monomoy Regional High School. “I thought about the people in my hometown and across the Cape where that isn’t the case. Some of them aren’t going home to a house. Some are out in the streets or in the woods. Some have a home, but it’s not stable and they’re not sure how long they’ll have it.”

So next month the Waystacks will lace up their sneakers, taking small steps to help make Cape Cod a better place for all to live. They realize they will not solve the problem on their own. Instead their ultimate goal is progress.

“I think it’s a greater sense of wanting to make a difference,” Bernadette said. “You can’t fix it all, but if everyone does a little something, we’re going to make a change.”

HAC'S 2015 Celebrity Walkers

Bernadette and Richard Waystack

Reverend John Rice

Reverend Dr. John Terry

The Cooperative Bank of Cape Cod

To support HAC's Celebrity Walkers or donate to the walk, click this link. To learn more about the Annual Bob Murray Housing with Love Walk, click here

Tags: Housing with love walk, homelessness, HAC, Richard Waystack, Bernadette Waystack, homeless prevention, Bob Murray