Housing Assistance Corporation Blog

From Homelessness to Hope to Housing

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Tue, Apr 17, 2018 @ 09:45 AM
Moriya SmithMoriya Smith with Labouré College President Maureen Smith at her graduation last May. Moriya is now studying for her bachelor's degree. 

Almost 20 years ago, when Moriya Smith was only a teenager, she became homeless, fending not only for herself, but her firstborn son Reggie. “I had to go into a shelter,” she said. “I didn’t have a place to stay. It was horrible, probably the worst experience of my life.”

Today, the pain of that experience has been washed away by the success she has achieved as a single mother – she has two other children Marissa and Maranda – who works full-time as a registered nurse. She is currently studying to earn her bachelor’s degree, and is saving money through HAC’s Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program to one day become a homeowner on Cape Cod.

Originally from Boston, Smith moved to Brewster nearly two years ago, initially working with HAC to secure a rental. “You helped me with my first and last month’s rent which was a big burden lifted from me,” Smith said. “And then my oldest daughter needed a bed so [HAC] gave me a mattress and box spring… They [HAC] were like my little angels. They really helped me. I was still in school and had not yet finished so I wasn’t working and money was tight, very tight.”

As Smith describes it, money was so tight that while she was working towards her associate’s degree and commuting to Labouré College from Cape Cod to Milton, she sometimes didn’t know if she could pay for the gas to make the trip.

Despite these obstacles, Smith has been able to flourish thanks to those around her who have offered their support.

One of those is HAC’s FSS Coordinator Jan Nelson, who has worked with Smith since she entered the program in September 2016. “I have never met anyone like her who is not only supportive, but caring and who I feel is 100 percent in my corner for everything,” Smith said.

Nelson has provided that support and care through FSS which provides incentives for Section 8 voucher holders to increase their earnings. As one’s income increases, their rent increases, and the difference between the original rent and the increased rent is placed into an escrow account which FSS clients can access once they graduate.

Before Smith graduated from Labouré last May, Nelson recommended her for the One Family Scholarship, given to low-income single parents to further their education. Smith was selected for the scholarship which she is using as she pursues her bachelor’s from Labouré in the hopes of becoming a family nurse practitioner.

In the fall, Smith landed a job as a nurse in a long-term care facility on the Cape, a position that has added financial stability to her life.

When she eventually graduates from FSS, Smith plans on using the money to become a homeowner, something she never could have envisioned two decades ago when she was homeless. “I feel like those things, those unfortunate events in my life have made me strong and made me who I am today,” she said.

Give Hope to a HAC Client

Tags: Section 8, Jan Nelson, Affordable Housing on Cape Cod, Family Self Sufficiency, homelessness, One Family Scholarship, FSS, hope, affordable housing, Moriya Smith, Brewster

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

Donor Spotlight: Paul Hebert

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Jan 26, 2018 @ 03:48 PM
Paul Hebert-1.jpgMatt Pitta (left), co-host of last month's Shelter Cape Cod Telethon, interviews longtime HAC supporter Paul Hebert about the region's housing issues. 

When Paul and Carolyn Hebert arrived on Cape Cod in 1981 with their three daughters Aimee, Mary and Meg, finding a home was difficult. “We had to rent for two years because we couldn’t find housing we could afford,” he said. 

Fast forward 36 years later and Paul admitted the situation is even worse. “It was unreasonably high to buy a house back then, but now for people earning basic wages it is nearly impossible and getting more difficult every day,” he said.

It is for this reason that the Heberts have given to HAC for 20 years, highlighted by their most recent $1,000 donation to the agency at its 14th Annual Shelter Cape Cod Telethon last month. Paul made the donation on-air on behalf of the couple’s company, Charitable Redemption Partnership in Yarmouth, which utilizes proceeds from redeemable cans and bottles to support local charities on the Cape such as HAC.

“As a town councilor in Barnstable, I look to Housing Assistance Corporation as the best prepared to care for the least among us who need housing,” Paul said of his longtime support of the agency.

Paul’s history with HAC goes back to the mid-1980s when he convinced former CEO and founder Rick Presbrey to open the NOAH Shelter in Hyannis to provide emergency shelter for homeless individuals.

In 1991, the Heberts took their activism a step further when they started CHAMP Homes to care for homeless adolescents. “We realized there was more to be done and came to understand that there was this next group that was not being served,” Paul explained. “It was the young people, around 18 years of age, who were sleeping in various places in the community whether it was teaming up six to an apartment or couch surfing or sleeping in cars or the woods just to survive.”

The Heberts spent the next 24 years at CHAMP Homes and were recognized for their efforts with the Presbrey Public Service Award in 2006 at HAC’s Annual Meeting.

Though Paul and his wife stepped down from CHAMP Homes in 2015, he remains as passionate about housing issues as he did when he was first introduced to HAC three decades ago. And he views HAC as a pivotal player in addressing those issues on Cape Cod. “I believe Housing Assistance Corporation is a standard bearer,” Paul said. “They hold the flag to deal with this battle so we have to keep supporting them.”

Why I Give: Paul Hebert

As a Barnstable Town Councilor, Paul Hebert paints a grim picture of the housing reality on Cape Cod. “Living on Cape Cod is not a realistic dream for most people,” he said. 

This is why he believes housing development – building more affordable rentals and homes for the Cape’s workforce – is the region’s primary need. “We know Barnstable is short 1,200 rental units,” he said.

Hebert supports HAC because he understands it is best suited to address this need. “We have to build so many rentals and we are so far behind. I don’t know of any other organization that can do a better job and has the capacity to help than Housing Assistance Corporation,” he said.

With the completion of Sachem’s Path on Nantucket, HAC has developed more than 500 units of affordable housing since its inception. It is in the midst of constructing 44 apartments in Bourne and is in the planning stages of building eight affordable and workforce apartments in Hyannis.

Through the Cape Community Housing Partnership, a joint initiative between HAC and Community Development Partnership in Eastham, it is also providing community leaders and residents with the tools to boost affordable housing that is sorely needed in the region.

Make A Donation

Tags: Affordable Housing on Cape Cod, homelessness, Shelter Cape Cod Telethon, Rick Presbrey, Housing on Cape Cod, Paul Hebert, CHAMP Homes, Charitable Redemption Partnership

Helping Tackle the Vineyard's Housing Issues

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Mon, Oct 23, 2017 @ 12:33 PM

Rebecca Jamieson-1.jpg

Having been born and raised on Martha’s Vineyard, Rebecca (Townes) Jamieson knows there is a lot to love about the Island.

But HAC’s new Homeless Case Manager on Martha’s Vineyard also understands it’s a community that is not devoid of its problems. “There definitely are struggles and issues we have here,” she said. “One of the biggest issues right now we face is homelessness.”

Since the beginning of September, Jamieson has been helping HAC tackle that problem on the Island on a part-time basis, Monday through Wednesday, working out of the Dukes County Regional Housing Authority on State Road in Vineyard Haven. Her position is currently being funded through a grant from the Cape and Islands United Way.

In her role, she is responsible for providing intensive case management to families and individuals experiencing housing instability on Martha’s Vineyard. These are people who are either homeless or at risk of homelessness.

HAC Director of Family and Individual Services Cassi Danzl said that until January 2016, when the state earmarked money to cover the costs of a similar position, there was “no other existing case management services for individuals who are homeless or at risk of homelessness” on the Vineyard. That is why the role, she said, is so critical to this community.

And that is why Jamieson applied for the position. “I want to help the people here who are struggling,” she said. “I think that this is a place where there is so much wealth and amongst all of that wealth, we have a significant population who has little, if anything.”

Prior to coming to HAC, Jamieson served as a case manager with Arbour Counseling Services in West Yarmouth. She has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Ashford University and a master’s of science in professional counseling from Grand Canyon University.

“She brings a really great skillset to this position,” said Danzl, adding that having lived on the Island most of her life, “she has a really clear understanding of the struggles and stressors that come with being a resident of the Vineyard.”

While still new to HAC, her hiring represents a whirlwind few months for Rebecca who was married in August to Jonathan Jamieson. She has two adult children, Kayla, 24, and Dorian, 20, as well as a six-year-old stepdaughter Laiah.

Having the opportunity to live, work and raise her own family on the Vineyard is rewarding for Jamieson. “I love the small community. I love its beauty. I love that we have wonderful weather in the summertime and snow in the winter,” she said. “Most of my family is here so it is very comforting, and a very familiar and lovely place.”

House Needed on Martha’s Vineyard

HAC is currently seeking a year-round home to rent or buy on Martha’s Vineyard that would house 5 chronically homeless adults. The home should have between 4 and 5 bedrooms and can consist of one or two structures on the same property.

Rent will be paid utilizing a grant HAC received earlier this year from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Those with a potential home should contact HAC’s Cassi Danzl at cdanzl@haconcapecod.org or 508-771-5400, ext. 253.

Tags: homelessness, Martha's Vineyard, homelessness prevention, affordable housing, Cape and Islands United Way, Rebecca Jamieson

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

Editorial: Working with our Legislators to Tackle the Cape's Housing Challenges

Posted by Alisa Galazzi on Tue, May 16, 2017 @ 10:50 AM

Julian-3.jpgState Senator Julian Cyr (second from left) with HAC CEO Alisa Galazzi (from left), Director of Leased Housing Cindi Maule, Director of Family and Individual Services Cassi Danzl and Chief Operating Officer Walter Phinney. 

I have been spending my first few months as CEO of HAC getting to know the leaders in our community. It has been particularly gratifying to meet members of our legislative delegation and to learn of their passion to help all the residents of our region.

When State Senator Julian Cyr stopped by HAC’s offices recently, he said housing has been one of the main issues at the forefront of his constituents’ minds.

During his visit, Senator Cyr told us, “Housing and access to housing that is affordable is a top issue for us on Cape Cod, on Martha’s Vineyard and on Nantucket. Our real estate market is so aggressive here that most anyone who is a middle-income wage earner, including working families, is struggling to make it here… We really need to have housing that meets our needs.”

Meeting the needs of those in the region when it comes to affordable housing has always been a major focus for HAC and it will continue to be so in the coming years.

I was pleased to learn that even prior to becoming a State Senator in November, Senator Cyr said, he has long admired HAC’s work on the Cape and Islands. “HAC is just one of those organizations that is a real pillar of the community. HAC has been doing work for generations to make sure our most vulnerable have housing.”

After taking a tour of HAC’s offices and meeting the staff on the front lines of delivering housing services for HAC, the Senator gave his impressions of the meeting. “I was just really impressed with the scale and scope of how HAC helps people realize housing on Cape Cod and the Islands, from the most vulnerable people who are homeless living in the streets to helping people improve the energy efficiency of their homes. I have a renewed appreciation for how much HAC does.”

We’re looking forward to partnering with Senator Cyr and the rest of the Cape and Islands delegation on strategic regional issues, and having our voice and mission loudly and clearly represented at the State House.

It is through these partnerships between HAC, our legislators and other leaders in the community, that we can add more resources for our clients and do more to help them succeed.

Tags: Affordable Housing on Cape Cod, homelessness, State budget, Alisa Galazzi, Julian Cyr

Former Shelter Client Serves as Example to Others

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Tue, Apr 11, 2017 @ 12:01 PM
Victoria-1.jpgVictoria Chase (right) with her advisor at Cape Cod Community College, Dr. Colleen Coughlin. Dr. Coughlin said that Chase has served as an inspiration to her. 

If you had visited Cape Cod Community College on the second Wednesday of last month, there would have been nothing discernible about Victoria Chase. She was not unlike any of her fellow students on campus, preparing for midterm exams in the two classes she is taking this semester, 3D Mechanical Design and Human Communications. Perhaps the only difference between Chase and her classmates was the smile that graced her face as she walked from her design class to her advisor Dr. Colleen Coughlin’s office.

There is a reason for that smile. A little over two years ago, Chase never could have imagined she would be where she is today, a proud mother of two children, balancing two part-time jobs as she works towards a degree in civil engineering. Somehow she also manages to lead two recovery groups on Cape Cod for those who are going through similar struggles that she did prior to arriving at Angel House in the summer of 2015.

“At my lowest, I was sleeping in my car with my kids,” Chase said, the result of an addiction to drugs.

By the time she entered Angel House, she had spent nine months without her children who were living with her mother and grandmother. Four days later, she was reconnected with them. “It was a tough transition for me,” Chase recalled. “I think I cried every day for a month and a half.”

Slowly, the pain subsided and Chase began the path towards healing. Over the course of the next 12 months, she was able to maintain her sobriety with the support of Angel House staff and the stability that the shelter provided her.

A New Direction for Chase
In April 2016, she landed a job at Home Depot in Hyannis, where she currently works as the lead cashier. Three months later, she graduated from Angel House, but remained on-site, living in one of two transitional apartments with her children. She is now living in an apartment in Hyannis, utilizing an MRVP housing voucher to pay a portion of her rent.

Having housing, Chase said, “is huge. It means I have a place to call home. It means stability… The number one thing you need to move forward is a roof over your head.”

Last fall, she enrolled at Cape Cod Community College, earning a 4.0 in her first semester. Her goal is to one day engineer and design buildings that fit within the landscape of cities and towns. Her story “is amazing,” said Dr. Coughlin. “It is so impressive to me the adversity she has been through and what she has overcome.”

Angel House shelter director Lin Rohr agreed. “The transformation from when she came to now, you wouldn’t recognize her,” Rohr said. “She has just taken off and blossomed in an incredible way. It gives them [current clients] a living example of hope. It’s like, ‘If she can do it, I can do it.’”

It’s something Chase is immensely proud of and it’s why if you see her on campus at Cape Cod Community College, she’ll most likely have a smile on her face. “I always knew I was meant for something better. I never felt like my life should be spent living in a car,” she said. “Now I have an opportunity to do what I want to do… And I get to give my kids the life they deserve which is pretty awesome.”

Donate to Angel House

Tags: Family Shelter, homelessness, Angel House, homeless shelters, Victoria Chase

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

Cape Family Goes From Homelessness to Housing

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Thu, Mar 02, 2017 @ 04:09 PM
HAC Richard Photo.jpgLast month, HAC's Al DiMuzio (right) donated a recliner to Richard as a way to provide stability to his living situation. 

On the first day of the new year, 57-year-old Richard and his two teenage boys became homeless. “That’s when I had to make the choice of living in our car or in a motel room,” he said. “It was so unbearable, especially with the children. It was very stressful.”

The slide into homelessness was relatively sudden for Richard, who had lived in Bourne for over 44 years. It started with the death of his 84-year-old mother Jean in October. He and his children had moved in with her several years ago and he was serving as her caretaker.

“It was devastating,” he said, noting it was particularly difficult for his children who had already lost their own mother. “When she [their grandmother] passed, they were very sad. Very sad. She had been like their mother in a way.”

His mother’s death was compounded by the fact that she had taken out a reverse mortgage on her house. Richard, who is on disability, was unable to pay back the loan so the bank seized the home.

“So we became homeless,” Richard said.

Nearly all of their belongings were gone. Richard was able to keep some family photos and personal keepsakes as well as his father’s military records and medals.

They even had to temporarily relinquish their boxer Bruno who had been a part of their family for nearly seven years, letting a friend take him in. Through the entire ordeal, Richard said, his children were most worried about their dog. “They have known him since they were little kids,” he said.

Initially, the family stayed a few nights in a motel before Richard quickly ran out of money. With the assistance of the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development, they were placed in a shelter in Fall River. Though he was appreciative of having a safe place to sleep, Richard admitted that, “it wasn’t the same as living in our own house.”

Family Transitions Out of Shelter

In February, Richard was able to transition out of shelter and into a rental house in Bourne. He was connected to HAC and has been working with Housing Specialist AnnMarie Torrey who helped secure him $8,000 in HomeBASE funds through the state. Those funds are given to families in shelter or to families who are at imminent risk of homelessness as a way to stabilize their housing.

Roughly half of that has gone to pay his first and last month’s rent as well as the security deposit. The remainder will be used to pay a portion of his monthly rent as Richard’s Supplemental Security Income (SSI) will cover the rest. It leaves the family, Torrey said, in a tenuous financial position as he will have little additional money to spend on food and other necessities each month.

Thanks to HAC’s Welcome Home Gift Basket Program (see page 7), Torrey was able to provide him with basic household necessities such as bed sheets and kitchen appliances. HAC staff have done their part with Quality Control Inspector Jim Ames donating a used couch and Al DiMuzio, director of the agency’s Energy and Repair Department, a used recliner to help furnish the family’s home. “I have always found that helping is better than not, and sometimes synchronicity works in strange ways,” DiMuzio said. “So, for Richard, his need for a chair just happened to fit my desire to do a little downsizing.”

Torrey is working with him to find a part-time job that can increase his income to add even more security to his housing situation.

All of this has Richard feeling grateful for HAC’s support. “They have been indispensable,” he said. “If HAC didn’t help, I don’t know where we would be right now.”

Torrey is hopeful that Richard and his family will never have to experience the horrors of homelessness again. “Being in shelter really scared him and the boys,” she said. “He told me he is determined that he will never be in that position again and that is pretty much 90% of it – determination and having the will to succeed.”

Help End Homelessness

Tags: housing, AnnMarie Torrey, HomeBASE, Family Shelter, homelessness, shelter