Housing Assistance Corporation Blog

Finding Hope at Angel House

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Wed, Oct 17, 2018 @ 06:51 AM
Beth Client-1Angel House Facility Director Lin Rohr (left) listens as Beth shares her story of what led her to the shelter and how it has helped her turn her life around. 

Last summer, when Beth had nowhere to turn, she entered HAC’s Angel House shelter. “I was scared,” she said. “I was hopeless. I felt worthless.”

More than a year later, those feelings are gone, replaced with something she has not felt since she was a teenager. “Being at Angel House, I have gotten my hope back,” she said.

Beth shared her story with four family members of the late Barton Tomlinson, a longtime HAC donor who had an affinity for the shelter which supports mothers like Beth, who are battling addiction, and their children.

When she arrived at Angel House last August, the mother of five admitted, “I was completely broken,” attributing that to her struggles with substance abuse.

At Angel House, those struggles have essentially ended as Beth celebrated two milestones this past year - her 40th birthday in May and being sober for one full year as of last month. “It’s the first year I can say I’ve been sober since I was 15,” she said.

Slowly, she has made progress thanks to the supportive, caring environment she has found at Angel House. Here she has been able to put her life back together, becoming the mother she always wanted to be, all while becoming comfortable with who she is.

“The shift came when I decided that my kids deserved a life,” she said. “And when I finally decided I deserved a life.”

As she nears her Angel House graduation, Beth is taking even more steps to rebuilding her life. She has a job. She will be moving to a transitional apartment at Angel House. She has reconnected with family members that she had previously pushed away. And most importantly, “I feel at peace today,” she said. “I don’t think it’s anything I’ve ever felt before in my life.”

None of this would be possible, she said, if it weren’t for those like Barton Tomlinson who understand the importance of supporting the shelter. “Angel House helped save my life,” she said. “And it helped give my children a mother who is there.”

Support Angel House

Tags: Angel House, Barton Tomlinson, Lin Rohr, Family Shelter, homelessness, hope

Preventing Homelessness on Cape Cod

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

dsc_8630-resized-600

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.”

homeless-prevention

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

Cash for Causes-1

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

Blanketing HAC Clients with Love

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Jun 22, 2018 @ 02:03 PM

Knitathon-3

A Great Yarn owner Mary Weishaar (from left) with three of the participants in this year's Knit-A-Thon, Jean Williams, Judy Maynard, and Susan Bartels. 

A hand-knit blanket represents warmth, comfort, and love, something hundreds of HAC clients have received since 2016 thanks to the generosity of Ron and Mary Weishaar and their customers.

That was the first year that the couple, who own A Great Yarn in Chatham, and the store’s customers came together to knit 29 blankets for those in HAC’s shelters. In addition to the blankets, $1,500 was raised to support the agency’s housing programs.

Last year, those numbers jumped to 155 hand-made blankets and $6,000 in donations. This year, 192 blankets were made and nearly $5,000 was raised as part of what has become an annual tradition that takes place every February, March, and April.

The knit-a-thon concluded last month with a “yarn bomb” in which all interior and exterior surfaces of A Great Yarn were covered in the finished blankets before being delivered to HAC to go to clients in the agency’s family shelters.

Interest in the annual drive has grown to the point that nearly 300 people representing seven states throughout the country now participate in it. “We probably have 50 to 60 new people who this is their first year involved in it,” Ron said.

Each person knits individual panels – essentially the size of a long scarf – that volunteers sew together to make blankets for HAC clients who need them the most.

“We have a number of people who come in and tell us how much this has meant to them,” Ron said. “It is just remarkable… They feel, ‘I’ve got this talent and here’s a way of, instead of making another sweater for my granddaughter, I can help somebody who doesn’t have a home.’”

Tags: A Great Yarn, Chatham, knitting, knit-a-thon, Ron Weishaar, Mary Weishaar, homeless shelters, Family Shelter, blankets, charitable giving, homelessness

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

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

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

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 outreach, homelessness, Homeless on Cape Cod, winter, Barnstable CCIT, Derick Bussiere, Deborah McDonnell, 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: Paul Hebert, Shelter Cape Cod Telethon, CHAMP Homes, Rick Presbrey, Charitable Redemption Partnership, homelessness, Affordable Housing on Cape Cod, Housing on Cape Cod

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

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 outreach, Derick Bussiere, homelessness, Homeless on Cape Cod, Barnstable CCIT