Housing Assistance Corporation Blog

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

Rick Presbrey Retires After 43 Years

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Thu, Mar 02, 2017 @ 01:10 PM
Rick Retirement-1.jpgHAC founder and former CEO Rick Presbrey with office manager Lynne Perry at his retirement luncheon which took place at the end of January. 

In 1974, Rick Presbrey founded HAC, operating the fledgling nonprofit out of a cramped West Yarmouth garage converted into an office. The agency had just one program, overseeing the state’s Chapter 707 Rental Assistance to provide affordable rental apartments for Cape Cod’s workforce, seniors and disabled residents.

Forty-three years later, HAC has grown in size and scope, but the one constant has been Presbrey. Under his leadership, HAC has served more than 160,000 clients, providing them with access to safe, secure housing through a variety of programs aimed at low- and middle-income residents.

While that figure is one way to quantify Presbrey’s accomplishments, his colleague Nancy Davison preferred looking at it another way. “I hope his legacy is that you should always treat people the way you want to be treated,” she said. “The main substance of Rick has always been to treat people well.”

That may explain why on the final day of January there were lots of tears and plenty of hugs as HAC staff said farewell to its founder and former CEO. “In the past year I have adjusted very reluctantly to the idea of not being here,” Presbrey said during his retirement luncheon where he talked about his desire to continue helping others.

Several of Presbrey’s coworkers spoke about witnessing that trait in action, highlighting his generosity to both clients and staff. 

Davison praised Presbrey for supporting single mothers like herself as they balanced raising a child with their work at HAC. “You know I always thought that if we were helping families then the families we were helping had to include the staff,” Presbrey explained.

Creating a welcoming environment at HAC was important to Presbrey who implemented several programs which embodied that spirit. “The idea is to be a positive influence in people’s lives in every way,” he said.

Presbrey, who plans on finding ways to continue giving back to those in need, imparted these words to staff as they move forward under CEO Alisa Galazzi’s tenure: “All you have to do to be just as happy and productive as ever is to make sure HAC’s mission is primary in the work that you do.” 

Tags: housing, Nancy Davison, HAC, Rick Presbrey, HAC History

HAC Gives Homeless Couple a Fresh Start in New Home

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Tue, Jan 24, 2017 @ 11:44 AM
Georgina Wolf Photo-1.jpgGeorgina outside the Hyannis cottage that is now home to her and her husband Jim. 

In the last month that HAC ran NOAH, Georgina and Jim represented one of the final success stories in the agency’s 32-year history of operating the shelter. On the first day of October, the couple had moved into a Hyannis cottage, located less than a mile from HAC’s offices on West Main Street.

It represented a step forward for the two who had lived at the NOAH Shelter since January of last year.

At NOAH, they were connected to the services they needed, from medical to housing, to eventually become self-sufficient. The news that a home had been found for them was delivered by former shelter director Greg Bar, who is now a housing search specialist at HAC.

When they were living at the shelter, each of Georgina and Jim’s possessions fit into two separate totes which were placed under the separate twin beds they slept on every night. “It had all your paperwork and important documents, then your toiletries and then your clothing,” Georgina said of the totes, a little more than two weeks after she and her husband had a bigger space to fit their belongings.

No longer will they need a tote. But when they moved in October, they had yet to accumulate enough possessions to fill the small cottage. But that did not matter to them. That’s because this is now home.

What led them to homelessness? “Layoff, illness, having no income and I self-medicated with alcohol,” Georgina admitted.

Georgina’s struggles included two bouts with cancer, the last of which occurred while in shelter. Her husband, a licensed electrician, had undergone three major surgeries that left him disabled and unable to work.

When they arrived at NOAH, they had lost everything. “There was a fear of what is going to happen next,” Georgina said. “Will I ever have housing again?”

With each other’s love, Jim and Georgina made it through their darkest hours; while in shelter the two, who had been together for over 15 years, were legally married. And with HAC’s help, they slowly began to make progress.

“I feel grateful, very ecstatic,” Georgina said, inside her new home. “I feel that here, this place, is going to bring us back what we had lost.”

Give Hope to a HAC Client

Tags: housing, Affordable Housing on Cape Cod, homelessness, NOAH Shelter, Greg Bar

Shelter Telethon Puts Face to Cape's Housing Issues

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

Telethon Thank You Email.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Support HAC's Housing Programs


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

Editorial: Many Ideas, Many Opportunities

Posted by Rick Presbrey on Fri, Jan 20, 2017 @ 09:36 AM


With the New Year comes a fresh start for HAC. Our Incoming CEO Alisa Galazzi has begun work, starting a period of orientation before officially becoming the CEO.

With her arrival here in the office, there is lots of talk and laughter as she meets office staff. She will be on the road visiting our four family shelters and meeting staff and clients there, as well as meeting our many partners within the community through the Cape, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, and even up in Boston.

It is an exciting time for the agency but, I have to admit, it is anxiety-producing for me. I have always loved what I do, but my time for exiting has come.

At HAC, our focus is helping people. That means that we work with others to get the job done, whether it is counseling a family to prevent foreclosure, bringing a homeless individual in for services, repairing a heating system in the home of a senior citizen, or sheltering a homeless family.

When someone approaches us asking for help, we try to always, say “Yes, we can help.” I know that this is not the way most of the world works, but for me, that’s how I like it. I know that the agency will be able to do even more good in the next 40 years and that it will remain a culture of sensitivity to the needs of others and our community.

I have found solace in the quote, “Decisions of the heart are always right.” I’m not sure who said it, but I have heard that it was Gandhi. Others try to make decisions through their intellect. I suspect the truth is that neither way is always the right way, but the decisions you make based on heart or intellect may be very different.

I will miss HAC. I will miss the new projects in the works and I will miss the wonderful staff. But be assured, I will keep busy. It has been so long since I started anything new that I had forgotten that starting new things is part of my DNA. There are many ideas and many opportunities in store, both for me and for HAC. And I know that helping people will remain the focus for both.

Tags: housing, Affordable Housing on Cape Cod, HAC, Rick Presbrey, Alisa Galazzi, retirement

Walking to Help Others

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Tue, Jun 07, 2016 @ 11:37 AM

The list of Rev. John Rice’s ailments hardly make him a candidate to walk from one end of the Cape to the other. The 75-year-old South Yarmouth resident has a torn ligament in his right foot, an injury to his upper Achilles tendon in his left calf and neuropathy in both feet.

None of this is enough to stop Rev. Rice from walking parts of each day of the 24th Annual Bob Murray Housing with Love Walk which will be held in the middle of July. “I’ll be out there plugging away,” he promised. “There are people out there in worse shape than I am.”

For that reason, Rev. Rice will walk for seven days during the hottest part of the year. He will do so as one of several celebrity walkers for HAC.

This will be the 12th year he has participated in the event which raises both awareness and funds for the region’s housing issues. He started walking at the urging of DJ Sullivan of South Yarmouth, who will be participating in his last walk this summer at the age of 80.

In Memory of His Mother

A retired Episcopalian priest, Rev. Rice has a personal connection to the types of services HAC provides. His mother was the recipient of a Section 8 voucher, allowing her to remain housed and live comfortably during the final years of her life. “My mother is really at the heart of my walk every year,” he said. “I am grateful to agencies, the government and volunteers that provide services like HAC does because I know up close and personal what a difference that makes in a person’s life.”

And so 12 years after he took his first steps from Provincetown and made his way to Falmouth seven days later, he continues to walk.

Despite the physical pain – two years ago he participated shortly after receiving his final radiation treatment for prostate cancer – he remains committed to helping those in need. “Surprisingly, we have a lot of economic problems here with younger families working two, three jobs just to put food on the table and keep their lights on,” he said.

HAC, he said, represents a vital safety net for those people. “What agencies like HAC do is they stop the fall and give a person the chance to rally their own resources to begin to float back to the top,” he said. “That is what it is all about.”


The Cooperative Bank of Cape Cod

Barnstable County Sheriff James Cummings

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts

Rev. John Rice

Bernadette & Richard Waystack

Donate to the Walk

Tags: housing, Housing with love walk, Bob Murray, HAC Celebrity Walkers, John Rice

Rick Presbrey's Editorial: A Gift

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Wed, Aug 19, 2015 @ 08:40 AM

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It has been a tough summer. With unbelievably bad publicity and futile efforts to resolve the bizarre issues we are left only with the ability to stay positive and keep working to carry out our mission.

I am a social person who loves talking to people. Last week I was getting in to my car at the Marston’s Mills Post Office and one of our donors, who I know well, pulled into the next parking spot. I hoped she wouldn’t see me. I left. Yesterday we received an unsolicited donation from her with a very nice note of support.

Being under constant attack for the existence of the NOAH Shelter, and for an ill-timed comment I made to a staff person in May, which I have gotten in trouble for, has made me think hard about what we are doing and what we believe at HAC. After being up very late last night talking to my wife about it I realized that we can’t slow down what we are doing and or stop believing in what we stand for. We can’t be afraid. We are so often the last defense and last hope for those in need.

I deeply believe we are all equal as human beings. But we don’t all get the same breaks or advantages in life. We see people all day every day who don’t believe in themselves because they have been told all their lives that they are worthless. I know it is impossible to help everyone and it is unrealistic to expect that we will be able to put in enough time and effort to make all the difference needed, but we can try.

The cover story in HACbeat is just such an example. And what you don’t know is that the staff person who did the great work with this family is someone who needed a second chance herself and we gave it to her and she responded. My hat is off to her.

Last week another donor contacted me and said she wanted to give HAC a “large” gift in my name that would be a message to others, and would help others restore their faith in me and HAC by her example. I have gotten lots of cards and letters as well and been contacted by many that I haven’t seen or heard from in years.

Last night, at a play, a man who I didn’t know came up to me at intermission and thanked me for the work I do and HAC does and wished me well.

In order to have HAC continue its great work, and even improve upon it, we have to have faith in the goodness of humankind. I have lost some of that faith this summer, but the examples I have written about here are bringing it back.

Tags: housing, HAC, Rick Presbrey, NOAH Shelter

HAC Aims to Find Best Stuffed Quahog on Cape Cod

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Thu, Jul 16, 2015 @ 04:46 PM
DSC 1113 resized 600HAC's Deanna Bussiere chats with illustrator John Sullivan who created the logo for The Cape Cod Quahog Challenge. 

When it comes to food, perhaps no dish is as synonymous with Cape Cod as the stuffed quahog.

And that appetizer will be the centerpiece of a summer showdown in Hyannis, The Cape Cod Quahog Challenge, to help raise funds for HAC’s housing programs.

Scheduled for Sunday, August 2, from 1 to 4 pm, at Trader Ed’s, the challenge is intended to be a fun-filled day, complete with live music from Four Guys Cape Cod, that epitomizes what summer is all about.

To add some color to the event, HAC tapped local illustrator John Sullivan to create the logo featuring Cape Cod’s unofficial mascot Doug the Quahog.

The former teacher and head of the drama club at Barnstable High School, Sullivan has long had a passion for art. “When I was a small child, I would always be drawing,” he said.

That passion led him to Massachusetts College of Art and Design where he received his bachelor’s degree in illustration and filmmaking. After graduating from there in 1974, he returned to Mass Art to get his master’s in education, later parlaying that degree to his 34 years of teaching at Barnstable.

DSC 1117 resized 600

During his time there, his drama club students actively took part in HAC’s Cape Walk to End Homelessness, an event no longer held, so Sullivan is quite familiar with the agency’s work. “I can’t think of a more worthy organization on Cape Cod right now because family is home and home is family,” he said. “If you don’t have a home, you can’t keep your family together.”

Because he identifies with the mission of HAC, Sullivan was more than eager to accept HAC’s invitation to lend his talents to the quahog challenge. And it was more than a fitting assignment for Sullivan who, along with former student Andrew Rapo, has created the Boston/New England Emmy-nominated children’s show, "Quahog Corner." 

Sullivan also crafted the lobster mascot for Cape Country (103.9) which is owned by Cape Cod Broadcasting, the media sponsor for the quahog challenge.

Though officially retired, Sullivan enjoys these types of assignments that let him express his creativity. “It just makes me smile when I’m drawing,” he said. 

Purchase Tickets

Tags: housing, Julie Wake, homelessness, Cape Cod Broadcasting, Cape Cod, Quahog, Quahog Challenge

Year Round Rentals Needed on Cape Cod

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Mon, Jun 08, 2015 @ 02:18 PM

Do you have a rental property that is vacant, or will be in the near future? Did you know HAC provides a free rental listing service?

Available rentals are posted to our website, free of charge, at a property owner’s request. The listing can be downloaded by prospective tenants who will contact you directly. Click this link to learn more about the rental property listings. 

There is a serious lack of year-round rentals right now! If you have any availability, please contact Liz Belcher at lbelcher@HAConCapeCod.org or call 508-771-5400, ext. 210.

Tags: housing, year round rentals, affordable housing

Rick Presbrey's Editorial: Out of the Box

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Tue, Feb 10, 2015 @ 03:44 PM

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In last month's editorial, I wrote about the detachment and confusion about returning to work after an almost two week absence over the holidays. I promised to write in this issue about a couple of things I’d like to get done this year. What follows are three somewhat-creative ideas (note that this is not a comprehensive to-do list):

First, I’d like to talk about marketing. HAC has a great director of marketing and fundraising, Julie Wake. But often Julie has to work with me on marketing issues and I am not inclined to talk about or brag about what we do which is probably not a good thing. I am also not a “process” person. By that I mean I just like to get things done.

Sometimes, though, a well-organized process is necessary to getting things accomplished.

Recently, a friend made me aware of a video that had been filmed at the Moses Brown School, a private prep school in Providence, Rhode Island. The video below shows the head of school announcing the closure of the school, due to a recent snowstorm, in song. It is worth watching.

First, the video is entertaining and well done. Second, it took a lot of work on the part of students and officials at the school. Third, it makes you like the school and want to send your kids there. In other words, it is a marketing video using the announcement of a school closing as its vehicle to carry the message.

Often, I meet people and they thank me for how HAC helped them, but few of them know what HAC does beyond what they learned from their own experience. This year we need to figure out how to get our message across to the general public and public officials on Cape Cod.

The Moses Brown video has had over 3 million viewings! It used humor, music and clever lyrics - things that we never use. Should we? What about using a fun video to announce, for example, that a housing development has been completed and there are rental units available?

Impending Retirements

A second thing I’d like to accomplish this year is to identify existing staff who want to “intern” for jobs that will become vacant due to impending retirements. People could learn new skills, develop new relationships, and see how a part of the agency they previously knew little about operates.

We then might be in a better position to select a replacement, reorganize one or more jobs and help people decide if they want to advance or change the focus of their careers. This would be part of our overall succession planning activities to replace senior staff who will be retiring in the next five years.

The third idea that I hope to put in place is the development of quarterly or semi-annual housing white papers for Cape Cod in which we make recommendations for what needs to be done to meet our affordable and workforce housing needs.

Ideally, we would work with other agencies to look at ideas to make things work better. For example, we might want to talk about plans with the Growth Management Department in the Town of Barnstable or the Cape Cod Commission to see how their ideas and plans can be furthered and integrated into what is going on in other towns on the Cape.

We would share ideas and plans and decide how to best accomplish them with the results shared with broader audiences. The “papers” would be just one way to bring together organizations to more effectively work together to accomplish common goals. 

Tags: housing, HAC, marketing, Moses Brown School, Rick Presbrey