Housing Assistance Corporation Blog

Bob Murray Remembered on First Day of Walk

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Tue, Jul 15, 2014 @ 12:16 PM
DSC 4661 resized 600Patty Murray (left) walks with Dakota Mousseau and Ben deRuyter on Route 6A in Truro during the first day of the 22nd Annual Bob Murray Housing with Love Walk.

In the 22 years that the Bob Murray Housing with Love Walk has been held Harwich’s Patty Murray never once participated in the event.

That ended yesterday when Murray, whose father started the walk in 1993 to bring awareness to the Cape’s housing issues, donned her sneakers and walked over 13 miles from Provincetown to Wellfleet. “It’s kind of bittersweet,” a tearful Patty Murray said, before noting that the fact the walk is continuing would mean a lot to her father who passed away in September at the age of 73.

“I know my dad was really worried about his legacy and whether this would continue,” she said. “He would be really happy to know it is.”

Though her father was not there physically, she was positive he was there spiritually. “I’ll be using his legs,” she said.

And so it went during the kick off to the annual walk, which began with a short service at The Church of Saint Mary of the Harbor. Before, during and after the church service many had the event’s founder on their mind.

“Bob Murray,” a trio of walkers shouted enthusiastically (instead of the typical “Cheese!”) as they posed for a photo in front of Provincetown Harbor.

And a pair of bronzed sneakers Bob Murray had wore in previous walks served as a symbol of why people were participating in this year’s event.  David Willard, the director of community relations at Cape Cod Five, was the first to carry the sneakers – which came in a clear plastic bag – on his back at the start of the walk.

“I work at Cape Cod Five and we’ve been so close to Bob in all his professional endeavors,” Willard said. “And I’ve been so close to him and [his wife] Judy personally. It feels good I can be a part of it in this way. He is still in our hearts.”

Willard eventually passed the shoes onto Richard Waystack, president of the Family Pantry of Cape Cod, on Route 6A in Truro. Waystack, who is walking the entire 96.3 miles from Provincetown to Falmouth with his wife Bernadette for the Harwich Ecumenical Council for the Homeless, proceeded to carry the sneakers the remainder of the day before passing them off this morning to Vicki Hatch in South Wellfleet.

Murray Shoes Passing resized 600Richard Waystack (left) takes Bob Murray's sneakers from Cape Cod Five's David Willard.

In 2012, the last year Murray took part in the walk, Waystack pushed him 19 miles in a wheelchair. “That was a great day, an awesome day,” Waystack said. “Bob was a good friend and my mentor.” 

And yesterday the nearly two dozen walkers used him as inspiration to affect greater change on Cape Cod. “I know he is here talking to us all,” his daughter said. 

Read more about this year's Bob Murray Housing with Love Walk by clicking this link.

Tags: Housing with love walk, HAC, Richard Waystack, housing assistance corporation, Bob Murray

A Decade-Long Relationship Between HAC and Cornell

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Wed, May 21, 2014 @ 10:28 AM

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This year Housing Assistance Corporation (HAC) is not only celebrating its 40th anniversary, it is also observing another important milestone – a 10-year relationship with Cornell University which has been sending a small contingent of students to Cape Cod for one week every April to help address the region’s housing issues.

“I think the primary value is that it provides a real sense of optimism,” HAC CEO Rick Presbrey said of what the students from the Ivy League college have brought to the Cape’s non-profit since 2005. “First of all, I am always impressed with what a wonderful group of kids they are. They give up their spring break so it gives you optimism for the future. And they accomplish a lot in such a short period of time so it gives inspiration to us on what can be accomplished.”

This year six Cornell students made the trek from Ithaca, New York to Hyannis, to educate juniors and seniors at Barnstable High School and Dennis-Yarmouth High School on the importance of financial literacy, covering everything from creating personal budgets to balancing wants versus needs.

“It was a thrill to see how the high school students were open to hearing from people a few years ahead of them and so willing to ask questions,” said Cheryl Kramer, HAC’s manager for consumer education, who was responsibile for overseeing the Cornell students’ work throughout the week.

Catherine Richards, an English teacher at Barnstable, said the Cornell presentation served as an invaluable resource for her students. “I think it is exciting for them to learn from their peers as opposed to a teacher,” she said.

And she said the topic is paramount, particularly for those students who want to continue living on the Cape past high school or college. “I teach a whole unit on the cost of living with the idea of how to save in order to get a good house, but also how much it will cost to stay on Cape Cod and raise a family and have children,” she said.  

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The Cornell students which included freshman Breanna Ross (industrial and labor relations) of South Brunswick, New Jersey; sophomore Grace An (policy analysis and management) of Anaheim, California; sophomore Christine Chow (biological sciences) of San Jose, California; sophomore Caleb Hulbert (human biology, health and society) of Gloversville, New York; junior Pragyashree (Prag) Sharma Basyal (biology & society) of Baltimore, Maryland; Zeyu Yao of China (master’s in civil and environmental engineering), also attended HAC’s annual meeting, toured the NOAH Shelter in Hyannis, and spent a few hours making crafts and eating pizza with children at the Village at Cataumet.

For Caleb, the most rewarding aspect of the trip was spending time at the Village at Cataumet where he decorated picture frames with four-year-old Lillian. “She really made a huge impact on me,” he said. “You don’t think of her as being homeless. You think about her as ‘Lillian.’ She is just like anyone else. It was really eye-opening because you tend to think about homelessness in terms of statistics.”

Grace had a similar reaction following her visit to the NOAH Shelter. “It was really tough just seeing the space where they were living,” she said. “It was very emotional for me because homelessness is a big issue in my [hometown]. It gives you a lot of respect for the volunteers and staff who work there.”

Though she is unsure of what she will do after college, Grace has expressed an interest in working for a non-profit. “I feel like it is a really meaningful way to live life, especially if it has as big of an impact as HAC,” she said.

Tags: Cornell, alternative spring break, Prag Basyal, HAC, Christine Chow, housing assistance corporation, Rick Presbrey

Rick Presbrey's Editorial: Reflecting

Posted by Julie Wake on Thu, Mar 13, 2014 @ 07:00 AM

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2014 is HAC’s 40th year in business! I have been here the whole time.

The undocumentable number of people we have helped now is 160,000! Even with the undeniable duplication contained in that number we must have helped at least 50,000. That is a lot.

I still love coming to work almost every day. When I wake up and don’t feel like getting up and going to work, I feel great once I get here. I’ve thought a lot about why that is true and what is special about HAC.

When I say what I am about to say I am not bragging I am just recognizing the obvious truth: the founder of an organization has a major effect on the culture of that organization and that same is true here. I am pro client and get almost all of my satisfaction from seeing people helped. That does not mean that I am anti-anybody because I like to solve problems faced by landlords, towns, our staff and others as well. It also doesn’t mean that I will never give up on someone. I do and I will when that person won’t follow up on doing what they can for themselves.

We all see things differently. I tend-to a fault-to see the good in people. I like almost everyone. I absolutely love the staff at HAC and I like the people who I talk to in our waiting room. But liking someone and seeking to help them and seeking to achieve fairness and justice for them are not always the same thing.

I want people coming in to our waiting room or calling on the phone to feel welcome and cared about. Why? Because they are good people who are struggling to get their lives in order. Just as you and I are struggling to get ours in order, so are they but their job is almost always more difficult than ours. I have seen so many people get their lives in order in ways that I could never have done. My parents were married 50 years, I have four years of high school, four years of college and a graduate degree and have never been unemployed for even five minutes. I have never lived with an alcoholic or an abuser. How lucky am I? Pretty lucky. People have been nice to me even when I didn’t deserve to be treated well.

I will be leaving HAC within the next few years. What do I want my legacy to be? First, I want the agency to do more and to do it even better after I leave. But I want my legacy to be excellent treatment of our clients and our community. The way I recently started looking at it is that:

Beauty equals justice.

Seeing the beauty and value in everyone is a motivator for all of us to seek fairness and justice for all. 

Donate to help HAC build a community where everyone has a safe, stable and decent place to live.

Tags: housing assistance corporation, Rick Presbrey, Housing on Cape Cod

Making Connections at NOAH Shelter

Posted by Julie Wake on Tue, Mar 11, 2014 @ 07:30 PM
“A minimal amount of human contact can change a life,” said Greg Bar, manager of HAC’s NOAH Shelter, about a new volunteer project at NOAH Shelter. 
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One night Bill Dado had a dream he was working with the homeless in Hyannis.  “When I woke up I just had to go to the computer and Google shelters in Hyannis,” said Bill Dado.  Dado moved to the Cape two years ago and is a retired high school guidance counselor from Sturbridge, MA.   “The next thing I knew I was filling out an online application to volunteer for HAC, meeting with the volunteer coordinator and being quickly introduced to Greg Bar.”

Dado’s concept is to create a “pen pal” type relationship with NOAH clients and high school students.  Students would be connected to a client and would initiate a letter exchange as simple as, “I’m thinking of you and I care.”  Clients would receive a letter with just the student’s first name and vice versa. Letters would be managed through the school’s community service person.

In Dado’s previous career as a guidance counselor, he saw major benefits when “at risk” students were connected to a teacher on a one on one basis.  “I thought if we applied this to the homeless, even though the gesture is small, we might really make a personal impact on so many levels,” said Dado.

Sturgis West and Cape Cod Academy have signed on to be pilots for the program. 

Tags: Homeless on Cape Cod, Homeless, HACbeat, volunteers, Volunteer Cape Cod, Volunteer coffee hour, housing assistance corporation, NOAH Shelter, NOAH, volunteering

A Plea

Posted by Julie Wake on Sat, Feb 15, 2014 @ 09:00 AM
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A typical family shelter stay lasts nine months, roughly the length of a school year. Wouldn’t it be a huge benefit to have a statewide standardized educational curriculum for those staying at shelters?  Nine months is a long time to waste.

I am particularly worried about the children in shelters.

The Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless has determined
that the average age of a homeless person in Massachusetts is eight years old.

I am concerned that these kids are growing up without adequate parenting.

Not too long ago a woman came into our office who was very pregnant. With more than a touch of mental illness, she resisted letting us do anything for her for several hours, while various concerned staff members tried to offer their skills in resolving the situation. Early in her visit, the woman went outside on a very cold day insisting that her unborn baby liked the cold—as people stood next to her trying to talk her into coming inside. Finally she was convinced to allow us to take her to a motel for a few days. Ten hours later the baby was born.

Another child, Joshua (not his real name) is now seven. He lives with his mom in a cramped apartment in a small town on the Cape. They are living on money from strapped family members who have given them just enough to keep their car going and to pay the relatively modest rent. The mom has little or no other income and keeps promising to find a job but hasn’t yet. The boy goes to school most of the time and comes home to clutter and confusion.  
Both moms have mental health problems and backgrounds of abuse and/or addiction. 

There are many such situations on Cape Cod right now: Moms who have no money, no job, no secure housing, with abuse, addiction and perhaps mental illness in their lives.

What future do their kids have? Many of these women are in shelters which, in some ways, is a good thing. Shelters at least provide a calming environment, socialization, and people to lean on for advice.

But shelters are not a permanent home and they are not funded to do the job they need to do.

Most of us have gotten to where we are in life with few of the handicaps listed above and many years of mostly full time parenting and schooling. How can we expect people to be healthy, competent parents and be financially self-sufficient without those? How can we expect shelters to make a difference without adequate funding to provide a comprehensive life skills education program? Here at HAC, we used to do such a program, but funding cuts over the years have reduced what we can accomplish. Some shelter clients are given activities and chores but these are not enough.

And, what about the kids and their futures?

Tags: Homeless on Cape Cod, HACbeat, Family Shelter, HAC, housing assistance corporation, Rick Presbrey

A New Playspace for Cataumet, Thanks to Horizons

Posted by Julie Wake on Fri, Feb 14, 2014 @ 10:38 AM
Every four years, Horizons for Homeless Children “reinstalls” one of the children’s playspaces in the family shelters at Housing Assistance Corporation. So, this fall, Horizons staffers worked on the playspace at the Village at Cataumet, the family shelter in Cataumet.
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The Horizons for Homeless Children playspace program was begun in 1990 and is based on the belief that play is essential for child development. The program ensures that each child living in a homeless shelter in Massachusetts has the opportunity for developmentally appropriate play.

The new play area was dedicated to the donors who made the reinstall possible. The plaque acknowledged donors Fotene and Tom Cote and their friend Suzy. All three donors, who are from the Boston area, attended the event at the Village of Cataumet.

As children ran into the play area to check out all the new toys and games, parents watched and smiled. Krista and Michael watched their son Matthew, 4, play while they held their son Noah, 1. Krista said Matthew particularly loves finger-painting.

Sandy Burke of Gray Gables in Bourne, a volunteer Playspace Activity Leader (PAL) , said, “I like seeing how the kids improve by getting some individual attention and some socialization skills.”  

Tags: HACbeat, housing assistance corporation, Village at Cataumet, Horizons for Homeless Children

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tags: Homeless on Cape Cod, housing assistance corporation

Need Home Repairs? Apply to HAC

Posted by Laura Reckford on Sat, Jan 25, 2014 @ 06:40 AM

The Town of Barnstable has awarded Housing Assistance Corporation funds for the administration of a Home Owner Rehab Program for homeowners whose property is in any of the seven villages in the town of Barnstable.

 

Possible repairs must fall within the health/safety category.For example, repairs could include septic, roofs, carpentry, mold/mildew, electric, foundation problems, heating systems, water, etc. Home owners who occupy their homes as a principle residence in the Town of Barnstable must be at or below the 80 percent of Area Median Income; and the repairs must be eligible under Health and Safety guidelines.

 

Contact Brenda Rocklage at 508-771-5400 ext. 285 or brocklage@HAConCapeCod.org for more information.

Eligible Income Guidelines are no more than:

 

Household of 1: $44,750

Household of 2: $51,150

Household of 3: $57,550

Household of 4: $63,900

Tags: HAC, housing assistance corporation, saving energy

Casino Throws Holiday Party for Homeless Families

Posted by Laura Reckford on Fri, Jan 24, 2014 @ 06:25 PM

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Amanda Stroh, bar manager of the Casino Wharf FX in Falmouth, wanted the restaurant to give back to the community this Christmas, so she and her colleagues came up with an innovative idea.

They threw a party for homeless families.

Amanda said she and the bar’s general manager talked about an end of the year way to give back. "We’re fortunate to have a lucrative business. It’s our way of giving back for the people who are supporting us," she said.

She said they wanted to do a party with a meal and gifts for disadvantaged children and through a Google search, they learned about Carriage House, the homeless shelter for families that Housing Assistance Corporation runs in North Falmouth.

Katie, a staffer at Carriage House, referred them to Paula Mallard, the manager at the Village at Cataumet, another HAC family shelter.

Paula, who captured a number of photos from the event, which was held in the afternoon on Saturday, December 7, said it was a fun event for the clients. Amanda agreed.

"The consensus was it went really well. I think everyone had a good time. The staff had a good time," she said, adding that all of the staffers working the party volunteered for the event. In addition, several teens from Falmouth High School played elves for the event.

Amanda said the party was different for Casino staffers because "we don’t normally have children’s parties here." They had to tweak the menu to include kid-friendly items like chicken fingers, pizza and mac and cheese. But other than that, it was business as usual. "People are people," she said.

Amanda said she would definitely like to have the party again next year. "[The idea] will definitely be revisited," she said.

Tags: housing assistance corporation, Village at Cataumet

Editorial: Bubbles

Posted by Laura Reckford on Fri, Jan 24, 2014 @ 12:20 PM

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By Rick Presbrey

Sitting at my desk on a cold rainy day one day after Christmas, I had a holiday hangover. Not from drinking—I didn’t—but from the non-stop business of the season.

It seemed like one thing after the other: shopping, wrapping, parties, cleaning the house, putting up and maintaining decorations inside and out, visitors, movies on tv and in the theater, noise and confusion. Now I have a headache. Perhaps the worst of it was the movie "The Wolf of Wall Street," which was a movie so unpleasant and so close to a part of real life that I never see, and don’t want to see, that I for sure didn’t need to see it, especially at holiday time.

The movie is about life in a crass and crude "bubble" within which the people in the bubble believe that their lives are how things are. We deal with lots of such bubbles: far left Democrats and far right Republicans believe that their life experience and life views are the only way things should be or are; evangelical Christians sometimes experience themselves in a bubble with the rest of society outside of that bubble.

Think of Congress not willing to strengthen gun control legislation for fear of not being re-elected—in a bubble—or am I in a bubble for thinking differently?

How about the world of being nice to one another? We live in an increasingly angry and mistrustful society (is that real or just my perception?) while my bubble at HAC is to be as nice and helpful to everyone as possible. How about when the President apologizes now and then? I think it is great (my bubble?) but news pundits speak of why having the President apologize for anything is a bad idea and will weaken America (their bubble).

I like the bubble that HAC is in and I want to never leave it. Last week, HAC staffers were in the process of helping three people who had recently gotten out of jail. We worked on a variety of issues with each and the general atmosphere at HAC was sympathy and a desire to help. My son was home from college (another bubble, perhaps) and he overheard me worrying about the three ex-cons and getting situated in time for Christmas. As I was leaving the house I overheard part of what he said to his mother which was something like, "Have we gone crazy here? Why are we worrying about helping all these criminals getting out of jail?" There was a time I might have said or thought the same thing, but not now.

I now know that everybody has a story and a reason. I also know that being respectful and caring helps people who are struggling succeed. It is never a question if they deserve it or not. The question is, will we all benefit from caring and respectful behavior towards others? I believe that we will and we do.

Christmas is the time our society practices these values. At HAC we do it every day.

Tags: housing assistance corporation, Rick Presbrey