Housing Assistance Corporation Blog

Housing with Love Walk Continues as Way to Honor Bob Murray

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Sun, Jul 13, 2014 @ 11:15 AM
HWLW 071512 033 resized 600Bob Murray (left) hands out water during the Bob Murray Housing with Love Walk in 2012.

Though the late Bob Murray was unable to participate in last year’s annual Housing with Love Walk he started 22 years ago, he fervently followed the progress of those who walked from one end of the Cape to the other in an effort to meet the housing needs in the region.

“Every day I’d take a photograph of the walk and send it to him,” said Thomas Lacey, executive director of the Falmouth Housing Authority. “His reaction would vary depending on the day. Sometimes he would well up with tears of happiness. A lot of times he would comment on how he wished he was there. I think if we could have pushed him through the walk he would have done it.”

That is what the event – it was officially changed to the Bob Murray Housing with Love Walk in 2012 – meant to the longtime advocate of affordable housing on Cape Cod.

Its purpose was twofold: raise awareness of the housing issues in the region and raise funds to provide residents with safe, secure housing to allow them the opportunity to enjoy this corner of the state.

For medical reasons Murray did not take part in the annual event last year. This year’s walk will carry even more weight – it will be the first held since his death at the age of 73 last September.

The challenge of organizing this year’s event, which normally fell squarely on Murray’s shoulders, has been spread among a committee of volunteers. “Bob did it all by himself,” said Linda Clark, director of the Falmouth Housing Corporation. “We were a little taken aback when we began to understand the magnitude of the work involved for the walk to take place.”

That work has included everything from managing publicity to signing up walkers to creating a new brochure providing information on the walk. One of HAC’s roles this year is shuttling walkers along the route and providing a support van for participants.

New this year is the route which, while still going from Provincetown to Falmouth, will be modified to ensure the safety of walkers.

A total of 11 housing agencies, including HAC, benefit from the walk which begins on Monday, July 14 at St. Mary’s Church and ends on Sunday, July 20 at Liam Maguire’s Irish Pub & Restaurant in Falmouth.

Murray's Presence Will Be Felt

While Murray will not be in attendance, organizers said his presence will be strongly felt over the seven-day event. His wife Judy will be in attendance at the start of the walk. And a pair of well-used sneakers that Murray once wore in the walk and have since been bronzed will be carried by one walker each day in memory of the event’s founder.

Both Lacey and Clark plan on walking the entire 96.3-mile route to honor their friend, mentor and former co-worker. “It is really important to me to honor Bob this way,” Lacey said.

In recent years Murray “started the walk off with physical challenges that were only exacerbated by it,” Lacey said, and as a result he had to occasionally be rushed to the hospital or cut short his participation due to blisters, dehydration and physical fatigue.

Suffering was something Murray wanted participants, including himself, to feel as a way to better understand the plight of those without housing or working paycheck to paycheck just to live on Cape Cod. “He wanted people to feel a little bit of the pain they felt,” Clark said, explaining that is why it is held in July, one of the hottest months of the year.

Because of how important this event was to Murray, the goal is to ensure the walk continues on as a way to preserve his legacy. “I think it would make Bob really happy to see the walk continuing, really in the same way he created it with the partnerships of all these different Cape organizations and the camaraderie it creates, especially in support of tackling the Cape’s housing issues,” Lacey said.

 

Donate to the Walk

Tags: housing, Housing with love walk, Linda Clark, Bob Murray, Thomas Lacey

Dream of Owning a Home is Realized

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Tue, Jul 08, 2014 @ 12:20 PM
describe the imageMichael Hesse and his wife Shannon and their two daughters, Riley (left) and Dakota, celebrate in front of their newly purchased home in Harwich.

“I’ve always wanted to own a place, but I never thought it could happen.”

For much of his adult life that statement exemplified Michael Hesse’s attitude toward home ownership – he would never have a place he could call his own.

But that changed last year when his landlord informed Hesse he would be selling the two-family home he and his family had been living in and renting the past four years.

Up until that point Michael, his wife Shannon and their two daughters, Dakota, 10, and Riley, 5 had been the ideal tenants. They took care of the yard and maintained the house, all in exchange for a lower rent.

So when the owner put the home on the market he gave Hesse the first shot, at below market price, because “we’d been taking care of the place so well,” he said. “We’d mow the grass. Really, whatever was asked of me I’d go above and beyond.”

Already working one job at Oysters Harbor Marine in Osterville, Hesse added another to his plate – as a waiter at Stewart’s in Eastham – last year in hopes of being able to purchase the house.

Still it was not enough. “My credit wasn’t good enough,” he admitted.

That is when he discovered HAC and tapped into the Down Payment and Closing Cost Assistance Program which it administers for the Cape Cod Commission and the Barnstable County HOME Consortium. The program provides zero interest loans of anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000 for first-time homebuyers on Cape Cod with funds coming from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

The couple qualified for financial assistance, taking the requisite classes necessary to secure a $14,000 loan from the county. “I found it helpful,” Hesse said of the program. “I was looking for ways to fix my credit and what we needed to do to get a down payment.”

So this past November, the Hesse’s turned their rental into a home, fulfilling a dream they did not think was possible. “I never thought I would be able to buy a place of my own, never in my wildest dreams” the 35-year-old Hesse said.

The couple credited much of their success to Brenda Rocklage, the program administrator for HAC. She deflected such praise, calling the Hesse’s “a great role model for good tenancy… We just like to hear about great outcomes for buyers who work on keeping their credit and savings positive so they can qualify for good mortgage rates and assistance from the program if they are eligible.” 

Still, Hesse said, without HAC’s assistance he and his wife would never have been able to purchase what they consider a perfect home - a 2,800-square foot house situated in the middle of Harwich’s lakes with access to the town’s bike path. “It just makes me feel, I can’t even describe it,” he said. “I feel like I finally accomplished something in my life. It is wonderful

“We found this place, loved the area and loved this house,” he continued. “We just wanted to stay here. I can see it being an intergenerational home and being passed on to our grandkids. And if our kids moved away it’d be great to have them come back and visit. What is better than that?” 

Tags: housing, Homebuyer Education, HAC, Michael hesse

HAC's New Board Chair Sets Sights on Cape Cod's Workforce Housing

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Sun, May 25, 2014 @ 09:15 AM

david augustinho headshot resized 600

Over the past 13 years David Augustinho has aimed to address the needs of the region’s private sector as the executive director of the Cape & Islands Workforce Investment Board.

To ensure those needs are being met Augustinho realizes there must be adequate workforce housing to properly fill the seasonal and year-round jobs available on Cape Cod. “One of the issues we face with workforce development is worker housing,” he said. “It is an area, since I’ve been involved in workforce development, that I’ve been invested in and I think that we as a community need to address because there is somewhat of a mismatch between the cost of housing and the wages available in the region.”

Augustinho’s interest in this housing-related issue is what led him to the Housing Assistance Corporation’s (HAC) board of directors two years ago. At HAC’s Annual Meeting in April he took the leap from board member to chair of the executive committee, replacing Joan Bassett who has served in that capacity for the past three years.

In his new role, Augustinho said he wants to continue to place an emphasis on developing housing that meets the needs of Cape Cod’s labor force.

He also had high praise for the work HAC does with the homeless and hopes that efforts to address this segment of the Cape’s population remain a top priority. “I know a lot of homelessness is driven by substance and mental health issues,” he said. “Personally, I enjoy working on those issues. And as a society we’ve made decisions that have exacerbated the homelessness issue such as deinstitutionalizing the mental health population without really providing a range of services that meets the needs of those individuals.”

That is why, he said, HAC plays a vital role in the community, particularly to those who are homeless or on the verge of homelessness. “I think HAC provides hope,” he said.

Augustinho also was complimentary of HAC staff and their enthusiasm for tackling what are admittedly difficult issues. “You can really sense the positive energy throughout the organization,” he said. “Management and staff at Housing Assistance Corporation understand how important their work is and in my experience show an empathy for the clients they serve.”

He was eager to build upon the strong foundation the board has laid in the past three years under Joan Bassett’s chairmanship.

Bassett has a long history with HAC, having been a client and then an employee before becoming a board member in 2002. She will remain on the board as its clerk.

Prior to his current role with the Cape & Islands Workforce Investment Board, Augustinho served as the business retention specialist for the Fall River Office of Economic Development. He has also worked as the director of operations for the Bristol County Convention & Visitors Bureau and spent nine years as the staff director for former State Representative Joan M. Menard.

Tags: housing, HAC, Housing on Cape Cod, David Augustinho, workforce housing

Affordable Rental Housing in High Demand on Cape Cod

Posted by Laura Reckford on Tue, Dec 10, 2013 @ 11:00 PM

stage coach02

The need for affordable rental apartments on Cape Cod was on full display earlier this fall during a lottery for 12 affordable apartments.

A total of 252 people applied ot the lottery in hopes of getting one of the 12 rental units on Stage Coach Road in Cneterville. When the drawing of numbers began, there were more than three dozen people in Barnstable Town Hall watchng the process. There were mothers with babies, a homeless man who arrived with a backpack containing his possessions, parents with teenagers, and senior citizens, all hoping their number would be chosen early in the lottery drawing.

Housing Assistance Corporation ran the lottery on behalf of the Barnstable Housing Authority. Karen Davis, program coordinator in the Consumer Education Department of HAC, said the large number of people applying for the units served to demonstrate the need.

"Just in case you need ammunition about needing affordable housing on the Cape," she said.

Sandra Perry, executive director of Barnstable Housing Authority, said, "We're fortunate in the Town of Banrstable that the town council supports affordable housing."

The lottery numbers were divided into two sub-categories: Barnstable residents and people who are homeless. Of the 252 lottery applications, there were 30 families who identified themselves as homeless and 160 families who indicated they were from the Town of Barnstable.

One man in the audience said he had not received his letter from the housing authority giving his number in the lottery because he was homeless. "They don't accept mail at the shelter," he said.

Luana Champagne attended the lottery with her four-year-old son. Ms. Champagne, who grew up in Brazil, has lived on Cape Cod for 12 years and graduated from Dennis-Yarmouth Regional High School. She works as a certified nursing assistant. She said she and her son are homeless and living in a hotel in New Bedford. She said she hopes they are chosen in the lottery. "I want to be able to give my kid a roof over his head, so we can be comfortable and so we don't have to worry about where we will live next."

Ruth Rivero said she lives in a homeless shelter in New Bedford but would like to return to Cape Cod where she has family and because she is familiar with the area, having lived here for several years. She attended the lottery with her one-year-old son, Marcus. She said she hoped to get one of the apartments. "Especially because of him," she said.

Tags: housing, Affordable Housing on Cape Cod, housing assistance corporation

Foreclosure Crisis Is Not Over

Posted by Laura Reckford on Thu, Oct 17, 2013 @ 02:14 PM

Housing counselors at Housing Assistance Corporation who are focused on helping people on Cape Cod and the Islands with foreclosure questions and issues know that the foreclosure crisis is not over. Properties that are being put into the process of foreclosure continue to be listed in local newspapers.

The GOOD news is that it is not hopeless. Homeowners need to call and make an appointment with a counselor as soon as they think they may have a problem or concern with paying their mortgage. The sooner a counselor can start helping the better. The counseling services are free for ALL households. 

People that have applied for modifications in the past also need to come in and see a counselor.  THE RULES and GUIDELINES have changed over the past 5 years in the modification process. Counselors have seen modifications granted to homeowners first applied three or more years ago and were originally denied. This proves the homeowner needs to be persistent and continue to work through the arduous process with the lender. Counselors are here to help!

People that applied and got denied in the past may qualify for a modification under the new rules. Homeowners need to call and make an appointment with a HAC counselor at 508-771-5400.

Housing Assistance Corporation also works closely with the Attorney General’s Office on foreclosure issues and helping homeowners.

Tags: housing, HAC, housing assistance corporation, Foreclosure

HAC's Ashley Granger Earns Masters Degree

Posted by Laura Reckford on Tue, Sep 10, 2013 @ 10:00 AM

ashley cropped for hacbeat2

HAC’s own Ashley Granger, a program representative in the Leased Housing Department, has three new letters after her name: MSW.

Ashley, 32, completed her Masters degree in Social Work on May 19 from Boston University’s School of Social Work. Ashley said she had wanted to get the degree for awhile. “I’ve always been interested in helping people,” she said. “That’s one of the things I like about HAC.”

The school’s off-campus program allows students who live on Cape Cod to take classes at Cape Cod Community College on Friday nights and Saturday mornings from September to the end of June.  Ashley completed the program, 68 credits plus 1,200 hours of internships, in two and a half years.

In addition to classwork, Ashley completed two internships.

The first was at South Bay Mental Health in Mashpee. The agency operates a day program for clients with mental health issues and works with clients on life skills for independent living. There she worked with licensed mental health counselors and licensed independent clinical social workers to co-facilitate psycho-educational groups for adults with chronic mental illness.

Ashley said the South Bay internship was “really interesting . . . and fast-paced.” She said she had a lot of interaction with clients who had a variety of different diagnoses.

Her second internship was at High Point Treatment Center and South Shore Women’s Resource Center in Plymouth. At High Point, she worked with adults with substance abuse issues, both court-mandated and voluntary patients. At Women’s Resource Center, she worked with children and adolescents who have experienced domestic violence in their home.

Ashley said, much to her own surprise, she really enjoyed working with the children on group and individual therapy.

She said her interest is in “micro” social work, “to help individuals move forward in their lives and be the people they want to be.”

Ashley, who grew up in Plymouth, received her undergraduate degree from University of Massachusetts at Amherst where she double-majored in political science and women’s studies. She moved to Cape Cod in 2005.

That same year, she took an administrative assistant job at HAC and within eight months, a position opened and she moved up to the program representative spot.

Now she has 360 clients, both families and individuals, whom she helps by administering their housing subsidies, either Section 8 vouchers, Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program, Home Base, or the Shelter Plus Care program. She said her favorite program to administer is Shelter Plus Care because she has more interaction with the clients who were homeless and with mental health issues. “They need extra attention,” she said of her 22 clients, adding she works closely with staff from Vinfen, which handles case management.

She said the program’s ability to help people is gratifying. “When you see someone who was formerly homeless doing better, it’s kind of a great thing,” she said.

She said her favorite part of her job is interaction with clients and working with other HAC departments. “It’s fun to put our heads together and figure out how we can best serve a particular client or program, like linking a client with an energy audit or giving someone coming out of a shelter a voucher,” she said.

Tags: housing, Section 8, HAC, housing assistance corporation

Golf Day To End Homelessness A Success At Bass River

Posted by Laura Reckford on Thu, Aug 15, 2013 @ 10:00 AM

Ken and Janice Lyman of Yarmouthport have long been supporters of Housing Assistance Corporation’s Project Prevention through their church, St. Pius X Parish in South Yarmouth, but the couple decided they could do more.

Mr. Lyman suggested this spring that his club, the Retired Men’s Club of Cape Cod, raise money for the cause through one of their golf tournaments. The club schedules about five tournaments every spring and fall to raise money for various charities.

The “Golf Day To End Homelessness—Closest-to-the-Pin Contest” was held Monday, May 20 at Bass River Golf Course. About 80 people attended, Mr. Lyman said.

The event raised $700 for Project Prevention.

Also involved in helping with the tournament, including the critical role of working at the tee and measuring the distance to the “pin,” were David Puchalsky of South Yarmouth and Paul and Marcia Karhu of Dennis, who are members of the Congregational Church of South Dennis, which, like St. Pius X is among the 13 churches that are part of Dennis Yarmouth Ecumenical Council for the Prevention of Homelessness (DYECH).

Paul Karhu had been involved for the past two years in running a similar golf tournament at Dennis Highlands. Success of the tournament was limited so he was interested in switching the fundraiser to Bass River Golf Course. Mr. Karhu has also participated over the years in HAC’s Walk to End Homelessness. He did his first walk in 1999.

Tags: housing, Homeless on Cape Cod, Homeless, DYECH, Project Prevention, Prevention, HAC, housing assistance corporation, Housing on Cape Cod

HAC's Carriage House Opens New Play Space

Posted by Laura Reckford on Tue, Aug 13, 2013 @ 10:00 AM

Children at Carriage House enjoy the new place space.

Staff from the agency Horizons for the Homeless Children refurbished the play space at
Carriage House in June and a ribbon-cutting at the space on June 13 served as
an opportunity for the children and adults to get a first look at the new
space.

Carriage House Facility Director Anne Holmes saidof Horizons, “You guys are absolutely
amazing. The things you do. . . and you ask for nothing in return. You just
bless the kids.”

The new space is divided into five development areas: arts and crafts; a dramatic play area with puppets and a dollhouse for fine motor skills; an area with activities for gross motor skills; a gated infant area; and a literacy area. Six of the children staying at Carriage House attended the ribbon cutting and tried out the new play equipment and toys.

Horizons Playspace Programs Director Meghan Schafer  and Playspace Programs Manager Jessica Dalzell were both on hand for the ribbon-cutting.

Horizons is a private non-profit that was founded in 1988 and operates statewide with a main office in Roxbury. The mission of the agency is to improve the lives of young homeless children in Massachusetts and support early childhood education.

Ms. Schafer said, “Jess and I love what we do. The kids are our passion in life.” She added, “We love our volunteers.”

The playspace at Carriage House was a reinstall, because the group had worked on the same space in 2005. She said the re-install at Carriage House cost about $3,000 to $3,500, paid for through donations and from the agency’s budget.

About 65% of Horizons funding comes from donations and the rest through state and federal grants. The group has about 50 volunteers on the Cape who give about two hours per week for six month periods helping at shelters like Carriage House by playing with the children. There are trainings for volunteers twice a year, in April and October.

 On hand at the ribbon cutting are HAC Family Housing Services Compliance Manager Pat Caron.

On hand at the Carriage House ribbon-cutting are HAC Family Housing Services Compliance Manager Pat Caron and her son, Matt Caron, 13, HAC Project Prevention Director Delores
Barbati-Poore, Carriage House Facility Director Anne Holmes, Meghan Schafer and
Jessica Dalzell of Horrizons for Homeless Children and Carriage House Case
Manager Katie Geissler.

 

Tags: housing, Homeless, volunteers, Horizons for Homless Children, housing assistance corporation, Carriage House, Horizons for Homeless Children

Editorial: What Sequester? Here's What.

Posted by Laura Reckford on Mon, Aug 12, 2013 @ 10:00 AM

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By Rick Presbrey

Many will say, “so what is the big deal with the federal sequester?’ It hasn’t made any difference to me!”

We work hard at HAC to carefully manage our financial resources and to balance our budget each year. Each year we make our best estimate of what we expect our agency
income will be for the next twelve months and then adjust, or try to, our
expenses for the year. Our budget year begins on July 1.

This past year, beginning in January of 2013 we eliminated over $500,000 in salaries in
anticipation of what we were seeing happening in the current year and expected
to happen in the coming year. Not fun.

The federal sequester has been hanging over our heads and we recently got the news that our
Section 8 administrative reimbursement would be cut about 15% for the year and
that the payment to property owners would be reduced by 6%.  We pay property owners each month the difference between what the tenant pays ($30% of their income) and the total
rent. The average annual income for a person receiving Section 8 assistance is
$15,700 per year. A typical property owner receives about $830 per month from
us under the program. About 7% of the people leave the program each year but
our reductions are in addition to that.

Since we receive our federal funding for this program through the state which operates
the program statewide, how we reduce the cost of our payments to property
owners is their decision and they have been discussing it with us.

One way is to reduce the rent payments to property owners; the other way is to increase
what tenants pay towards the rent. Some of the units rented are in projects
financed with the help of the state. Cutting rents to property owners would
likely mean that some or many might leave the program causing the tenants to
lose their housing. If rents were reduced in state aided developments the
budgets in those developments would go out of balance.

So guess what: it looks like the decision will be to raise the amount that tenants have
to pay. Maybe we should call it “less affordable” housing. The problem is, of
course, that those who will pay more as a result of the sequester, in this
case, are the ones who can least afford it.  And the ones that have the least voice in our
system.  So their suffering will go
unrecognized. 

And next year, and for the next nine years, there will be equivalent additional
reductions each year making whatever is cut less sustainable.

As administration is cut, agencies like ours will do a poorer and poorer job
keeping track of the quality of the units rented, the punctuality of paperwork,
the rechecking of calculations to determine rents, etc. and there will be the
ensuing scandals about how bad the program is being run and how the government
can’t do anything well.

And tenants will gradually pay a larger and larger share of their meager income with more
evictions for nonpayment, more credit card debt, more unpaid utility, health
care and car repair bills and on and on all in the name of the sequester where
the wealthiest are hurt least.

And when we figure out what happened, if we ever do in our world of conflicting opinions,
the damage will have been done.

Tags: housing, Affordable Housing on Cape Cod, HAC, housing assistance corporation, MA Rental Voucher Program

Housing With Love Walk: Miles & Smiles

Posted by Laura Reckford on Fri, Aug 09, 2013 @ 11:00 AM

housing with love3

 

More than 200 people, more than 30 cases of water, 104 miles and lots of sweat and smiles.

The 21st Annual Bob Murray Housing With Love Walk ended Sunday July 21 with a party at
Liam Maguire’s Irish Pub in Falmouth as walkers celebrated another year of fundraising and fellowship.

Bob Murray, 73, started the walk 21 years ago when he worked at Housing Assistance Corporation. His health prevented him from walking this year, but he was represented at the party by his wife Judy and his daughter Carol, as people gave updates and sent prayers and accolades. “Bob Murray is an inspiration to us all,” Deanna Bussiere, HAC’s Event Resource and Development Coordinator, said. “All the people he has helped over the years is amazing.”

The Housing With Love Walk course is designed to be tough, scheduled as it is on the hottest time of the year, said HAC’s Margaret Benaka, and this year did not disappoint. Margaret, who, with Deanna, drove the support van for the entire seven-day walk, said the biggest challenge this year was the heat. The temperature was in the 90s on six days of the seven day walk and may have made it up into the low 100s in the heat of the day, as walkers journeyed the mostly unshaded highways of the Cape.

In honor of Bob Murray, Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank sent teams of people for every day of the walk beginning on the first day when Dorothy Savarese, bank president, and David Willard, director of community relations, started off in Provincetown.

The most miles the walkers traveled in one day was 19.6, on Wednesday, July 17, when the walkers traveled from Chatham to Yarmouth along Route 28.

Two women, Laurie Sexton of Harwich and Patricia Goggin of West Dennis and Whitehouse Station, New Jersey walked the entire walk. DJ Sullivan, 77, has walked the entire route in past years, set out to do the same this year, but had to stop on Thursday because of the heat and blisters.

The walk is a fundraiser for 12 Cape Cod housing agencies. One anonymous donor stopped by and gave $50 to one of the walkers. Housing Assistance Corporation raised more than $27,500 through the walk with money still coming in. The agency’s goal is $30,000.

Pastor Christian Holleck of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church of Harwich, in a sermon about the walk, said, “It wasn’t about the number of miles I did, but connecting with people, learning more about some of the efforts to work for affordable housing, being inspired by people who care.” He said what the walk is really all about is, “helping people get on their feet, helping them find stability, a home, work, health, dignity. . . .”

Tags: housing, Affordable Housing on Cape Cod, Housing with love walk, housing assistance corporation, Housing on Cape Cod