Housing Assistance Corporation Blog

Voucher Provides Necessary Stability for Vineyard Resident

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Aug 10, 2018 @ 02:46 PM

Leased Housing Client Photo-548543-edited

The car accident occurred nearly four decades ago when Michael Brady’s head hit the windshield of the vehicle he was in. Shortly thereafter, Brady, then only a teenager, started having seizures.

They became so bad, the Martha’s Vineyard resident said, “I couldn’t work any longer. They started happening in the daytime. I kept trying to work until 1990 when I was dangerous, not only to myself, but to others.”

Thanks to treatment – Brady had brain surgery in 1992 and a vagus nerve stimulator implanted into his chest in 2003, both at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center – he has not had a seizure in the past decade.

Thanks to a Section 8 voucher – Brady has had one for the past 15 years – he has had the housing stability to reduce his stress, offer him comfort, and ensure his safety.

Stable housing has provided even more than that for Brady. “I honestly might not be alive if it weren’t for this house,” he said.

Brady is one of nearly 1,200 HAC clients that the agency supports through housing vouchers which help offset rental costs and enable them to live on Cape Cod and the Islands. Some clients represent the region’s workforce. Some are elderly. And some, like Brady, are disabled.

Prior to receiving his voucher, Brady was homeless, living on friends’ couches. At his worst, Brady was living in the basement of a home with three other roommates. “I never had more seizures than there,” he said.

Around 2003, Brady’s situation improved when he landed a Section 8 voucher through HAC, enabling him to rent a home in Edgartown. The voucher provided him with the housing stability he needed to address his medical condition.

While he is still unable to work, Brady is leaving his mark in other ways. He makes jewelry – beads, necklaces, pendants and earrings - for friends and family using quahog shells. “It gives me a purpose,” he said of the craft.

“He makes the most beautiful jewelry I’ve ever seen,” said Logan Patrick, HAC’s supervisor of inspection services. “He said this to me: housing is what enabled him to have a life. Housing is what enabled him to go beyond that and be creative in that life… That is why I do this job because whether we realize it or not, the work we do for our clients builds a better community for all of us.”

Give Hope to a HAC Client

Tags: Section 8, Martha's Vineyard, Leased Housing, Logan Patrick, Michael Brady, housing stability, vouchers, housing vouchers

Get to Know HAC's Leased Housing Inspectors

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Aug 03, 2018 @ 04:28 PM
Leased Housing Photo-1HAC Supervisor of Inspection Services Logan Patrick (left) and Inspector John Paul conduct inspections for households that receive Section 8 vouchers. 

HAC’s Leased Housing Department is not only the agency’s oldest program, it is among its largest, impacting nearly 1,200 households on an annual basis, allowing them to remain on Cape Cod and the Islands thanks to the support of rental housing vouchers.

“I think we touch the most households as a department in a given year,” said HAC Director of Leased Housing Cindi Maule.

“And certainly our inspectors, they’re going into a lot more homes than any other department,” added Anne Williams, the assistant director for leased housing.

Inspections are done to ensure those receiving housing vouchers through the federally-funded Section 8 program are living in safe, decent homes or apartments using a set of regulations prescribed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). At HAC, they are conducted by two employees – Supervisor of Inspection Services Logan Patrick and Inspector John Paul.

Each unit receives an initial inspection, Maule said, which determines the amount of rent suitable for it. Follow-up inspections are conducted either annually or biannually to ensure the landlord is fulfilling their responsibilities and tenants are complying with theirs. It’s a balancing act that Patrick said requires inspectors to remain neutral and protect landlords as well as their tenants.

The Face of Leased Housing

Both Patrick and Paul, Maule said, “are the face of Leased Housing and Section 8… Inspectors are entering into people’s homes and private spaces so they are aware of that and being respectful of that.”

Patrick, who has over 21 years’ worth of experience conducting housing inspections, arrived at HAC a little over a year ago. He most recently served as the director of rental assistance at Housing Solutions in Kingston.

A firm believer in social justice, Patrick understands the importance of programs like Section 8 which accesses federal funds to cover a portion of one’s rent for those who meet income eligibility requirements. That funding helps to stabilize their housing to ensure they can remain here.

“We work with people who have the least in our society and need the most, through no fault of their own,” Patrick said. “We’re talking about the elderly and the disabled. We also service a lot of working class people who, because their wages are so low, can’t afford to rent and they need financial assistance… I want our clients to have housing and be in a safe place to either raise their kids or go to work, and not have to worry about having a roof over their head.”

Tags: Section 8, MA Rental Voucher Program, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Cindi Maule, Leased Housing, Anne Williams, Logan Patrick, John Paul, housing inspections

Music Therapy for HAC Clients

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Thu, Jun 07, 2018 @ 04:59 PM

 

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Initially, they drummed to their own beat. But once musician Sam Holmstock had concluded his one-hour session with nearly a dozen children living at Village Green II, a workforce housing development located in Hyannis, they were drumming together in unison.

Held during April’s spring break, the activity was organized by HAC Case Manager Jacqueline Smith as a way to offer these at-risk youth a fun, relaxing opportunity to let loose by banging their hands on the drums on a sunny spring day.

This is the second time that Smith, who provides case management to 15 households who have housing vouchers at Village Green II, had brought in Holmstock, owner of Drum Strategies for Healing, to lead a drumming circle for children.

It may have appeared like a simple music class filled with repetitive motions, but it was much more than that. It was therapeutic. “Just smacking their hands on this drum stimulates neurotransmitters in the brain,” Holmstock said. “Generally speaking, although it’s not obvious walking out of that room, it generally calms people down… On one level it’s moderate physical exercise, but more than that it’s stimulating the brain.”

It’s something Smith has noticed by observing the two sessions held at Village Green II this year. “You can see how much calmer they are after doing it,” she said.

Holmstock, who co-founded the band Entrain, now focuses his musical talents on using drumming as a healing mechanism for a host of groups, from at-risk youth to incarcerated teens to those with Alzheimer’s to veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

Sam Holmstock and Jacqueline SmithSam Holmstock with HAC's Jacqueline Smith following April's drumming session at Village Green II. 

It allows Holmstock to use his talents to reach populations that can truly benefit from music therapy. “Just giving them this opportunity and being able to sort of reach them on a certain level,” he said is part of the reward. “Maybe they don’t even realize in their thinking brain that there are positive things going on when they’re just banging on the drums.”

Tags: music, music therapy, Family and Individual Services Department, Leased Housing, Hyannis, Village Green II, Jacqueline Smith, Drum Strategies for Healing, Sam Holmstock, drum circle

New Case Manager Helps Tenants at Hyannis Development

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Wed, Apr 18, 2018 @ 09:48 AM
Jacqueline Smith-1Jacqueline Smith, HAC's new case manager, works with clients at Village Green II in Hyannis.

Tenants in a recently completed affordable housing development on Independence Drive in Barnstable are benefitting from the support of a new case manager at HAC.

The program is part of a contract HAC has with HallKeen Management, the property manager for Village Green II, a 60-unit development that was built by Dakota Partners for the region’s workforce. 

Since the start of February, HAC has been providing case management two days a week to 15 clients who hold Section 8 or Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP) vouchers that help stabilize their rent.

Jacqueline Smith, who earned her master’s degree in social work from Simmons College last May, has been responsible for working with those 15 tenants, as well as any others at Village Green II seeking support, to connect them to the necessary resources that allow them to maintain their housing, improve their community connections, and work towards self-sufficiency.

The majority of her work so far, she said, has been focused on assisting clients with budgeting.

During February vacation, Smith organized a drumming circle led by Sam Holmstock, a family friend and co-founder of the band Entrain. “I knew Sam and he goes around to nursing homes and does drumming circles and works with at-risk youth,” Smith said. “I said why not try it here and let’s see what comes of it.”

Sam will be returning to Village Green to lead a similar exercise for families during April vacation. Smith has related ideas – yoga, meditation, and fitness – to add a holistic layer to the current offerings she is providing to clients at Village Green II.

Her underlying goal, she said, is to point these clients to the services “they need to help them grow.”

“She has kind of jumped in with both feet,” said HAC’s Director of Family and Individuals Services Cassi Danzl. “She is really committed and looking at what resources are available to make sure tenants in this development have access to them.”

Tags: Section 8, Family and Individual Services Department, Cassi Danzl, Leased Housing, Hyannis, Village Green II, Jacqueline Smith, case management, MRVP

Davison Retires After 29 Years at HAC

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, May 12, 2017 @ 12:29 PM

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Roughly three decades ago, Nancy Davison was struggling to make ends meet as she raised her son Brendan and daughter Kelly here on Cape Cod. “At that time I was working three jobs and I really couldn’t afford a year-round rental, but I took it anyway,” she said. “One night, I remember coming home from my third job – I was teaching real estate – and I just lost it. I didn’t know how I could keep this going.”

And then two things happened that stabilized her life – she was approved for a Farmers Home Administration loan and was hired at HAC as a program representative in its Leased Housing Department. “Within three months’ time I went from almost being homeless and working three jobs to coming to Housing Assistance Corporation and buying my own house,” she said.

That was in 1988. Twenty-nine years later, Davison has remained in that South Dennis home. But at the end of February, she said goodbye to HAC, where she has been able to help those who were dealing with similar issues that she was when she first arrived here.

During her farewell luncheon, HAC founder Rick Presbrey said Davison was an invaluable asset, the type of employee he could tap to manage and find ways to improve any department at HAC. Over the course of her career, Davison oversaw HAC’s Leased Housing Department, Consumer Education Department and, finally, its Energy and Repair Department.

Those experiences have colored Davison’s thoughts on HAC’s wide-ranging impact on the region. “There have been hundreds of thousands of people who we’ve helped in so many different ways. The list just doesn’t end because of the number of different things we do,” she said. “From tenants to homebuyers to homeowners to landlords to developers, there really isn’t a segment of the population that we haven’t helped in some way.”

What Davison discovered during her time here is that HAC helped her as much as it helps those it serves. “This is where I really found myself, what my values are and what my passions are,” she said. “I didn’t have an extended family. It was always myself and my children so this place really became my foundation. I was very passionate about my work and I loved the people I was working with.”

Tags: Nancy Davison, HAC Energy, Rick Presbrey, retirement, Leased Housing