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.”

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

Donor Spotlight: Barton Tomlinson

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Tue, Oct 16, 2018 @ 06:33 PM
Barton Family-2Those attending the Barton Tomlinson Clinical & Group Space dedication included Angel House Facility Director Lin Rohr (from left), HAC CEO Alisa Magnotta Galazzi, Jim and Betty Ryan, Rob and Kim Nichols, and Cassi Danzl, HAC's Director of Family and Individuals Services. 

Although Barton Tomlinson passed away last November, his legacy will continue to live on at HAC’s Angel House shelter.

There, a small plaque bearing his name proudly hangs on the wall, reading “Barton Tomlinson Clinical & Group Space.” In this room, facility director Lin Rohr said, is where the healing takes place.

That healing is something that was so important to Mr. Tomlinson and his wife Mary, who died in 2008. The couple were longtime donors of HAC, focusing their giving on the Hyannis shelter which serves mothers overcoming addiction and their children.

Barton Plaque

At the end of August on Mary’s birthday, that giving was celebrated during a naming ceremony to celebrate the impact Mr. Tomlinson has had on Angel House. In attendance were Barton’s daughter Betty and her husband Jim Ryan of Osterville, as well as Barton’s cousin Rob and his wife Kim Nichols of Hyannis.

“I was struck by his quiet resolve to always do the right thing,” said HAC CEO Alisa Magnotta Galazzi of Mr. Tomlinson. He was committed to stabilizing families, she said, “and giving these children here a second chance. It was the next generation that he was really invested in.”

In order for clients at the shelter to overcome the trauma of homelessness and addiction, Rohr said, they need the support of the community. “It is only possible through the generosity of people like Bart,” she said.

“This place meant a lot to him,” Betty said after she took part in the ceremony and a tour of Angel House. “He really felt for the mothers and the children here and wanted them to get on the right path.”

Tags: Angel House, Barton Tomlinson, Family Shelter, Donor Spotlight, HAC donors, Alisa Galazzi, Lin Rohr

Angel House Clients Build Life Skill Competencies

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Thu, Sep 28, 2017 @ 10:52 AM
Angel House-17.jpgHAC HCEC Manager Cheryl Kramer (fourth from left) with several of the Angel House clients who took her most recent financial literacy classes. 

Last fall, a client at Angel House took a series of financial literacy classes taught by HAC’s Housing Consumer Education Center (HCEC) Manager Cheryl Kramer. 

When Kramer brought that series – Creating a Budget, Rebuilding Your Credit, and Be a Successful Tenant – back to the shelter in June, that same client opted to take them again. Kramer said the client told her, “I’m so glad you’re back… Last fall I was focused on having my baby and not really focused on what you were teaching. I’m coming to the end of my time at Angel House and I really need to hear what you have to say.” 

It is one example of why these classes are so important, especially for the mothers at Angel House, who are dealing with the trauma of homelessness, overcoming addiction, and learning how to be a proper parent to their child. “Having the class available more than once, they’re able to build on what they learned the first time,” Kramer said. 

On average, 10 clients took part in each of the classes Kramer offered this summer. In August, she awarded 19 certificates of completion to the clients; some received multiple certificates because they took more than one of the classes. 

“One of the greatest values is that this is a concrete way for them to build their life skill competencies,” shelter director Lin Rohr said. “We do a lot of stuff on healing, recovery and parenting. This teaches them how to do a budget. If you spend everything you make in your first week, how are you going to eat?” 

Amanda, a 23-year-old client at Angel House, said the classes provided her with basic skills that she had overlooked or had no knowledge about. “I never knew anything about my credit,” she said. “And it made me open up my eyes about a lot of things like the money I spend on Dunkin’ Donuts alone.” 

“It’s amazing, isn’t it?” Rohr said. “If you spend $5 a day for coffee, that’s $35 a week.” 

Another client, Cassandra, admitted she has poor credit and was considering filing for bankruptcy. Kramer “showed me that is not my only option,” Cassandra said. “Now I’m almost amped up about it. I can fix it. It’s not too late.”

Cassandra is one of nine Angel House clients who plan on meeting with Kramer one-on-one to focus on their individual financial needs. “That is a huge thing she is offering,” Rohr said. “If they had to pay for that kind of outside support that is not doable for a lot of them. It’s a wonderful gift she [Kramer] is giving them.” 

In October, Kramer will return to Angel House to offer the classes to clients again. “It is part of the [Angel House] program now,” Kramer said. “When they come to that class, they are awake, they are vested and come with good questions… They are not just there because they have to be which makes it more fun to teach. And I make sure I’m giving them the info they want to hear and need to hear.”

HAC Receives CCYP Grant

For the second straight year, HAC has been the recipient of a grant from the CCYP's Giving Circle Fund of the Cape Cod Foundation. This grant will allow HAC to provide the following classes for free, for a limited time, on a first-come, first-served basis: 

Tags: Angel House, HCEC, housing consumer education, financial literacy, Lin Rohr, Family Shelter, Cheryl Kramer

Local Teens Connect with Children at Angel House

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Aug 18, 2017 @ 04:33 PM
Angel House Playgroup-1.jpgVolunteer Molly Rudman (left) plays with one of the children at HAC's Angel House shelter. 

Living in a shelter can be difficult for anyone, but it can be especially trying for older children, in part, because they don’t have the luxury of inviting friends over to hang out after school.

But a group of local students, led by Francesca Galazzi, 16, changed that the second half of this past school year. Joined by her sister Michela, 14, and their friends Molly, 16, and Halle Rudman, 15, and Joy McCarthy, 14, the group would spend an hour nearly every Saturday, from March to June, playing with children at HAC’s Angel House shelter in Hyannis.

They planned activities in advance, running them by facility director Lin Rohr. On Mother’s Day weekend, they made cupcakes. On other days, the activity was a little less structured with the group playing on the shelter’s swing set and running around outside.

“I’d be upstairs in my office and I’d hear laughing, giggling, the kids yelling, ‘I’m going to get you,’” Rohr said. “It was a positive experience, not only for the kids who live here, but for all the volunteers.”

Beyond that, Rohr said, it served as an opportunity for children outside of a homeless shelter to connect with those living in one. “For the teenaged volunteers, it breaks down any stereotypes they had about what homelessness looks like,” Rohr said.

One of the teenagers living at Angel House said the Saturday play groups were important to him because it allowed him to socialize with his peers. “Instead of having older volunteers, these ones are our age and we can play with them,” he said. For him that meant games of chess, playing cards and showing them his magic tricks.

“Everyone has different paths, but you can all help each other and have fun,” Francesca said of what she has learned from the experience. And despite being from disparate backgrounds, she said, “we always have fun together. They are really cool kids.”

While Francesca, Michela, Molly, Halle and Joy all took the summer off, they plan on renewing their Saturday play dates at Angel House once school begins in September.

Tags: Angel House, Family Shelter, Lin Rohr, HAC Volunteers

Sandwich Women's Club Donates Beds to Angel House

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Wed, Mar 01, 2017 @ 01:36 PM
Angel House Beds-1-1.jpgAngel House Director Lin Rohr with Lily and Danielle Moore, president of the Sandwich Women's Club. 

On an overcast Friday in the middle of January, stacks of brand new twin mattresses sat outside, next to a Budget rental truck parked on the grounds of HAC’s Angel House shelter in Hyannis. The 12 new mattresses and 10 box springs were replacing ones that were roughly 10 years old and had far outlived their useful life.

As Guillermo Jimenez and Brady Perez of Mattress Firm in Hyannis, carried the old ones out and the new ones into the shelter, Angel House facility director Lin Rohr spoke with Sandwich’s Danielle Moore, president of the Sandwich Women’s Club, and her daughter Lilly, 12.

“This is a compassionate way to extend tangible care to our clients,” Rohr told Moore, who organized the donation on behalf of the women’s club.

Last year, Moore had seen Rohr speak about Angel House, which serves homeless mothers struggling with addiction and their children, at a meeting of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs. That talk was enough to convince Moore to find a way for her club to support the shelter and those it serves.

They were able to do so on January 20, when the new twin mattresses, which had long been on the shelter’s wish list, arrived at Angel House.

Mattress Firm offered the mattresses and box springs at a discount, adding another layer to the charitable gesture. “We have a very proud philosophy of working with a lot of nonprofit organizations in the local area,” Chelsey Tahan, the assistant manager for Mattress Firm said. “One of the things we like to do is have an impact at the local level.”

For Moore, there is a personal affinity to Angel House; during her visit to the shelter she tearfully confided in Rohr, telling her that another daughter had lost a best friend to addiction last year.

Rohr expressed her gratitude to Moore and the Sandwich Women’s Club for their generosity. “Many of these women are going from sleeping on cardboard and newspaper to a bed,” she said. “This is probably the first brand new bed some of them have ever slept on.”

That means a lot, Rohr said, to the clients in shelter. “When you’re in a safe, secure, supportive place, you begin to heal,” she said.

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Tags: Angel House, Lin Rohr, Sandwich Women's Club, donations, Philanthropy, charitable giving, Mattress Firm

HAC's Impact Measured in Handprints

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Sep 09, 2016 @ 01:09 PM
retouched_sign.jpgAngel House clients give a special thank you to HAC CEO Rick Presbrey (right). 

In sheer numbers, it’s estimated that HAC has helped roughly 160,000 people over the past 42 years. That number is so large it is difficult to put it into perspective.

In the middle of July, HAC founder Rick Presbrey gained a little insight into just that, discovering exactly what HAC has meant to 13 mothers and their children currently staying at HAC’s Angel House shelter when they presented him with a banner emblazoned with each of their handprints. Underneath the handprints were their names, representing a small group of people that HAC has influenced in a positive way through the work it does at the homeless shelter.

The women gave Presbrey the banner at an annual summer barbecue organized by volunteer Ron Winner of Centerville, his wife, Wendy Winner, and their friend Jon Weisblatt of Harwich.

Upon receiving the gift, Presbrey expressed his gratitude to the women. “I very much appreciate this, but the fact is the work here is about helping people and about creating opportunities for people to do things with their lives,” he told them. “If I’ve done anything worthwhile, it’s because people like you essentially are given an opportunity to make a change in their lives and that’s really important. It can be done. Things can be dramatically improved and I’m just hoping and praying you guys can do it.”

Afterwards, Angel House facility director Lin Rohr spoke about what Presbrey has meant to the shelter and the women it serves. “Even though the population changes, his support doesn’t,” she said. “It is consistent. It is kind. It is caring. He believes in them and they know it.” 

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Tags: Angel House, Rick Presbrey, homelessness, Lin Rohr, Ron Winner

Angel House Playspaces Get a Makeover

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Thu, Jun 02, 2016 @ 11:06 AM
AHouse_Playspace-1.jpgPlayspace Activities Leader (PAL) Liz McKee makes a paper airplane with one of the children at Angel House in the newly redesigned playspace room by Horizons for Homeless Children.

Opportunities for play are vital for the growth of any child. It may be even more important for children who have experienced significant trauma like those at HAC’s Angel House shelter.

Because of that, Horizons for Homeless Children, a nonprofit based out of Roxbury focused on improving the lives of young homeless children in Massachusetts, has made recreation a priority for those it serves through its Playspace Program.

In Southeastern Massachusetts, Horizons has helped fund and design playspaces for 29 shelters including Angel House. The HAC shelter has two indoor playspaces, one for babies and toddlers and the other for older children, the latter of which recently received a facelift courtesy of Horizons.

At the end of April, there was a ribbon cutting held to showcase the new space for older children. The space for younger ones also received new furniture and materials though the work was not as extensive. Twice a week, children are given the opportunity to explore these rooms and the toys and books found inside under the direction of Playspace Activity Leaders, or PALs.

Lin Rohr, facility director of Angel House, said these spaces serve as an invaluable resource for children at the shelter. “They usually have enough volunteers so if a child has the need for a one-on-one experience, they can get that, which is incredible,” she said.

Every five to 10 years, Horizons will fund a complete reinstall of the playspace which was done with the one for older children. “We are redoing them so they are up to current design standards,” said Meghan Schafer, the playspace program director for Horizons. At Angel House that meant changing the layout of the room, the colors on the wall and floor and adding new toys, books and furniture.

As her son played nearby, Victoria Chase, a mother staying at Angel House, said she was thankful for Horizon’s generosity. “I think the kids get a lot of use out of this and it’s a safe place for them to play,” she said. “And it’s great for people like Horizons to spend time with our kids.” 

Tags: Angel House, Horizons for Homeless Children, Lin Rohr, playspace, Angel House Playspace

HAC Welcomes New Leadership at Angel House

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Mon, Jun 08, 2015 @ 02:09 PM

Lin Rohr resized 600

In life’s journey, each person tackles obstacles in their own, individualized way. “Some will walk at a different pace. Some may skip for a while. Some may run. And some may walk backwards,” Lin Rohr said, inside HAC’s Hyannis offices on 460 West Main Street.

Rohr found herself here in the middle of March, a few days shy of spring, as she reflected upon her short time as the new director of Angel House. The goal at the Hyannis shelter is to support mothers as they take the necessary steps toward overcoming the difficulties placed in their path.

She arrived at Angel House in January, roughly a month after she moved to Cape Cod from Madison, Wisconsin, where she had been living with her husband Scott Ritchie. The pair relocated from the Midwest after Ritchie, a clinical psychologist, landed a job with Allied Health Providers in West Barnstable.

A native of Los Angeles, Rohr received her bachelor of arts in religion in 1982 from Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington. Five years later she added a masters of divinity from Princeton University, to her name. That is when she embarked on a 25-year career as a minister for the Presbyterian Church (USA) before spending five years as a spiritual counselor and professional life coach.

While her position at Angel House represents a career change, Rohr’s work experiences have given her a familiarity with the types of people found at Angel House – those who are homeless and overcoming addiction – making her transition to HAC relatively seamless.

Treating Clients with Dignity and Respect

“I’ve worked with the homeless and those in recovery through my parish work and pastoral counseling,” she said, noting that her previous roles have taught her to “approach them with dignity and respect.” She has brought that same approach to those she interacts with on a daily basis at the shelter.

Through trauma-informed care, Rohr explained that the ultimate goal at Angel House is to ensure that both mothers and their children have the treatment and support they need as part of their recovery. “What we seek to do is walk with them and hold up for them their own goals: to live clean and sober,” Rohr said.

Rohr understands that the housing Angel House provides is integral to client success. “If people don’t have housing and they’re in recovery, then the challenges are twice as much,” she said.

And she realizes that staff also plays a vital role in the equation. That is why she takes it upon herself to visit the shelter’s play space at least three times a week. There she plays, swaddles and cuddles with children, some of whom were born addicted to drugs. “In my own way, I say a prayer or wish for the child that their mom will continue on their courageous walk,” she said. “What the moms are doing will impact the little ones’ lives in so many ways… It will end the cycle of homelessness and addiction and all the associated traumas. These women are being so courageous to say, ‘I want that cycle to stop.’ Many of them had it with their own parents and now they are saying they want it to be different for me and my children.”

Rohr, who has two children of her own – Stephanie, 24, and Josh, 26, as well as a stepson Tyler, 27 – knows firsthand the importance of a parent. So she delights when she sees clients take that extra step, like going to college, because it ultimately benefits the next generation. “It really touches me because it might make a difference and their child won’t struggle in the same way,” she said.

It is all part of the difficult journey that Rohr and her Angel House colleagues are helping clients make, each at their own pace.

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Tags: homelessness, HAC, Angel House, Lin Rohr