When it comes to money, $500 may not seem like much. But at HAC, it often is the difference between keeping a client in their home and them becoming homeless.
Over the past 25 years, HAC’s Project Prevention has worked to prevent homelessness through one-time emergency funds that go to pay utility bills, rent or mortgage arrears for individuals and families on Cape Cod and the Islands.
“A relatively small amount of money can resolve a really big problem,” said HAC’s Information and Client Services Manager Liz Belcher who assists individuals at risk of becoming homeless. Monica Mitchell, HAC’s family services supervisor, assists families at risk of becoming homeless.
Among Belcher’s recent clients is a woman in her 30s who holds a Section 8 voucher and was unable to work due to an injury. While she filed for unemployment and an adjustment on her rent, Belcher said, “both of those take time” so HAC used $439 from Project Prevention funds to cover her rent.
A frequent request, Belcher said, is individuals seeking money to prevent their utilities from being shut off. “Usually anywhere between $150 and $450 we give as a down payment on someone’s utility arrearage,” said Belcher. “And then we get them on a payment plan. It is really a leg up.”
On average, Belcher said, she sees at least 15 clients a week who need funds to keep them in their homes or apartments.
That funding comes from two sources – the Dennis Yarmouth Ecumenical Council for the Prevention of Homelessness (DYECH) and the Barnstable Interfaith Council (BIC).
DYECH’s funding supports HAC’s homelessness prevention efforts for families while BIC’s funding goes towards individuals in danger of becoming homeless. Both raise funds for HAC through the sale of gift certificates to local supermarkets and restaurants that are sold at face value to the public. Because the faith-based groups purchase those certificates in bulk, they receive a discount, allowing five percent of each purchase to go towards HAC’s homelessness prevention efforts.
Since it was formed in 1993, DYECH has raised over $1.5 million to help keep local families in their homes and apartments and off the streets. BIC has raised nearly $400,000 for individuals.
For roughly 20 years, Deacon David Akin of St. Pius X Parish in South Yarmouth, has been involved in DYECH’s efforts to support HAC’s Project Prevention. “It is good for the soul,” he said of his involvement. “You’re doing something good for another human being or family.”
HOW YOU CAN HELP
If you shop for food at a supermarket, then you can help prevent homelessness on Cape Cod. It’s that simple.