Housing Assistance Corporation Blog

Preventing Homelessness on Cape Cod

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Mon, Sep 10, 2018 @ 03:15 PM

dsc_8630-resized-600

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.”

homeless-prevention

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

Cash for Causes-1

If you shop for food at a supermarket, then you can help prevent homelessness on Cape Cod. It’s that simple.

HAC sells gift certificates at face value to the following stores: Lambert’s; Shaw’s/Star Market; Stop & Shop; Ring Brothers; Peterson’s Market & Fancy’s in Osterville; Roche Brothers; Cape Cod Natural Foods; and Whole Foods as well as Country Garden; CVS; 99 Restaurant & Pub; and Dunkin’ Donuts.

Because the Dennis Yarmouth Ecumenical Council for the Prevention of Homelessness (DYECH) and the Barnstable Interfaith Council (BIC) purchase those certificates in bulk, they receive a 5 percent discount on them. For each certificate sold, that 5 percent goes to HAC to prevent individuals and families from becoming homeless.

Deacon David Akin of St. Pius X Parish in South Yarmouth said, “it should be a no-brainer” for people to participate in the program. “We are supposed to support our neighbors.”

Those interested in purchasing gift certificates to support HAC’s homelessness prevention efforts can do so at our office at 460 West Main Street in Hyannis.

Along with selling gift certificates, DYECH organizes free concerts twice a year where they collect donations on behalf of Project Prevention. It also works with local restaurants who donate a portion of their patrons’ checks to Project Prevention several times a year. Visit www.dyech.org for details on upcoming fundraisers.

 

Tags: homeless prevention, homelessness prevention, grocery cards for prevention, Gift Cards for prevention, Project Prevention, homelessness, DYECH, Liz Belcher, BIC, Barnstable Interfaith Council, David Akin

HAC Restructures HCEC to Better Serve Clients

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Jan 05, 2018 @ 01:51 PM
Liz Belcher-1.jpgLiz Belcher, HAC’s Information and Client Services Manager, in the agency’s newly redesigned reception area.

In the coming weeks, HAC will be altering the way it conducts intake for those seeking assistance at its Hyannis office on 460 West Main Street. The change is intended to enhance services while ensuring clients experience a smoother, more efficient level of support.

“Our goal is to improve and expedite services for people who are coming in and requesting assistance,” explained Cassi Danzl, HAC’s Director of Family and Individuals Services.

The shift is part of a reorganization of HAC’s Housing Consumer Education Center (HCEC). HAC is one of only nine HCECs across Massachusetts and the only one serving Cape Cod and the Islands. Established in 2001, HCECs conduct client intake and referrals, assist with housing search, provide foreclosure and reverse mortgage counseling, and offer financial literacy workshops.

This year, HAC will make several changes to the operation of its HCEC, starting with intake. Until recently, clients would check-in with the receptionist and be referred to HAC’s Liz Belcher, who would identify the proper internal or external program that could best address each person’s needs.

This resulted in a heavy caseload for Belcher, who has worked at HAC for 16 years and sees between 200 and 300 clients per month.

New Intake Coordinators

Under the new system, HAC will have two staff in the entrance area who will serve as intake coordinators, easing Belcher’s caseload. Belcher, who was recently promoted to Information and Client Services Manager, will conduct more intensive casework for clients that need a higher level of support.

In addition to the intake coordinators, Belcher will oversee two new housing counselors that will be added to HAC’s HCEC. These employees will conduct reverse mortgage and foreclosure prevention counseling as well as housing search. Previously, these responsibilities had been divided up among separate staff members.

“There will be less starting and stopping and telling your story multiple times to multiple people,” Danzl said of how this will ultimately benefit clients.

HAC will also be hiring a Regional Trainer who will conduct financial literacy workshops – First-Time Homebuyer, Rebuilding Your Credit, Creating a Budget, Post Purchase, Be a Successful Tenant, Community Resources, and Housing Search – not only at HAC’s Hyannis office, but off-site in communities throughout Cape Cod and the Islands.

All of these behind-the-scenes changes are being made at the same time HAC completes the redesign of its reception area to be more modern and welcoming with resources more readily available to clients. “I’m excited to implement something that we are anticipating is going to drastically improve the service access for people on the Cape and also on both islands,” Danzl said. 

Tags: HAC, Liz Belcher, HCEC, intake, Intake Coordinators, housing consumer education, financial literacy, Cassi Danzl, Family and Individual Services Department

HAC Assists Families Displaced Following Dennis Port Fire

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Tue, Oct 21, 2014 @ 12:05 PM
Allison Kendall Dennis Fire Pic resized 600Allison Kendall with her son Kaiden outside her parent's home where she lived temporarily before finding an apartment in Harwich.

Sudden, life-changing events can be traumatic, something that 33 people living in Dennis Port learned when their condominium complex was damaged by a fire in the beginning of June.

“It was traumatizing to watch, to see a place we had called home go up in flames,” Allison Kendall said. “It was kind of unreal. I still can’t fathom that actually happened.”

Kendall lived in one of the 16 households that were impacted by the fire. She and her one-year-old son Kaiden were fortunate in that they were unharmed and their apartment was not damaged as the fire affected four units on the opposite side of the building.

Still Kendall found herself suddenly without a home, like the others living at the Sea Breeze Condominiums, as the building was evacuated and deemed uninhabitable following the incident.

That is when HAC stepped in to fill a need, working with 26 people living in 11 of the units to find permanent housing elsewhere on the Cape.

Four days after the fire, HAC intake counselor Liz Belcher and project prevention director Dolores Barbati-Poore met with residents of the Dennis Port complex and began prioritizing them based on their level of need. Some had family and friends they could stay with indefinitely, while others needed immediate assistance.

HAC was able to secure housing for three families in Barnstable just days later.

Housing specialist Derick Bussiere worked with one woman in her 60’s who was in a particularly precarious situation. “She had no place to go and no family or friends here,” Belcher said. “She had no vehicle and walked to everything [at Sea Breeze]. He was able to find her a place in Dennis to help get her back on her feet.”

This type of response to an emergency is not unusual for HAC. In the past three years, Belcher said, the agency has done similar work for Cape residents at least twice. And as they have in the past, Belcher said, everyone at HAC “came together really quickly and they got things done” in assisting those affected by the Dennis Port fire.

That led to a happy ending for Kendall and her son who, after working with HAC and the Harwich Ecumenical Council for the Homeless (HECH) while temporarily staying with her parents, is now living in a two bedroom apartment in Harwich. “Thanks to them I’m fortunate enough to have a place,” Kendall said. “If it wasn’t for their help I don’t know where I would be.”

Tags: Emergency, Liz Belcher, Allison Kendall, HAC, Dennis Port