Housing Assistance Corporation Blog

Helping Tackle the Vineyard's Housing Issues

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Mon, Oct 23, 2017 @ 12:33 PM

Rebecca Jamieson-1.jpg

Having been born and raised on Martha’s Vineyard, Rebecca (Townes) Jamieson knows there is a lot to love about the Island.

But HAC’s new Homeless Case Manager on Martha’s Vineyard also understands it’s a community that is not devoid of its problems. “There definitely are struggles and issues we have here,” she said. “One of the biggest issues right now we face is homelessness.”

Since the beginning of September, Jamieson has been helping HAC tackle that problem on the Island on a part-time basis, Monday through Wednesday, working out of the Dukes County Regional Housing Authority on State Road in Vineyard Haven. Her position is currently being funded through a grant from the Cape and Islands United Way.

In her role, she is responsible for providing intensive case management to families and individuals experiencing housing instability on Martha’s Vineyard. These are people who are either homeless or at risk of homelessness.

HAC Director of Family and Individual Services Cassi Danzl said that until January 2016, when the state earmarked money to cover the costs of a similar position, there was “no other existing case management services for individuals who are homeless or at risk of homelessness” on the Vineyard. That is why the role, she said, is so critical to this community.

And that is why Jamieson applied for the position. “I want to help the people here who are struggling,” she said. “I think that this is a place where there is so much wealth and amongst all of that wealth, we have a significant population who has little, if anything.”

Prior to coming to HAC, Jamieson served as a case manager with Arbour Counseling Services in West Yarmouth. She has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Ashford University and a master’s of science in professional counseling from Grand Canyon University.

“She brings a really great skillset to this position,” said Danzl, adding that having lived on the Island most of her life, “she has a really clear understanding of the struggles and stressors that come with being a resident of the Vineyard.”

While still new to HAC, her hiring represents a whirlwind few months for Rebecca who was married in August to Jonathan Jamieson. She has two adult children, Kayla, 24, and Dorian, 20, as well as a six-year-old stepdaughter Laiah.

Having the opportunity to live, work and raise her own family on the Vineyard is rewarding for Jamieson. “I love the small community. I love its beauty. I love that we have wonderful weather in the summertime and snow in the winter,” she said. “Most of my family is here so it is very comforting, and a very familiar and lovely place.”

House Needed on Martha’s Vineyard

HAC is currently seeking a year-round home to rent or buy on Martha’s Vineyard that would house 5 chronically homeless adults. The home should have between 4 and 5 bedrooms and can consist of one or two structures on the same property.

Rent will be paid utilizing a grant HAC received earlier this year from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Those with a potential home should contact HAC’s Cassi Danzl at cdanzl@haconcapecod.org or 508-771-5400, ext. 253.

Tags: homelessness, Martha's Vineyard, homelessness prevention, affordable housing, Cape and Islands United Way, Rebecca Jamieson

Grant Helps House Homeless on Martha's Vineyard

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Thu, Jan 12, 2017 @ 04:47 PM
Karen Tewhey Edited (January 2017).jpgKaren Tewhey, HAC's HCEC housing counselor on Martha's Vineyard. 

What can $81,658 buy on Martha’s Vineyard? Housing for seven of the island’s homeless.

That is exactly how HAC will use that money, which was awarded to the agency last month, courtesy of a Continuum of Care grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. “It’s the first time in many years Martha’s Vineyard has gotten funding from the [Continuum of Care] so we’re incredibly excited,” said Karen Tewhey, HAC’s Housing Consumer Education Center housing counselor on the island.

Tewhey, who wrote the grant, said roughly half of it will go to rent a year-round permanent home for seven homeless men who have strong roots on the island. The remainder will be used to cover the cost of a program manager who will also reside in the house.

“We are looking at potential sites right now,” Tewhey said, with the goal of opening the home at some point this year.

As part of the program, Tewhey said, HAC is currently seeking additional funding for a case manager who will work with each individual, connecting them to medical, mental health, education and employment services needed for them to become self-sufficient.

The HUD grant serves as a long-term compliment to a short-term one that the United Way of Cape Cod is funding to help address homelessness on the Vineyard. That grant is paying for homeless individuals and families to stay in four island hotels over the winter months.

Tewhey, who celebrates her one-year anniversary at HAC this month, said that there have been 80 individuals on the Vineyard who have been identified since last January that are homeless. “The majority of those individuals end up couch surfing,” she said. “We do have probably up to two dozen individuals who have been unsheltered, living outside or in their cars or in sheds.”

These people serve as a reminder of the disparity of wealth that exists on Martha’s Vineyard. “This is primarily a service economy and this is an extraordinarily expensive place to purchase real estate,” she said. “So many people are dependent on rentals and there is a rental housing crisis on the island. We probably need about 1,000 units of rental housing here.”

Tags: homelessness, Martha's Vineyard, Continuum of Care, HUD, Department of Housing and Urban Development, United Way of Cape Cod, Karen Tewhey

Summer on Cape Cod

Posted by Rick Presbrey on Thu, Aug 18, 2016 @ 10:13 AM

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I am not taking any travelling vacation this summer. Work is especially busy because we are trying to fill three key positions: the Director of Energy Programs; the Director of Homeless Prevention Services; and the Director of Housing Development. We also have a new COO, Walter Phinney, who started two weeks ago. The result is that I am trying to take just an occasional vacation day—staying local—this summer. That’s how I ended up as a day tripper on Martha’s Vineyard on a recent Monday.

I’ve never spent time on the Vineyard as a tourist, but I’ve been there on business over the years. I’ve have always planned my trips for the early morning hours so that I can be back at my desk by noon.

HAC has built affordable housing on the Vineyard. Back in the early 1980s, HAC partnered with Island Elderly Housing on a Martha’s Vineyard development called Hillside Village, which had 40 rental units for seniors. It is the only multi-family project HAC has been involved with. HAC also built 15 homeownership units on the Vineyard as part of a Self-Help Ownership project.

Last fall, HAC opened our first “office” on the Vineyard. Our part-time staffers share space in the Dukes County office building. They provide much-needed assistance to Vineyarders looking for affordable housing. I know the Vineyard to be a place where the challenge of affordable housing is even greater than it is on the Cape, not least because of the staggering price of real estate.

Last month, my wife Melanie, my son Paul and I, with another couple, took the day and went to the Vineyard as tourists. We rented a Jeep and proceeded, after a quick breakfast in Oak Bluffs, to begin to drive the perimeter of the island. We headed to Edgartown and following our noses and signs, headed to the Chappaquiddick ferry. For $28 round-trip, the five of us and our car rolled on to the three-car-ferry for the three-minute ride across. We satisfied our curiosities about the Ted affair and followed signs to the Mytoi Japanese gardens a few minutes away. The 45-minute walk through the gardens was fascinating and pleasingly invigorating.

Our next stop, a fair drive away, was something I have wanted to see for many years, the cliffs at Aquinnah. Our group was hungry by now, but there wasn’t much on the drive and the trinket shops at the site didn’t offer much hope. We walked up the short hill and enjoyed the breathtaking view of the cliffs and the Native American story that went with it. Part way back to the car I checked the snack bar only to find that it was a full-fledged restaurant with outside seating overlooking the beach far below and the ocean. We all enjoyed our lunch and marveled at our location with the “best view in the world!”

After lunch we headed back to the ferry, enjoying the rural country and farm views. We took the 5 pm boat back to Falmouth, a very thrilled, happy and tired fivesome. And I got to see a side of the Vineyard I had never seen before.

Tags: Martha's Vineyard, Rick Presbrey, affordable housing

Supporting Martha's Vineyard's Housing Needs

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Thu, Apr 21, 2016 @ 10:17 AM
MV_Karen_and_Esther.jpgKaren Tewhey (left) and Esther Laiacona are providing a visible presence for HAC on Martha’s Vineyard. 

Martha’s Vineyard residents looking for support with housing issues are in luck thanks to an on-island HAC representative focused on assisting those in need.

That position, funded by the state, was filled in January by Karen Tewhey, a seasonal resident on Martha’s Vineyard for 25 years. She moved to the island permanently in October with her husband James Tewhey, an attorney.

Joining Tewhey with providing an island presence for HAC has been Esther Laiacona, who was hired to oversee special projects under the direction of Nancy Davison, the agency’s vice president of program operations.

Tewhey, whose official title is housing counselor, works out of the Dukes County Regional Housing Authority on State Road in Vineyard Haven, where she has been helping to address the island’s diverse housing needs.

Just three months into her assignment, Tewhey spoke to those needs which she termed “enormous,” highlighting the Vineyard’s, “high percentage of individuals in substandard housing: families living in one room with their children; families doubled up in substandard units; and families involved in the housing shuffle who don’t have permanent housing for 12 months of the year.”

Tewhey has worked closely with the community’s homeless men and women who benefitted from Hospitality Homes, a new program started by the Martha’s Vineyard Island Clergy Association this winter to provide shelter to this segment of the population. The shelters, located at Federated Church and Grace Episcopal Church in Edgartown, provided food and a bed to 18 men and 5 women, through the end of March.

Island’s Housing Challenges

She said the program was successful in providing a structured, safe, comfortable environment for those who are most vulnerable. At the same time, she said, it has highlighted gaps in services on the Vineyard which start with the lack of year-round affordable housing. “There are no apartments available at all on the island,” Tewhey said. Compounding this problem is that many individuals and families live in apartments or homes with nine-month leases, forcing them to find temporary housing during the summer as part of the island’s housing shuffle.

Tewhey is available to provide support for anyone with housing needs on the island and works closely with Laiacona, who was homeless on Martha’s Vineyard with her two children for 15 months. Laiacona now sits on the Martha’s Vineyard Homelessness Task Force, offering a real-life perspective on the challenges of being homeless on the island.

“I understanding what it’s like to not eat a meal so you can buy shoes,” Laiacona said, noting that her experience gives her a compassion for those who are homeless and a voice advocating for change.

At HAC, her first project was to research the health and human services resources available in Dukes County, Barnstable County, statewide and nationwide, information that will go on the Massachusetts Housing Consumer Education Centers website (www.masshousinginfo.org) as well as the HAC website.

Together, Laiacona and Tewhey are forging a presence on the island so that HAC can better address the housing needs there. “I think it’s satisfying to me to be a knowledgeable resource for individuals who might not know how to maneuver through the system,” Tewhey said. “It can be daunting to deal with state agencies, so I have the luxury and education where I can be a resource for residents and a voice for them.”

If you live on Martha's Vineyard, you can learn more about our services on the island by clicking this link.  

Tags: homelessness, Martha's Vineyard, affordable housing, Hospitality Homes

On the Brink of Foreclosure: One Client's Story

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Feb 06, 2015 @ 08:33 AM
DSC 7541 resized 600Lisa and Buddy Vanderhoop with Wiley, their Weimeraner, at Owen Park Beach on Martha's Vineyard.

Imagine living in the same home for 23 years. It becomes a sanctuary – the place you not only lay your head every night, but where you find comfort, peace and make a treasure trove of memories that are impossible to put a price on.

Now imagine that being taken away from you in an instant.

That is exactly where Lisa and Buddy Vanderhoop found themselves last year. They stood at the precipice of losing the one constant in their life for nearly a quarter century. “It was the worst, most stressful time of my entire life… I thought I was having a nervous breakdown. At times I’d go from being sobbingly depressed to being numb,” Ms. Vanderhoop said. “This is where my husband grew up, where his ancestry is. If we lose this house we lose our businesses and our livelihoods.”

For Buddy, Martha’s Vineyard has always been home. It is where he was born and tied his anchor, becoming the Island’s most famous charter fishing captain with a list of celebrity clients that have included Keith Richards, Spike Lee, Michael Mann, Jim Belushi and the late-Thomas Menino. He has been featured on Chronicle, The Moth Radio Hour and the Discovery Channel.

And his wife is an accomplished artist and photographer.

Despite their success they have not been immune to life’s pitfalls. It started in 2008 when Buddy’s youngest daughter was in a car accident on Hawaii, forcing him to travel west and cancel a month’s worth of charter trips during the height of the tourist season.

The spiral downward continued when Buddy’s brother was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer. “My husband would escort him off-island to medical appointments,” Ms. Vanderhoop said, only adding to the family’s expenses.

That was followed by costly boat repairs and eventually with Buddy being diagnosed with prostate cancer over a year and a half ago. That diagnosis meant Buddy was unable to work for three months as he went through radiation treatment. And then last spring, the 64-year-old Buddy Vanderhoop suffered a heart attack.

As they faced these personal difficulties over the past four years, the Vanderhoops struggled to make their mortgage payments. Several times they tried unsuccessfully to work with their lenders to modify their loan to reduce their monthly payments.

HAC: The Vanderhoop's Last Hope

Though the couple continued to make their payments, they were falling behind on their loan until March 2013 when it was placed into default. As the Vanderhoops continued to seek a home loan modification they were informed in February of last year that their loan holder, Ocwen, was starting the foreclosure process.

“Basically, everybody said we were going to lose our house,” Ms. Vanderhoop said.

Looking for guidance, they consulted a mortgage lawyer who directed them to HAC. With nowhere else to turn, she and her husband made the trip to Hyannis last May, meeting with HAC’s foreclosure prevention counselor Joan Maney.

“She was unlike anybody I have ever talked to. When we met with Joan she was no nonsense,” Ms. Vanderhoop said. “She was being very, very firm about what was needed. I left the office crying because I was so vulnerable anyway, but I was also crying with a smile on my face because this lady seemed like she knew what she is talking about.”

Two more times the pair would meet with Maney, filling out the necessary paperwork to be considered for a loan modification. Their efforts were successful as they were approved for a three-month temporary loan modification before it recently became permanent.

Their interest rate fell from 6.5 percent to two percent and they cut their monthly payments by nearly $1,900. “I truly believe it was because of your organization and Joan, why we ended up getting the loan modification,” Ms. Vanderhoop said.

Not every story has a happy ending like the Vanderhoops, but Maney said it is possible. What HAC provides, she said, is an understanding of “what the lender is looking for and how to best prepare an application.”

Because of that expertise, the Vanderhoops are now excitedly looking towards what life will bring. “It is such a relief,” Ms. Vanderhoop said. “I feel like we can take this energy and put it into our businesses and have a future, a real future.”

Give Hope to a HAC Client

Tags: Lisa Vanderhoop, Martha's Vineyard, Joan Maney, HAC, Foreclosure, Buddy Vanderhoop, loan modification