Housing Assistance Corporation Blog

Looking Back at 2014: HAC's Top Stories

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Tue, Jan 13, 2015 @ 11:51 AM


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Saying farewell is always bittersweet. And so it is with 2014, an exciting year in which HAC celebrated its 40th anniversary, opened a day center for the homeless in Hyannis and began work on the first phase of a much-needed project that will bring 40 affordable homes to Nantucket.

As we embark on what we hope will be a fruitful 2015, we talked to a few ardent HACbeat readers to take a look back at 2014 and find out what their favorite stories were from last year.

Opening of the Day Center at NOAH (Michael Sweeney, VP of administration and finance)

A 33-year veteran of HAC, Sweeney has a soft spot for stories that detail new initiatives at the agency.

And that is why his top pick from last year falls into that exact category. “In many ways, the day program is really the culmination of the community, Housing Assistance, Duffy Health Center, Vinfen, the police, all these groups coming together and saying, ‘Hey, we really need to do something here,’” Sweeney said. “To take a group like that, representing all different agencies, and having a united front and asking the state for additional funding for this program is really remarkable.”

Rick Presbrey’s Columns & A Home for the Hesse Family (Matt Pitta, WXTK radio host and MC of HAC’s annual meeting)

When Pitta receives his monthly newsletter, his first stop is always page 3 to read CEO Rick Presbrey’s editorial. “I like to see what Rick is thinking and he always has interesting ideas about what is going on in the housing community,” Pitta said. “And sometimes what he writes has nothing to do with housing, but he finds a way to relate it back to that.”

Pitta said one story published last summer about the Hesse family, living in his hometown of Harwich, was of particular interest to him. “It was a typical situation of the struggle so many families are facing on Cape Cod,” Pitta said. “There was a mom, a dad and their two kids. The father was working two jobs and they were finding it impossible to buy their rental home that was being sold. Then HAC got involved and they were able to purchase it.”

It was indicative of the type of stories he enjoys. “You wonder who is really being helped and is there a face,” he said.

“Those first-person stories of people and families being helped gives you a good understanding of that.”

HAC Client Realizes Dream of Homeownership (Jan Nelson, FSS Coordinator)

As HAC’s coordinator for the Family-Self Sufficiency (FSS) program, Jan Nelson has seen many clients graduate from the program, but few take the next step towards homeownership.

But Adrienne Gonsalves was different. Last year, she did both. And today she could not be happier.

“She absolutely loves her house,” Nelson said, explaining why this feel-good HACbeat story topped her list for 2014.

Your Favorite Articles 

Now that we've shared some of our readers' favorite stories, here are the ones YOU enjoyed most. The following are the top five most read online stories from 2014: 

  1. HAC Celebrates Completion of Great Cove Community
  2. Dream of Owning a Home is Realized
  3. Finding a Home on Cape Cod Thanks to NOAH Shelter
  4. Cape Cod Restaurateur Lends Expertise to NOAH Shelter
  5. Great Cove Community: Affordable Housing

Tags: NOAH Day Center, Jan Nelson, HAC, Rick Presbrey, FSS, Matt Pitta

State Backing Bolsters NOAH Day Center

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Sun, Nov 23, 2014 @ 09:58 AM
Cropped Gornstein resized 600Aaron Gornstein addresses the crowd.

In July – the same week that the 22nd Annual Bob Murray Housing with Love Walk was being held – the state threw its support behind the day center at NOAH and the timing could not have been more perfect.

In front of nearly 75 onlookers, including more than two dozen walkers, standing outside the John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum on Main Street, Aaron Gornstein, the Massachusetts undersecretary for housing and community development, announced $200,000 in state funding for the new initiative being undertaken by HAC in collaboration with, among others, the town of Barnstable, the Greater Hyannis Civic Association, the Hyannis Main Street Business Improvement District and Duffy Health Center.

“I knew Bob Murray very well over my career,” Gornstein told those in attendance. “I know he would want us to fund this program.”

That program, opening the NOAH Shelter to the homeless during the day, began in May though the planning process began long before that. And Gornstein, who witnessed firsthand the preparation involved in opening the day center, marveled at the cooperation among the organizations involved. “It is unprecedented,” he said. “I have never seen this kind of collaboration across all the different interests come together around an important issue of homelessness in this town. And I was so impressed that we had to find a way to come up with the funding to get this program going.”

Aaron Gornstein Facebook resized 600

Along with the $200,000 for the day center, Gornstein also informed the public that the NOAH Shelter will also see a boost in its overall funding as part of a commitment by the state to increase its support to individual homeless shelters throughout the Commonwealth.

The good news for the day center did not end there as Bert Talerman, an executive vice president for Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank, handed HAC CEO Rick Presbrey a check for $10,000 to support the new initiative.

“This is a great preliminary success story. This is really the preface to the real story,” Presbrey said. “A big part of this is accountability to demonstrate to the community what we want to do, what we are doing and what we have done as a collaboration. If that doesn’t happen none of this is worth it.”


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Tags: Homeless, NOAH Day Center, Aaron Gornstein, Rick Presbrey, NOAH Shelter

HAC Opens NOAH Day Center

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Mon, Jun 16, 2014 @ 12:38 PM
 NOAH Day Center Photo resized 600NOAH Shelter Director Greg Bar talks with Rick Presbrey, CEO of HAC, and Michael Sweeney, HAC's vice president of administration and finance, at the opening of the day center. 

“The place is booming,” HAC CEO Rick Presbrey said to Michael Sweeney, HAC’s vice president of administration and finance, in the parking lot outside the NOAH Shelter the day before Memorial Day weekend was set to begin.

“I think it is stunning,” Sweeney added.

“It shows you people are interested,” Presbrey said.

That interest is in a new program – a day center for the homeless – HAC ushered in at the end of last month.

Expectations for the program were modest. Greg Bar, director for the NOAH Shelter, said prior to the opening that he would be pleased if anywhere from six to a dozen people showed up on any given day. On the first day those expectations were shattered when more than two dozen homeless men and women accessed the shelter.

Some used the shelter for rest, others for socialization and still others as a way to get off the streets, working with HAC’s employment specialist Carolann Gillard to find jobs and with HAC’s housing specialist Derick Bussiere to find permanent housing.

The day center is a pilot program and a collaboration of several municipal and local organizations – the town of Barnstable, the Barnstable Police Department, Duffy Health Center, the Hyannis Main Street Business Improvement District and HAC – to provide shelter to homeless individuals during the day.

Through Labor Day NOAH will be open an additional 37 hours per week with the possibility that will increase in the fall and winter. The program requires all guests to be dry, meaning no client can be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

While there are future plans to offer more learning and social opportunities – art and computer classes and financial assistance have all been mentioned as possibilities - Bar said he plans on “keeping it pretty simple right now,” stressing that he wants to focus on providing only the essentials initially: shelter, food and access to employment and housing services.

Tangible Benefits to Clients

He gave two specific examples of how the day program can help current clients, starting with Casey (his name has been changed) who does not drink or do drugs, but has medical issues for which he has to take prescription medicine. “When he takes his meds he falls asleep and when he does he falls asleep outside on a bench,” Bar said. “With the day center he can put his bags down and go to sleep here.”

Similarly, Sue (her name has been changed) has mental problems so severe she sits outside on benches, rocking back and forth while talking to herself. “Maybe she can come inside our dining room and have a safer place to do that,” Bar said. “This gives an option for people to come and be safe and they will be in a caring environment and will be more exposed to our housing and employment advocates.”

Ultimately, Bar said, he will judge the success of the program much differently than others, but if the first day was any indication HAC is taking a major step to serving an unmet need on Cape Cod.

Mitchell Rose, a 27-year-old Cape native who has found himself homeless, said NOAH has served as an invaluable resource as he takes small steps toward independence. “They all seem like they generally care for us and that helps keep you motivated to do what you need to do to get out of here,” he said.

He has aspirations to become an EMT or paramedic and views the day center as a safe and secure environment where he can study and do his homework, efforts that will one day translate into having a home to call his own. “I am sick of living like this because it is not easy living like this,” he said. “It can be a job in and of itself, being homeless.”

Presbrey said that those like Rose are indicative of how important the day shelter is. “It is a beautiful day out today,” he said, noting that these clients could have chosen to be elsewhere. “But they came because they like the safety and the acceptance of NOAH and they are willing to engage and seek out the help they need to get better.”


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Tags: Homeless on Cape Cod, Homeless, NOAH Day Center, NOAH Shelter, NOAH