Housing Assistance Corporation Blog

HAC Gives Homeless Couple a Fresh Start in New Home

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Tue, Jan 24, 2017 @ 11:44 AM
Georgina Wolf Photo-1.jpgGeorgina outside the Hyannis cottage that is now home to her and her husband Jim. 

In the last month that HAC ran NOAH, Georgina and Jim represented one of the final success stories in the agency’s 32-year history of operating the shelter. On the first day of October, the couple had moved into a Hyannis cottage, located less than a mile from HAC’s offices on West Main Street.

It represented a step forward for the two who had lived at the NOAH Shelter since January of last year.

At NOAH, they were connected to the services they needed, from medical to housing, to eventually become self-sufficient. The news that a home had been found for them was delivered by former shelter director Greg Bar, who is now a housing search specialist at HAC.

When they were living at the shelter, each of Georgina and Jim’s possessions fit into two separate totes which were placed under the separate twin beds they slept on every night. “It had all your paperwork and important documents, then your toiletries and then your clothing,” Georgina said of the totes, a little more than two weeks after she and her husband had a bigger space to fit their belongings.

No longer will they need a tote. But when they moved in October, they had yet to accumulate enough possessions to fill the small cottage. But that did not matter to them. That’s because this is now home.

What led them to homelessness? “Layoff, illness, having no income and I self-medicated with alcohol,” Georgina admitted.

Georgina’s struggles included two bouts with cancer, the last of which occurred while in shelter. Her husband, a licensed electrician, had undergone three major surgeries that left him disabled and unable to work.

When they arrived at NOAH, they had lost everything. “There was a fear of what is going to happen next,” Georgina said. “Will I ever have housing again?”

With each other’s love, Jim and Georgina made it through their darkest hours; while in shelter the two, who had been together for over 15 years, were legally married. And with HAC’s help, they slowly began to make progress.

“I feel grateful, very ecstatic,” Georgina said, inside her new home. “I feel that here, this place, is going to bring us back what we had lost.”

Give Hope to a HAC Client

Tags: housing, Affordable Housing on Cape Cod, homelessness, NOAH Shelter, Greg Bar

Post-NOAH: Family Shelters, Outreach, Affordable Housing, All Priorities at HAC

Posted by Rick Presbrey on Sat, Dec 24, 2016 @ 09:45 AM

rick_at_big_fix.jpgMany people were surprised a few months ago when the Boston Globe came out with a comprehensive nationwide study of the causes of homelessness. Turns out, lack of affordable housing is a bigger factor than poverty when it comes to homelessness. That’s why Hawaii has more homeless people per capita than Mississippi.

Those findings make sense when you apply them to Cape Cod where, in recent years, we have seen an increasing population of homeless families, as the price of housing continues to rise.

For more than 25 years we have run four emergency shelters for homeless families on the Cape. They don’t get the same attention that our NOAH shelter did, perhaps because most people do not know they exist.

One of the shelters is behind a white picket fence on a main road in Hyannis. Another is a former motel in Bourne and a third is in a grand shingle-style historic home in Falmouth. The fourth, our Scattered Site program, consists of apartments for families in four buildings in Hyannis and Yarmouth.

Although we have turned over our NOAH shelter in Hyannis to Catholic Social Services, we still work with the homeless in our family shelters, which last year housed 174 families, including 195 kids.

We also are continuing to work with homeless individuals through our Outreach Program in which our workers go into the woods and other gathering places to try to bring homeless individuals to services and to get them situated in permanent housing. We also work with chronically homeless individuals through our case managers, who work with recently housed individuals to ensure they stay housed and don’t end up back on the street.

Preventing Homelessness on Cape Cod

Preventing homelessness is also the focus of our Project Prevention program for individuals and families. When there is a crisis such as a major car repair, health emergency, job layoff or other unforeseen event, we step in to help out financially by paying rent, a mortgage payment, a utility bill or other expenses to make sure that individual or family does not lose their home. It turns out that type of assistance also saves taxpayer dollars, because the cost to shelter people is much more expensive than the cost to keep people in their homes.

What is the best way to deal with homelessness—putting individuals and families in a shelter or finding a more permanent solution? Of course, one is short term and one is long term, but we try our best to focus on both. When all else fails, shelter is the solution and then we work to address the individual’s or family’s problems and get them into a good housing situation.

While we will always help homeless individuals and families on Cape Cod with emergency needs, we are also stepping up our efforts to create more affordable housing, because getting people into long-term housing is the ultimate goal. To accomplish that, it is sometimes necessary for families to move into the safe haven of a shelter while they participate in programming to help them get back into permanent housing and to find ways to secure an adequate income and become more self-sufficient. 

Help End Homelessness

Tags: Homeless on Cape Cod, homelessness, homelessness prevention, HAC, Rick Presbrey, NOAH Shelter

HAC Says Farewell to NOAH Shelter

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Nov 04, 2016 @ 10:21 AM
noah staff.jpgNOAH staff who attended the final gathering at the shelter on October 31 included Darrell Thomas (rear, from left), Lucy Collins, Marvin Domino, Jan Rogers, shelter director Greg Bar, Carolann Gillard (front, from left), Lucy Sears and Julie Munson.

With a small gathering that included live music, speeches and some tears, HAC said farewell to its NOAH Shelter on the final day of October. On November 1, management of the shelter shifted to Catholic Social Services, ending HAC’s 32-year operation of NOAH.

The shelter first opened in the winter of 1984 in the old Hyannis Armory before moving to its current location on Winter Street the next year. Since that time, the shelter provided homeless men and women with a warm meal, shower and bed for 365 days a year.

In the beginning of October, HAC’s board voted to hand over the operations of NOAH to Catholic Social Services which runs three other shelters in Southeastern Massachusetts.

HAC will continue to operate its three family shelters – Angel House in Hyannis; Carriage House in North Falmouth; and The Village at Cataumet in Bourne – as well as its scattered site units, all of which assist homeless families in the region. HAC also will continue its homeless outreach program which works with men and women living in the streets and in the woods of Cape Cod, connecting them to the services they need in order to transition to permanent housing.

NOAH-2.jpgLucy Collins was one of a handful of NOAH staff recognized for their longtime service to the shelter. Collins had worked at the shelter since July 1989. She will continue to work at the shelter, renamed St. Joseph's House, for Catholic Social Services. "I get to continue to do work that I love," she said. 

Four days prior to the transfer of operations, HAC CEO Rick Presbrey met with Catholic Social Services CEO Arlene McNamee to sign the lease of the NOAH Shelter building. During the meeting, Presbrey said that McNamee repeatedly told him that NOAH staff, “are the most committed people. They really care about their clients.”

Presbrey said NOAH has always been a place where those in need felt welcomed. “You work with them from the point of view about caring about them and realizing that they are in a tough spot,” he said. “That’s real important… You can’t really like this work unless you care about the outcomes and the people we’re helping.”

Tags: homelessness, NOAH Shelter, NOAH, Greg Bar, Catholic Social Services

Editorial: A Lot to Be Proud of with NOAH Shelter

Posted by Rick Presbrey on Fri, Oct 07, 2016 @ 03:47 PM

rick_at_big_fix.jpgThirty-two years ago, a representative from a committee within the Town of Barnstable came to my office to ask if HAC would agree to open a shelter in Hyannis for homeless individuals. I remember the moment well. I didn’t want to do it. I asked if other organizations could do it and I was told that the most likely one had refused.

I thought about our mission to help people obtain decent housing and how this was “off mission” and would be a distraction. But my sense that someone needed to do it won out. At that moment and ever since, I have felt a “moral imperative” (a phrase coined by one of our Board members) to provide a safe haven for the neediest of our brothers and sisters.

I feel great pride in what we have been able to accomplish. For 32 years, 365 nights per year, we have provided a safe place for people to sleep, take a shower, and receive two nutritious meals a day. In the worst of weather we have kept people alive.

Thousands of volunteers from all across the Cape have helped in dozens of ways. An evening meal has been prepared by volunteers almost every night, serving more than a half a million meals over more than three decades.

We have put three additions on the building where our offices had previously been in order to improve our ability to provide a variety of services. We have made it possible for men and women to be entirely separate, including separate entrances.

In recent times, we opened a day center, keeping the facility open 24 hours a day rather than only at night. We have placed approximately 3,000 of our guests in permanent housing as well as many in part- or full-time jobs.

Perhaps most important of all, we have engaged everyone who was willing in discussions on how to improve their lives by addressing their biggest problems. Thanks to a great staff and leadership and the tireless work of a half dozen committed people in the community, NOAH is the best it has ever been, which is very satisfying for me and I hope for all those who work and volunteer at NOAH.

Locally, we have absorbed lots of criticism, but we have kept the faith and kept on working, doing our best to provide a safe, stable and decent emergency shelter.

But change is always inevitable. About six months ago another agency came forward and expressed interest in taking over the operation of NOAH. The organization operates other shelters and has a fantastic track record in raising money. They are convincing in their belief that they can do the job well. The HAC Board has encouraged me to consider this option of turning over the day-to-day running of the shelter.

The arguments for making the change are that the operation of the NOAH Shelter, and raising the money we need to stay open, takes an inordinate amount of time of many who work at HAC, including myself, and that if we were to give up the day-to-day operation we could develop and raise money for a more comprehensive approach to getting many more homeless individuals in to housing, which is central to our mission. There is a decision to be made. For me it has been a difficult one, especially since it is likely I will retire within the next 18 months and I want to hand off as doable a job as I can to my successor.

By the time you read this our Board will have made this decision. My recommendation will be to move ahead with the transfer. I am at peace with my recommendation because, if this change goes forward, we can do more to house homeless individuals and we will be leaving this work in good hands. Thirty-two years is a long time. I think we have a lot to be proud of.

Read more about the NOAH Shelter decision by clicking this link.

Tags: Homeless on Cape Cod, homelessness, Rick Presbrey, NOAH Shelter, Catholic Social Services

HAC in Talks with Catholic Social Services for Operation of NOAH

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Oct 07, 2016 @ 03:16 PM

Noah_Shelter-8538.jpg

After operating the NOAH Shelter for the past 32 years, HAC will soon be handing that responsibility over to Catholic Social Services (CSS) of the Diocese of Fall River. HAC's board of directors voted on Wednesday evening to turn over operations of NOAH to CSS. 

The change is being made as part of a strategic shift to devote more resources to finding permanent housing for homeless people in need.

HAC CEO Rick Presbrey said this move would align with the agency’s recently adopted strategic plan which lists expanding housing production as a priority. “With Cape Cod’s problem of a lack of affordable housing growing worse by the year, HAC, with its 42-year focus on housing, is in a unique position to become even more involved in solving the problem,” Presbrey said. “Toward that end, we would like to better serve the entire Cape by helping to secure more housing for individuals, develop more housing options and add to our efforts to prevent individuals from becoming homeless in the first place. All of these initiatives, which are part of our new strategic plan, will require additional resources.”

In recent months, HAC has been in talks with Catholic Social Services, which runs three shelters in southeastern Massachusetts, to oversee the day-to-day operations of NOAH. “Forming a partnership with Catholic Social Services in the operation of the NOAH Shelter is one way to better service the ever-changing needs and demands of the Cape’s homeless population,” Presbrey said.

HAC opened NOAH in the winter of 1984 in the old Hyannis Armory which offered a warm meal and 30 beds for homeless men and women seeking emergency shelter. The next year, the shelter moved to its current location on Winter Street, where it has operated ever since. The facility averages 50 individuals a night and a total of 420 individuals per year.

Catholic Social Services CEO Arlene McNamee noted that the agency has much experience in running a shelter.

“Serving the homeless is a big part of what Catholic Social Services does,” she said. “Last year, after operating Market Ministries for 4 years in New Bedford, we opened the new Sister Rose House Shelter for men and Grace House for women in that city, and for several years now we’ve run the Samaritan Shelter for men and women in Taunton.”

HAC will continue to run its three other family shelters: Angel House in Hyannis, which serves women recovering from substance abuse and their children; Carriage House in North Falmouth, which serves first-time mothers; and The Village at Cataumet, which serves homeless families. HAC will also continue its Scattered Site shelter program, its new Homeless Outreach program and Project Prevention which prevents families and individuals from becoming homeless in the first place.

Our CEO Rick Presbrey shares his thoughts about the NOAH Shelter in his latest editorial, explaining why the move is being made and what the agency has accomplished in its 32 years of operating the shelter. 

Tags: Homeless on Cape Cod, homelessness, NOAH Shelter, Catholic Social Service

NOAH Starts Movie Discussion Group

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Sep 30, 2016 @ 05:37 PM

Film_Reel_1.jpg

Movies have the ability to make people think about themselves and the world they live in. And at the NOAH Shelter, director Greg Bar is using them as an avenue to stimulate dialogue among the homeless men and women staying there.

It started at the end of April with a Friday afternoon screening of “The Lady in the Van”, a British film that tells the real life story of playwright Alan Bennett (Alex Jennings) and a homeless woman, Mary Shepherd (Maggie Smith), who ends up living in a van parked in his London driveway for 15 years. In February, Cape Cinema held a special screening of the independent film as part of a benefit for HAC featuring a panel discussion that included Bar.

After participating in that event, Bar wanted to show the film to those at NOAH to get their thoughts. When Marvin Domino, a NOAH direct care staff member, asked what the most positive aspect of the film was, Doug, a 52-year-old guest at the shelter, responded, “that there is forgiveness and that there is understanding. And we don’t have to put blame on ourselves and we don’t have to be so hard on ourselves.”

For nearly 45 minutes, guests talked about the movie, what they liked about it and whether it would change people’s perceptions of the homeless.

Based on the feedback, Bar has continued the movie discussion group, screening films focused on overcoming adversity like “Conviction”, “Good Will Hunting” and Crash.” “The first one went so well, I decided let’s keep going,” Bar said. “I like the idea of discussion times for anything… It is good to talk.”

Tags: NOAH Shelter, Greg Bar, movies

HCEC Teaches Shelter Clients

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Wed, Sep 28, 2016 @ 01:56 PM
HCEC_Angel_House_Photo-1.jpgCheryl Kramer (front center) poses with her HCEC students from Angel House.

A funny thing happened at the end of May when HAC’s Housing Consumer Education Center (HCEC) manager Cheryl Kramer finished up a budgeting and credit education workshop at the Angel House shelter. “They wanted me to come back and teach our Be a Smart Tenant class,” she said.

It is just one sign that the mothers at Angel House are embracing steps to move forward in a positive direction with their lives. Wanting to assist in that effort, Kramer returned and taught the tenancy class which covers everything from renter’s insurance to working with landlords to how to handle an eviction.

In the middle of June, 12 mothers who took the Be a Smart Tenant workshop were handed certificates of completion from Kramer. Afterwards, they spoke about how it benefitted them as they prepare for their ultimate goal of moving out of shelter and into permanent housing. “I feel more confident about moving on from here,” said Victoria Chase.

While HAC has long offered these types of classes to the general public, it has only recently begun to bring them into its shelters. Clients at the NOAH Shelter and Angel House, which are both in Hyannis, are now benefitting from the workshops Kramer has been teaching for years.

Over the past five years, she has taught the Be a Smart Tenant class at both The Village at Cataumet in Bourne and Carriage House in North Falmouth. Last fall, she brought a workshop focusing on budgeting and rebuilding your credit to NOAH, following that up with two additional ones earlier this year.

The curriculum for that class teaches students the components of a budget, how to write a budget, how to review one’s budget, how to fix items in one’s credit report and how to improve and sustain a credit score.

“It has been amazing,” Kramer said of teaching these workshops to the region’s most needy. “The NOAH Shelter guests are so vulnerable, yet are so open to learning, as are the Angel House women. The women at Angel House are so vested and so interested in this. It is so evident they have a desire to learn to do things differently… they are not there because they have to be there. They are there because they want to be.”

Following the Angel House graduation in May, Kramer spoke about the importance of bringing these HCEC workshops to those in shelter, noting that it helps them succeed in securing housing and work. “To know you’ve helped them do something different for their future and for their family is just a fun process,” Kramer said of the rewards she has reaped from teaching in HAC’s homeless shelters.

Click here to learn more about the financial literacy classes offered through HAC's Housing Consumer Education Center. Thanks to a grant we received from the CCYP Giving Circle of The Cape Cod Foundation, we are offering three of those classes for free, for a limited time. 

Tags: HCEC, NOAH Shelter, Angel House, Cheryl Kramer, housing consumer education

NOAH Shelter Says Farewell to Joseph N'kunta

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Sep 23, 2016 @ 12:11 PM
Joseph_Nkunta_Photo_1.jpgJoseph N’kunta (front right) with fellow NOAH staff members Jan Rogers (from rear left), Greg Bar, Steve Crossen and Lonnie Daniels. Joseph’s wife, Lillian (front left), joined him at the lunch.

For a large part of the past 15 years, Mashpee’s Joseph N’kunta has been the face of the NOAH Shelter where he could often be seen greeting guests at the entrance of the facility. But that changed in May when the 75-year-old stepped down from his post as direct care staff.

Though he is no longer there, his presence remains. “I think 10 years from now people will still ask, ‘Is Joe still here?’” Jan Rogers, direct care staff at the shelter, said during a retirement party held at Golden Fountain in Hyannis last month. “You’ve left an impression on the clients, the community, the volunteers who’ve come in to help and the staff.”

Over the course of an hour, Joseph listened to his colleagues praise him for the work he did at NOAH and the way he treated clients with care and compassion. He said he did so because he understood that NOAH staff are there for one purpose – to serve the shelter guests as they take the necessary steps towards self-sufficiency. “Our intentions as a staff were for the people who walked through those doors,” he said. “Once the door opens, it is important that we keep it open even though we will move on.”

A Message of Hope
His message to those at the NOAH Shelter was always positive. “It was the hope of good things to come,” he said. “And to never lose your faith that things will get better.”

Shelter director Greg Bar called Joseph, “a stabilizing, kind of immovable force.”

“You know, it was amazing how you were able to not just connect with the clients, but you were able to connect with the staff in a way that they had nothing but high respect for you. They still do,” said NOAH Day Center Director Lonnie Daniels.

Though direct care staffer Steve Crossen had only worked with Joseph for six months, he still managed to make an impression on him. “You taught me a tremendous amount of things about the homeless population and about compassion,” Crossen said. “And compassion is what I want to be about.”

Joseph’s wife, Lillian, told his coworkers that her husband’s compassion for others was genuine. “It’s not a front. It’s real,” she said. “He’s got a good heart, always. I just love him to pieces and I’m proud to be his wife. I appreciate him as an overall person: the way he treats the clients, the way he treats individuals. It shows he’s got a good heart.”

Tags: homelessness, Lonnie Daniels, NOAH Shelter, Greg Bar, Joseph N'kunta

Tiny Church with a Big Heart

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Aug 19, 2016 @ 03:13 PM
Cotuit_John_and_Allyson_NOAH.jpgJohn Murray (left) of Cotuit and Allyson Murphy of Marstons Mills were just a few of the volunteers from Cotuit Federated Church who donated their time to painting the rooms at our NOAH Shelter. 

We’re a little tiny church in Cotuit,” said Peter Rohner, at the end of June. Despite its diminutive nature, Rohner’s parish, the Cotuit Federated Church, has made a major difference in the lives of Cape Cod’s homeless men and women, proof that you can do a lot with a little.

Over the past year, its members have installed coat hooks above each of the beds at the shelter, hung new blinds on the windows (read that story here) and, most recently, painted the rooms on the men’s and women’s side of the facility.

“This is giving them a little brighter space so they can feel more comfortable,” said Karen Cozza of Mashpee, one of eight volunteers from the church to donate their time painting the women’s side of NOAH in June.

Amy Fish of Mashpee, used the opportunity to bond with her daughter, Sarah Lott, 16, a soon-to-be junior at Falmouth Academy. “It’s fun to do stuff that you know makes a big difference in someone’s life,” said Sarah, as to why she spent a sunny summer day volunteering at the NOAH Shelter.

In another room, Allyson Murphy of Marstons Mills, was joined by John Murray of Cotuit, in giving the walls and ceilings a fresh coat of paint. “This is a good way to pay it forward,” Allyson said.

The efforts being made by members of the Cotuit church are appreciated by Greg Bar, director of the shelter. “They are not only giving their time, they are giving money and giving sweat equity,” he said. “And they keep coming back, asking, ‘How can we help now? How can we help now?’ They are pretty amazing people.”

Cotuit_at_NOAH_1.jpgMembers of the Cotuit Federated Church who donated their time and talents to painting the NOAH Shelter included Peter Rohner (from left), John Murray, Barbara Erickson, Amy Fish, Sarah Lott, Beth Crouch, Karen Cozza and Allyson Murphy. 

Tags: NOAH Shelter, volunteerism, Cotuit Federated Church

Care Packages Donated to Cape's Homeless

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Aug 19, 2016 @ 10:55 AM
First_Citizens_Photo.jpgDella Sattin (from left) of First Citizens Federal Credit Union was joined by her colleagues Linda Wilson and Kristen Boyd-Higgins in dropping off donations to HAC’s Deanna Bussiere. 

Earlier this year, First Citizens’ Federal Credit Union started planning a fundraiser to collect items for the homeless off-Cape. When several local branch managers heard of the drive, they decided they wanted to do their part on Cape Cod.

“We wanted to do something on Cape to help the homeless here,” said Hyannis branch manager Linda Wilson. “And the NOAH Shelter came to mind.”

So from April 1 to the end of May, customers and staff of all Cape branches were encouraged to participate in Project Care Package, donating toiletries such as soap, toothpaste and lip balm as well as umbrellas, rain ponchos and $5 gift cards to fast food restaurants.

Wilson delivered those donations – over five boxes worth of small blue bags – to HAC in the middle of June along with Mashpee branch manager Della Sattin and Orleans branch manager Kristen Boyd-Higgins. The bags will be given to those at HAC’s NOAH Shelter, which serves the region’s homeless men and women.

Help End Homelessness

Tags: homelessness, Fundraising, NOAH Shelter