Massachusetts will phase out a program that places homeless families in hotels and motels at taxpayer expense when there is no room in emergency shelters. Statewide there were 1,700 families in hotels last month – a practice that is not followed on Cape Cod.
HAC does not house families in local motels because the regional network of shelter providers have, so far, had the capacity to meet the demand, according to Allison Alewine, vice president of program operations for HAC. Part of the reason why HAC has been able to keep homeless families out of hotels is Project Prevention.
Developed in 1993, Project Prevention stops homelessness in its tracks by preventing it from happening in the first place. It is also a program that saves money – family homelessness costs the taxpayer more than five times the cost of prevention ($10,000 as opposed to about $1,500).
Last year, 1,300 new families and 2,500 new individuals contacted us for help because their housing was at risk. HAC responds to the complexities of each case through referrals inside and outside of HAC, informal mediation with a landlord, referrals to community resources for money, in addition to small, tightly controlled HAC-generated grants. As it stands, we can only help about 1/3 of the families and 1/10 of the individuals who contact us, entirely due to a lack of financial resources. This is a tsunami of need which crashes over onto the greater community. To contribute to Project Prevention is an opportunity to assist virtually every other human-services institution on Cape Cod and the Islands.
“Motels provide a roof over the head but little else,” said an editorial in the Enterprise newspapers. “There are no cooking facilities, there is no place for children to play and in some cases visitors are not allowed. They are far from an ideal solution. … The better solution is to keep families in their homes to begin with. It can be done with less money than the state pays for motel rooms and, better yet, it makes for healthier families. Homeless prevention is where the state should put its money.”
Much of the funding for Project Prevention comes from the Barnstable Interfaith Council and the Dennis-Yarmouth Ecumenical Council for the Homeless.
DYECH and BIC support Project Prevention through the sale of grocery and other gift cards. When you purchase gift cards through this program, merchants give a percentage of the sale (usually 4 to 8 percent, but in some cases as much as 18 percent) to homelessness prevention. For example, if you buy a $100 gift card for Stop & Shop, your gift card is worth the full $100 – but Stop & Shop donates 5 percent ($5) to Project Prevention.
You can buy grocery gift cards at HAC’s main office at 460 West Main Street, Hyannis. For more information on other locations where they can be purchased, click the “donate” link on HAC’s website, www.HAConCapeCod.org.
To purchase other gift cards, go to www.shopwithscrip.com. The enrollment code to help DYECH and HAC is 561B698219989.