Housing Assistance Corporation Blog

Barnstable Teen Has Passion for Helping Others

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Wed, Apr 11, 2018 @ 02:22 PM

Allison Carter Headshot

Perhaps it’s in her nature or perhaps it’s been ingrained in her by her mother Kathy Carter, a family advocate at Cape Cod Child Development, but either way Barnstable High School senior Allison Carter has long had a propensity to give back to this place she calls home.

“I just see the need,” she said. “We all need to do more and so many of us are capable of it.”

For Allison these aren’t hollow words; she backs them up with action. Over the past two holiday seasons, the star lacrosse player has worked with her fellow athletes at Barnstable High School, organizing drives to collect socks, diapers and canned goods for clients in HAC’s shelters.

As a student ambassador to the Massachusetts Interscholastic Association (MIAA), Allison has served as a leader at her school for initiatives such as this. She has helped collect food donations during the holidays for families being served by her mother’s nonprofit.

This past fall, she was successful in getting her school to purchase a stainless steel composter, paid for by the Cape Cod Challenger Club, that turns food waste into compost. As part of the purchase, Allison helped design a program that involved special needs students working alongside their peers at the high school in collecting, running and maintaining the machine.

Allison’s altruism doesn’t end there. A shift leader at Ben and Jerry’s ice cream shop in Hyannis, Allison started delivering iced coffee to HAC’s Angel House shelter as well as its Scattered Site shelter in Hyannis last fall. It was a way to both reduce waste while supporting those most in need in the community.

This spring, Allison is organizing one last drive for HAC’s shelter clients prior to graduation.

While Allison, who wants to either major in speech pathology or environmental science in college – Tufts University is at the top of her list – is proud of the work she has done, she acknowledged “it feels like I still should be doing more… There’s so much need in the community. I see it at my job working on Main Street. I’m just glad I can help out because it is easy to do it.”

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Tags: Barnstable High School, Allison Carter, Angel House, Scattered Sites, Family Shelter, charitable giving, giving

St. Peter's Pantry: Osterville Church Supports HAC's Shelter Clients

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Mar 10, 2017 @ 07:45 AM
St Peters Edited-1-1.jpgMary Beebe (from left), Bob Bartholomay, Katherine Levinson and Gretchen Perry are a few of the parishioners from St. Peter's Episcopal Church who donate food to families in HAC's Scattered Site shelter program. 

On the last Friday of February, several boxes of non-perishables were delivered to HAC’s Scattered Site shelter in Hyannis. There were cans of beans, carrots and peas, an assortment of cereals, pastas and sauces as well as some bed sheets, pillowcases and wash cloths, all courtesy of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Osterville.

It may not seem like much, but to the 17 families who are the recipients of this generosity, it will make a world of difference. “It is a big help. A huge help,” said HAC case manager Geoffrey Gagnon.

“It means a lot because they always run out of food stamps each month,” added case manager Antoinette Bills.

About once a month, the church delivers the donations, filling the cupboards of a small kitchen adjacent to the offices where Gagnon, Bills and Katie Geissler, the director of HAC’s Scattered Site program, work. Their office is on the first floor of one of the shelter buildings in Hyannis, that houses 11 families.

Parishioners have been collecting and delivering the donations, which consist primarily of food, since the end of 2015. Because of their dedication, the kitchen has been given its own nickname: St. Peter’s Pantry.

A Desire to Do More

Several years prior to the monthly offerings, the church had put together Thanksgiving baskets for families staying at the shelter. Mary Beebe of Cotuit said she and her fellow parishioners realized they wanted to do more.

“I like this because it gives everybody a chance in the church to participate, no matter what their age is,” Beebe said. “And people seem to embrace it with enthusiasm so that is very nice too.”

Among those who have embraced the effort is Bob Bartholomay of Centerville, who has dropped off recent donations to the shelter. “I like the idea that we’re helping people,” Bob said. “I think it’s tough to live on the Cape. Property values are high and you know there is a lot of affluence, but sometimes we don’t see there are people in need.”

Both Gagnon and Bills said the donations help fill the gap for those in need who are struggling to get by, serving to augment their food stamps and the additional food they receive from area food pantries.

As an example, Gagnon said, one client receives only $60 a month in food stamps for him and his 3-year-old son. “He loves beans with his hot dogs so we’ll stash beans aside for him to supplement his dinner,” he said. “This tides them over and gets them through some tough times.”

While church parishioners have not met the recipients of their kindness, they are taking satisfaction in knowing they are helping others. “Even though it is pretty small, I think people are really kind of proud of the pantry,” said Beebe.

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Tags: Scattered Sites, Family Shelter, St. Peter's Pantry, St. Peter's Episcopal Church, donations, Philanthropy, charitable giving

HAC's Scattered Sites Help Region's Homeless

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Tue, Nov 29, 2016 @ 12:03 PM
Katie Geissler Photo-1.jpgKatie Geissler has been at HAC for nearly 10 years. Earlier this year she was named director of the agency's Scattered Site program which are used to house homeless families on Cape Cod. 

When it comes to HAC’s homeless programs, the agency’s shelters – Angel House, Carriage House and The Village at Cataumet – tend to receive the most publicity. For that reason, many may not know that HAC also runs a scattered site program that essentially operates the same as its shelters. The primary difference is instead of a congregate setting, homeless families are placed in individual units in Barnstable and Yarmouth that HAC rents with funding provided by the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development.

In recent years, HAC has placed an emphasis on this program that started with an expansion from 10 to 17 units, following a request from the state. This spring, HAC continued that growth, tapping longtime staffer Katie Geissler to serve as the director of HAC’s scattered sites. Geissler had previously served at HAC’s Carriage House shelter for five years, the last two as its director.

In her new role, Geissler oversees two case managers, Antoinette Bills and Geoffrey Gagnon, who are also recent additions to the program. “With the case managers, their ultimate goal is housing,” Geissler said. “They work with families to help them become self-sufficient and look for housing to get them out of shelter.”

The state refers families into the units at which point Geissler and her staff will begin to work with them, providing each with the services they need to eventually transition into permanent housing. Cindi Maule, HAC’s director of leased housing and family services, said the average stay for clients in scattered sites is typically between six and eight months.

Maule said that part of Geissler’s responsibilities are to provide more structure to this program. It’s a challenge that Geissler is relishing as she helps those most in need. “I believe there is hope in everybody,” she said, noting that those in HAC’s scattered sites have gone “through trauma and I’m a big believer you can overcome those things. You’ve got to believe in yourself and have the power to do it.”

Geissler and her staff are assisting in that effort as they ensure each client in the program has access to the services they need to eventually move out of shelter. Many attend workshops which focus on basic life skills, budgeting, stabilization, parenting and nutrition. They also are provided counseling and medical care, all as they are connected to employment and housing opportunities.

“I hope I can instill and empower them to believe in themselves that they can have a better life for them and their children,” Geissler said, of her program’s ultimate goal.

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Tags: homelessness, Scattered Sites, Katie Geissler, Cindi Maule, homeless shelters