Housing Assistance Corporation Blog

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

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, Katie Geissler, homeless shelters, Scattered Sites, Cindi Maule