Housing Assistance Corporation Blog

Ms. Galazzi Goes to Washington

Posted by Laura Reckford on Fri, Jun 16, 2017 @ 05:41 PM
RHN working with Rep. Keating-1.jpgHAC CEO Alisa Galazzi (third from left) sits with members of the Regional Housing Network of Massachusetts during their meeting with Congressman Bill Keating in his Washington, D.C. office. 

Last month, HAC’s CEO Alisa Galazzi and Director of Community Relations Laura Reckford journeyed to Washington, D.C. with members of the Regional Housing Network (RHN) of Massachusetts. The purpose of the trip was to explain the importance of the Section 8 voucher program to the Massachusetts congressional delegation.

The RHN contingent had face-to-face meetings with Congressman Bill Keating and Senator Ed Markey. In addition, they made presentations to the congressional appropriations committee staff.

The Section 8 program is supported by funds from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). President Donald Trump has proposed steep cuts—at least $7 billion—to affordable housing, community development and social service programs supported by funds that flow from HUD to communities across the country.

These cuts will have a detrimental impact to the 1,250 clients that HAC serves on Cape Cod and the Islands who receive Section 8 and other rental housing vouchers. And the cuts would have a ripple effect on the region’s economy.

The cuts would affect the economy in several ways. First, the Section 8 program alone brings $750,000 per month to the local economy in payments to Cape Cod landlords. Across the Commonwealth, almost $20 million per month goes into the local economy through the Section 8 program.

Second, without this rental assistance, working families would not be able to afford their apartments and could be forced into shelter. The nightly cost of sheltering a family—estimated at roughly $100 per night—is much steeper than the approximately $900 per month cost of rental assistance that keeps a family in their home. Last year, HAC housed 175 families, including 195 children, in our four family shelter programs. Being in shelter stresses a family in several ways, especially with children whose schooling can be disrupted.

Another economic cost is the ripple effect to the region. When workers lose their home, it becomes almost impossible for them to hold down a job. Severe cuts to the Section 8 program would undoubtedly have impacts on local employment numbers and other economic indicators.

Tags: Section 8, Regional Housing Network of Massachusetts, homeless shelters, MA Rental Voucher Program, HUD, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Alisa Galazzi, Laura Reckford, Bill Keating

FSS Client a Role Model for Her Family

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, May 26, 2017 @ 12:54 PM
Jan Nelson-Edited.jpgJan Nelson, HAC's Family Self-Sufficiency coordinator, helps those receiving Section 8 vouchers move off public assistance as part of a five-year program aimed at helping clients achieve self-sufficiency. 

The date may have said April 1, but for Lisa* and her two teenaged children, this day was no joke. They were moving into their own home, representing the culmination of four years of dedication to HAC’s Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program.

Just a week earlier, Lisa was at HAC to celebrate her graduation from the program which provides savings incentives for those receiving a Section 8 voucher. As part of the FSS program, clients who increase their salaries have their rent increased, with the difference between the new monthly rent and the old one placed into an escrow savings account. Upon completion of FSS, clients can tap into that account, using the money as they deem fit.

Lisa, who entered the program in 2013, was able to accumulate nearly $14,500 in savings that she used towards a down payment on a new three-bedroom home in Cotuit which she purchased through an affordable housing lottery. Because she was giving up her voucher, she received another $5,000.

Dickerson House-Edited 2.jpgHAC as able to help Lisa purchase this home earlier this year. At the beginning of April, she moved into the home with her two children. 

“Dreams do come true,” Lisa said to HAC staff at her graduation party. She was joined by her mother Susan*, a current FSS client, who expressed delight in all that her daughter has achieved. “I am so happy for her,” Susan said. “She deserves this and has worked so hard for it.”

Jan Nelson, HAC’s FSS coordinator, had similar words of praise for Lisa, who came to the program just after she had been laid off from her job. Lisa is proof, Nelson said, that “hard work does pay off.”

For the past 12 years, Lisa and her children had been living in a two-bedroom apartment in Centerville. Admittedly, she had doubts that owning a home would ever be possible. But thanks to Jan’s help and HAC’s support – Lisa also took the agency’s First-Time Homebuyer workshop – she discovered that it is.

As she and her children were about to embark on this new adventure, Lisa spoke about the little things – taking her boys trick-or-treating and cooking her first meal – that she was most looking forward to experiencing in her new home.

Lisa’s new home has provided a sense of pride, not only for her, but her entire family. “I am the first person in my family to become a homeowner,” she said. “So not only is it exciting for myself, but it’s exciting for my family… I didn’t do this just for myself, but for my children to show them you can accomplish anything you want and you can reach for your dreams.”

*The names of the clients in this story have been changed.

Tags: Section 8, Jan Nelson, Family Self Sufficiency, FSS

Editorial: How Federal Budget Cuts Could Impact Your Neighbors

Posted by Alisa Galazzi on Tue, Apr 18, 2017 @ 02:00 PM

Galazzi_Website (2017).jpg

President Trump’s proposed $7 billion budget cuts to affordable housing, community development and social services programs appear to take a direct hit on our nation’s most vulnerable citizens: the elderly, the disabled, and the homeless, including those on Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.

In this region, as in many other parts of the country, wages have not kept up with cost of living increases. In addition, the Cape’s high rents and home prices, driven up by second homeowners and resort factors, continue to be out of reach for working year-rounders. HAC’s programs funded through HUD dollars are the foundation for economic mobility and stability in our community.

All told about 1,250 of HAC’s clients on the Cape and Islands could be affected if all the President’s recommended cuts take place. These programs bring $11 million annually from the federal government through HAC and into the Cape’s economy through rents and other assistance.

At Housing Assistance Corporation, we know the local stories behind the funding. We know how the assistance that flows from the federal government to our friends and neighbors here helps the neediest among us. It is not an exaggeration to say that these programs save lives.

HAC’s largest program is our Section 8 Housing program, which currently houses more than 1,000 families across the Cape and Islands. Recent news from HUD indicates that thousands of vouchers may be eliminated for low-income working families, seniors and people with disabilities. Besides pumping $750,000 per month into the Cape Cod economy through rents, HAC’s Section 8 program allows working families to stay on Cape Cod.

One of those with a voucher is Amy, a disabled senior who grew up on Cape Cod, but was unable to afford to live here. Because of her voucher, she has been able to stay on Cape Cod, work and raise her family in the town where her parents, grandparents, and great grandparents once lived.

One of our signature programs that is funded through HUD is HAC’s Family Self-Sufficiency Program that enables families to move off of government assistance and to self-sufficiency. A recent graduate of HAC’s Self-Sufficiency program, a single mom named Lisa who has three kids in Barnstable Schools, used the program to help her gain the necessary skills to move up in her job and budget more efficiently. At the end of the program, she is putting a down payment on her first home. That is how this program changes lives.

HAC is joining with other Community Development Corporations throughout the state and the country to urge congressional leaders to continue to support these valuable programs and, especially, the people that these programs serve.

Tags: Section 8, Affordable Housing on Cape Cod, Family Self Sufficiency, affordable housing, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Federal Budget

FSS Graduate One Step Closer to Homeownership

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Dec 23, 2016 @ 01:08 PM
Amy Feren Jan Nelson-3.jpgJan Nelson (left), HAC's FSS Coordinator, with Amy Feren at her graduation in October. 

Being a single mother is not easy. Mashpee’s Amy Feren can attest to that as she raises three children of her own. “There is no easy way around it,” she said. “You get up, make them breakfast, bring them to school and pick them up at the end of the day. You stick to a routine and do it all over again, every day.

“The weather doesn’t matter. The price of gas doesn’t matter. Life still goes on,” she continued. “It is very challenging with one income to make ends meet. It’s more difficult trying to accomplish what a two-income household has.”

Thanks to HAC’s help, overcoming those challenges has become a little easier. It started when Feren received a Section 8 voucher, allowing her to afford an apartment on Cape Cod. “Without one, my kids wouldn’t have a home,” Feren said. “I needed it because the rental prices are so high [here].”

Five years ago, Feren enrolled in HAC’s Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program which provides incentives for those with vouchers to take steps to increase their income and focus on career development, all in an effort to achieve self-sufficiency.

Celebrating Feren's FSS Achievements

At a ceremony at HAC in October, staff gathered to celebrate Feren’s graduation from FSS. There was cake and congratulations, but the biggest gift was a check for $11,991.71, representing the money she had saved over the past five years. As part of the FSS program, any increase in earned income is placed into an escrow account participants can access upon graduation.

Feren, who earned a paralegal certificate while in the program and is currently employed as an office manager in Plymouth, plans on using that money to purchase a home. If she does so in the next two years and gives up her housing voucher, she will receive an additional $5,000 from the state that she can use towards the down payment, closing costs or post-purchase expenses.

When asked why it is so important to become a homeowner, Feren replied, “to be self-reliant, to be self-sufficient. That is exactly what this program stands for and I think it is everybody’s dream. Every working person who contributes to society, I think they want to own their own home.”

Soon that will not be a dream for Feren, but a reality. She credited Jan Nelson, who manages the FSS program for HAC, for making that possible. “My life has consisted of a lot of ups and downs and some worse than others, but with your kindness and guidance I now have the tools to continue forward in life,” she wrote to Jan in an email following the ceremony. “You have been my one constant through my many, many years working with HAC and the Section 8 program.” 

Give Hope to a HAC Client

Tags: Section 8, Jan Nelson, Family Self Sufficiency, FSS, homeownership, Amy Feren

Rising from the Ashes: HAC's Stabilization Program

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Wed, May 13, 2015 @ 11:11 AM
Charlene & Maryanne resized 600Charlene (left) with HAC’s AnnMarie Torrey.

By CORNELL STUDENTS

Motivation comes in many forms. For some, it is internal. For others, it is external.
With Charlene, her motivation was the latter, using her daughter and granddaughter as inspiration to find a home where they could safely live together.

Not long ago, that concept was merely a dream that Charlene thought was impossible. But with HAC’s help, Charlene discovered that some dreams are attainable. You just need a little encouragement and a lot of support. At HAC, Charlene received both.

She turned to HAC about five years ago when she was at one of the lowest points in her life. Her daughter had just been diagnosed with a mental illness, and Charlene was given guardianship of her granddaughter.

In the midst of this, she was dealt another devastating blow when the house she had lived in for 20 years was sold to a new owner who did not want to continue renting it. Due to her income and the high cost of apartments on Cape Cod, Charlene’s housing options were limited.

With nowhere else go to, she looked to HAC for guidance, working with caseworker AnnMarie Torrey to find housing not only for her, but her entire family.

Torrey steered Charlene to Massachusetts’ new HomeBASE program which assists people who are homeless, facing eviction or those living in subsidized hotel or motel rooms paid for by the state, helping them find secure housing. Thanks to the program and HAC’s help, Charlene was able to move into a new condo with her granddaughter, staying there for two years.

During that time, she continued to work with Torrey, filling out applications for Section 8 subsidized housing. That persistence paid off as she was able to be placed in a new apartment in Centerville, all while she continues to wait for her Section 8 voucher.

“Because Charlene was diligent in filling out her forms, her name came to the top of the MRVP (Section 8) list which qualified her for extended subsidy,” Torrey said. “She now pays only 40% of her income for housing.”

For Charlene, HAC has been a blessing, providing her family a safety net when they needed it most. It does not “just give you a place to live, it enables you to get our life in order so that things are as they should be,” she explained. “You can pick yourself up and have the strength to get to a good place like we are now.”

Today, Charlene and her family are thriving. Her daughter received treatment for her illness and has since moved in, making Charlene’s dreams come true. “All three of us are doing very well and thanks to the assistance of HAC and their programs, it literally saved three lives,” she said. “Three people’s lives would have been torn apart if not for their assistance and I’m truly grateful to have received that help.”

Learn more about the HAC project Cornell University students did

on their alternative spring break this year by clicking this link.

Tags: alternative spring break, HACbeat, Section 8, Cornell University, AnnMarie Torrey, HomeBASE, HAC

HAC's Ashley Granger Earns Masters Degree

Posted by Laura Reckford on Tue, Sep 10, 2013 @ 10:00 AM

ashley cropped for hacbeat2

HAC’s own Ashley Granger, a program representative in the Leased Housing Department, has three new letters after her name: MSW.

Ashley, 32, completed her Masters degree in Social Work on May 19 from Boston University’s School of Social Work. Ashley said she had wanted to get the degree for awhile. “I’ve always been interested in helping people,” she said. “That’s one of the things I like about HAC.”

The school’s off-campus program allows students who live on Cape Cod to take classes at Cape Cod Community College on Friday nights and Saturday mornings from September to the end of June.  Ashley completed the program, 68 credits plus 1,200 hours of internships, in two and a half years.

In addition to classwork, Ashley completed two internships.

The first was at South Bay Mental Health in Mashpee. The agency operates a day program for clients with mental health issues and works with clients on life skills for independent living. There she worked with licensed mental health counselors and licensed independent clinical social workers to co-facilitate psycho-educational groups for adults with chronic mental illness.

Ashley said the South Bay internship was “really interesting . . . and fast-paced.” She said she had a lot of interaction with clients who had a variety of different diagnoses.

Her second internship was at High Point Treatment Center and South Shore Women’s Resource Center in Plymouth. At High Point, she worked with adults with substance abuse issues, both court-mandated and voluntary patients. At Women’s Resource Center, she worked with children and adolescents who have experienced domestic violence in their home.

Ashley said, much to her own surprise, she really enjoyed working with the children on group and individual therapy.

She said her interest is in “micro” social work, “to help individuals move forward in their lives and be the people they want to be.”

Ashley, who grew up in Plymouth, received her undergraduate degree from University of Massachusetts at Amherst where she double-majored in political science and women’s studies. She moved to Cape Cod in 2005.

That same year, she took an administrative assistant job at HAC and within eight months, a position opened and she moved up to the program representative spot.

Now she has 360 clients, both families and individuals, whom she helps by administering their housing subsidies, either Section 8 vouchers, Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program, Home Base, or the Shelter Plus Care program. She said her favorite program to administer is Shelter Plus Care because she has more interaction with the clients who were homeless and with mental health issues. “They need extra attention,” she said of her 22 clients, adding she works closely with staff from Vinfen, which handles case management.

She said the program’s ability to help people is gratifying. “When you see someone who was formerly homeless doing better, it’s kind of a great thing,” she said.

She said her favorite part of her job is interaction with clients and working with other HAC departments. “It’s fun to put our heads together and figure out how we can best serve a particular client or program, like linking a client with an energy audit or giving someone coming out of a shelter a voucher,” she said.

Tags: housing, Section 8, HAC, housing assistance corporation

Scholarship Program Helps HAC Client Aim for Goals

Posted by Julie Wake on Sat, Feb 16, 2013 @ 07:00 AM


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Natasha Cash was born and raised in Dennis, but says most of her family members have moved off-Cape to places they don’t want to be because they can’t afford to live on Cape Cod.

“Getting an education will help me stay on Cape Cod,” says Cash, who has a 13-year-old daughter and a 5-year-old son.

Cash, who lives in Yarmouthport, is the latest HAC client to win a scholarship through One Family Scholar. a comprehensive college scholarship program that breaks the cycle of poverty and family homelessness for low-income single parents. Unlike traditional scholarship programs that focus solely on tuition assistance, the One Family Scholars model focuses on four building blocks for success: college success, financial success, career success and leadership success. The goal is to help people secure family-sustaining employment in their field.

Last September, Cash joined HAC’s Family Self-Sufficiency program, which helps low-income families build assets and make progress toward moving away from public assistance. Participants get long-term counseling to help them build their employment skills and increase their financial literacy.

“The people at One Family Scholars help you achieve your goals,” said Cash. “They have a lot of resources you wouldn’t know about otherwise.”

Jan Nelson, HAC’s FSS coordinator, recommended Cash for the One Family Scholarship.

“I was impressed with her from the moment we met – her empathy, reliability, determination and persistence,” said Nelson. “She has no fear of the work ahead of her and she is determined to show her children that higher education is the key to life.”

Cash’s goals are to finish school, learn to budget, repair her credit and own a home. She has worked as a dental assistant
for 17 years and plans to become a dental hygienist. “I love people, and I’m really good at it,” she said.

She started at Cape Cod Community College in September 2011 and is taking two courses this spring: “Anatomy and Physiology” and “Conversational Spanish.” Cash plans to graduate with an associate’s degree in May 2015 and then go on for a bachelor of science degree. “That makes you more marketable,” she said.

Cash, who is Native American, said, “I have a lot of support from my family, the tribe, Jan Nelson, and OFS. My daughter is proud that I’m back in school. She says I’m her role model.”

Cash was asked what she might say to others who are thinking about going back to school. “My advice would be to do it. Don’t waste your life. Go back to school. I could have done it four times over by now. If you look at the whole picture, you’ll never do it. If you look at it as baby steps, you can do it in chunks.”

Founded in 1999 by Paul and Phyllis Fireman and family, One Family is a non-profit organization dedicated to ending family homelessness in Massachusetts by working with elected officials, faith and community leaders, businesses and foundations, and higher learning institutions. With the skills and experience gained from their tenure in the program, One Family Scholars become role models for their children, providing them with the foundation for a stable life.


Tags: Section 8, Family Self Sufficiency, One Family Scholarship, housing assistance corporation, FSS

Scholarship Boosts FSS Participants

Posted by Julie Wake on Wed, Oct 10, 2012 @ 08:45 AM

Sherry
Trying to reach financial stability can seem like an endless struggle for a single parent.
“I took one step forward and kept getting knocked back a few steps,” said Sherrie Johnson of Brewster.

Two years ago Johnson joined HAC’s Family Self-Sufficiency program, which helps low-income families build assets and make progress toward moving away from public assistance. Participants get long-term counseling to help them build their employment skills and increase their financial literacy.

Jan Nelson, HAC’s FSS coordinator, told Johnson about the One Family Scholars, a comprehensive college scholarship program that breaks the cycle of poverty and family homelessness for low-income single parents. Unlike traditional scholarship programs that focus solely on tuition assistance, the One Family Scholars model focuses on four building blocks for success: college success, financial success, career success and leadership success. The goal is to help people secure family-sustaining employment in their field.

“It’s a fantastic program,” said Nelson. “The grant includes money for education and a monthly stipend for low-income single parents who want to improve their status in life. One Family Scholars believes that education is the way.”

A mother of two who is taking courses at Cape Cod Community College, Johnson hopes to start working on a bachelor’s degree in business next semester through UMass Dartmouth. Johnson, who has worked at CVS for 16 years, said, “Before I could only afford to take two courses. With this I can take four.

“I’d like to start a publishing house. I try to read at least one novel a week. Some aren’t that great and some are amazing. I’d like to have some say in what gets published.”

Jessica Edwards of West Yarmouth is another One Family scholarship winner. The mother of three is working on an associate’s degree at Cape Cod Community College and hopes to one day get a bachelor’s degree in communications. She is picking up skills in web design, graphic design and layout, and office management.


“I’m getting an incredible foundation. I want to have enough varied skills so I can make my schedule fit in with what my kids have going on,” she says.

Edwards appreciates that the scholarship comes with guidance in other areas. “I absolutely love the financial planning aspect of it,” she said. “They set you up with Compass Financial, which works through your budget with you. It’s like the financial planning that rich people can afford.”

Founded in 1999 by Paul and Phyllis Fireman and family, One Family is a non-profit organization dedicated to ending family homelessness in Massachusetts by working with elected officials, faith and community leaders, businesses and foundations, and higher learning institutions. With the skills and experience gained from their tenure in the program, One Family Scholars become role models for their children, providing them with the foundation for a stable life.

Tags: Section 8, Family Self Sufficientcy, housing assistance corporation