Housing Assistance Corporation Blog

Voucher Provides Necessary Stability for Vineyard Resident

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Aug 10, 2018 @ 02:46 PM

Leased Housing Client Photo-548543-edited

The car accident occurred nearly four decades ago when Michael Brady’s head hit the windshield of the vehicle he was in. Shortly thereafter, Brady, then only a teenager, started having seizures.

They became so bad, the Martha’s Vineyard resident said, “I couldn’t work any longer. They started happening in the daytime. I kept trying to work until 1990 when I was dangerous, not only to myself, but to others.”

Thanks to treatment – Brady had brain surgery in 1992 and a vagus nerve stimulator implanted into his chest in 2003, both at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center – he has not had a seizure in the past decade.

Thanks to a Section 8 voucher – Brady has had one for the past 15 years – he has had the housing stability to reduce his stress, offer him comfort, and ensure his safety.

Stable housing has provided even more than that for Brady. “I honestly might not be alive if it weren’t for this house,” he said.

Brady is one of nearly 1,200 HAC clients that the agency supports through housing vouchers which help offset rental costs and enable them to live on Cape Cod and the Islands. Some clients represent the region’s workforce. Some are elderly. And some, like Brady, are disabled.

Prior to receiving his voucher, Brady was homeless, living on friends’ couches. At his worst, Brady was living in the basement of a home with three other roommates. “I never had more seizures than there,” he said.

Around 2003, Brady’s situation improved when he landed a Section 8 voucher through HAC, enabling him to rent a home in Edgartown. The voucher provided him with the housing stability he needed to address his medical condition.

While he is still unable to work, Brady is leaving his mark in other ways. He makes jewelry – beads, necklaces, pendants and earrings - for friends and family using quahog shells. “It gives me a purpose,” he said of the craft.

“He makes the most beautiful jewelry I’ve ever seen,” said Logan Patrick, HAC’s supervisor of inspection services. “He said this to me: housing is what enabled him to have a life. Housing is what enabled him to go beyond that and be creative in that life… That is why I do this job because whether we realize it or not, the work we do for our clients builds a better community for all of us.”

Give Hope to a HAC Client

Tags: Section 8, Leased Housing, Martha's Vineyard, Michael Brady, Logan Patrick, housing stability, vouchers, housing vouchers

Get to Know HAC's Leased Housing Inspectors

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Aug 03, 2018 @ 04:28 PM
Leased Housing Photo-1HAC Supervisor of Inspection Services Logan Patrick (left) and Inspector John Paul conduct inspections for households that receive Section 8 vouchers. 

HAC’s Leased Housing Department is not only the agency’s oldest program, it is among its largest, impacting nearly 1,200 households on an annual basis, allowing them to remain on Cape Cod and the Islands thanks to the support of rental housing vouchers.

“I think we touch the most households as a department in a given year,” said HAC Director of Leased Housing Cindi Maule.

“And certainly our inspectors, they’re going into a lot more homes than any other department,” added Anne Williams, the assistant director for leased housing.

Inspections are done to ensure those receiving housing vouchers through the federally-funded Section 8 program are living in safe, decent homes or apartments using a set of regulations prescribed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). At HAC, they are conducted by two employees – Supervisor of Inspection Services Logan Patrick and Inspector John Paul.

Each unit receives an initial inspection, Maule said, which determines the amount of rent suitable for it. Follow-up inspections are conducted either annually or biannually to ensure the landlord is fulfilling their responsibilities and tenants are complying with theirs. It’s a balancing act that Patrick said requires inspectors to remain neutral and protect landlords as well as their tenants.

The Face of Leased Housing

Both Patrick and Paul, Maule said, “are the face of Leased Housing and Section 8… Inspectors are entering into people’s homes and private spaces so they are aware of that and being respectful of that.”

Patrick, who has over 21 years’ worth of experience conducting housing inspections, arrived at HAC a little over a year ago. He most recently served as the director of rental assistance at Housing Solutions in Kingston.

A firm believer in social justice, Patrick understands the importance of programs like Section 8 which accesses federal funds to cover a portion of one’s rent for those who meet income eligibility requirements. That funding helps to stabilize their housing to ensure they can remain here.

“We work with people who have the least in our society and need the most, through no fault of their own,” Patrick said. “We’re talking about the elderly and the disabled. We also service a lot of working class people who, because their wages are so low, can’t afford to rent and they need financial assistance… I want our clients to have housing and be in a safe place to either raise their kids or go to work, and not have to worry about having a roof over their head.”

Tags: Leased Housing, Cindi Maule, Anne Williams, Logan Patrick, John Paul, Section 8, MA Rental Voucher Program, housing inspections, Department of Housing and Urban Development

New Case Manager Helps Tenants at Hyannis Development

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Wed, Apr 18, 2018 @ 09:48 AM
Jacqueline Smith-1Jacqueline Smith, HAC's new case manager, works with clients at Village Green II in Hyannis.

Tenants in a recently completed affordable housing development on Independence Drive in Barnstable are benefitting from the support of a new case manager at HAC.

The program is part of a contract HAC has with HallKeen Management, the property manager for Village Green II, a 60-unit development that was built by Dakota Partners for the region’s workforce. 

Since the start of February, HAC has been providing case management two days a week to 15 clients who hold Section 8 or Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP) vouchers that help stabilize their rent.

Jacqueline Smith, who earned her master’s degree in social work from Simmons College last May, has been responsible for working with those 15 tenants, as well as any others at Village Green II seeking support, to connect them to the necessary resources that allow them to maintain their housing, improve their community connections, and work towards self-sufficiency.

The majority of her work so far, she said, has been focused on assisting clients with budgeting.

During February vacation, Smith organized a drumming circle led by Sam Holmstock, a family friend and co-founder of the band Entrain. “I knew Sam and he goes around to nursing homes and does drumming circles and works with at-risk youth,” Smith said. “I said why not try it here and let’s see what comes of it.”

Sam will be returning to Village Green to lead a similar exercise for families during April vacation. Smith has related ideas – yoga, meditation, and fitness – to add a holistic layer to the current offerings she is providing to clients at Village Green II.

Her underlying goal, she said, is to point these clients to the services “they need to help them grow.”

“She has kind of jumped in with both feet,” said HAC’s Director of Family and Individuals Services Cassi Danzl. “She is really committed and looking at what resources are available to make sure tenants in this development have access to them.”

Tags: Jacqueline Smith, Hyannis, Village Green II, case management, Section 8, Leased Housing, MRVP, Cassi Danzl, Family and Individual Services Department

From Homelessness to Hope to Housing

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Tue, Apr 17, 2018 @ 09:45 AM
Moriya SmithMoriya Smith with Labouré College President Maureen Smith at her graduation last May. Moriya is now studying for her bachelor's degree. 

Almost 20 years ago, when Moriya Smith was only a teenager, she became homeless, fending not only for herself, but her firstborn son Reggie. “I had to go into a shelter,” she said. “I didn’t have a place to stay. It was horrible, probably the worst experience of my life.”

Today, the pain of that experience has been washed away by the success she has achieved as a single mother – she has two other children Marissa and Maranda – who works full-time as a registered nurse. She is currently studying to earn her bachelor’s degree, and is saving money through HAC’s Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program to one day become a homeowner on Cape Cod.

Originally from Boston, Smith moved to Brewster nearly two years ago, initially working with HAC to secure a rental. “You helped me with my first and last month’s rent which was a big burden lifted from me,” Smith said. “And then my oldest daughter needed a bed so [HAC] gave me a mattress and box spring… They [HAC] were like my little angels. They really helped me. I was still in school and had not yet finished so I wasn’t working and money was tight, very tight.”

As Smith describes it, money was so tight that while she was working towards her associate’s degree and commuting to Labouré College from Cape Cod to Milton, she sometimes didn’t know if she could pay for the gas to make the trip.

Despite these obstacles, Smith has been able to flourish thanks to those around her who have offered their support.

One of those is HAC’s FSS Coordinator Jan Nelson, who has worked with Smith since she entered the program in September 2016. “I have never met anyone like her who is not only supportive, but caring and who I feel is 100 percent in my corner for everything,” Smith said.

Nelson has provided that support and care through FSS which provides incentives for Section 8 voucher holders to increase their earnings. As one’s income increases, their rent increases, and the difference between the original rent and the increased rent is placed into an escrow account which FSS clients can access once they graduate.

Before Smith graduated from Labouré last May, Nelson recommended her for the One Family Scholarship, given to low-income single parents to further their education. Smith was selected for the scholarship which she is using as she pursues her bachelor’s from Labouré in the hopes of becoming a family nurse practitioner.

In the fall, Smith landed a job as a nurse in a long-term care facility on the Cape, a position that has added financial stability to her life.

When she eventually graduates from FSS, Smith plans on using the money to become a homeowner, something she never could have envisioned two decades ago when she was homeless. “I feel like those things, those unfortunate events in my life have made me strong and made me who I am today,” she said.

Give Hope to a HAC Client

Tags: Family Self Sufficiency, FSS, Jan Nelson, Section 8, Moriya Smith, Brewster, homelessness, hope, affordable housing, Affordable Housing on Cape Cod, One Family Scholarship

Editorial: Helping People Helps the Economy

Posted by Alisa Galazzi on Mon, Mar 26, 2018 @ 09:51 AM

HAC's Economic Impact Photo.jpg

When we think about all we do at Housing Assistance Corporation to help people, from homeless outreach to sheltering families, homeless prevention and first-time homebuyer counseling, among our many programs, we can sometimes forget about the beneficial economic impact to the Cape Cod regional community of not just Housing Assistance Corporation, but also other local nonprofits.

Housing Assistance Corporation is one of the largest human service agencies on Cape Cod, and our positive impact on the local economy on Cape Cod is significant.

In our most recent count, the 105 full- and part-time jobs at HAC resulted in $6.7 million in salaries to Cape Codders. In addition, HAC’s contracted services resulted in 74 jobs and $11.8 million in spending. Using a standard multiplier formula to determine the economic impact of our agency on Barnstable County —adding the employee spending and the vendor and contractor spending—results in a grand total of $28.4 million dollars in impact plus 274 jobs created through HAC’s presence on Cape Cod.

We are helping people to live in safe, secure housing, and we are also helping landlords. As the largest supplier of rental vouchers in the region, with more than 1,200 vouchers, our leased housing program generates $750,000 per month in government funds to local landlords in rents. Of that total, $219,000 per month is paid for 328 rental units in the town of Barnstable—a total of $2.6 million annually in federal funds that are passed through HAC to the town of Barnstable.

Our impact to the town of Barnstable and the village of Hyannis, where our headquarters is located, has a positive impact on the community. Of the approximately 5,300 clients that we help every year, about one-sixth are town of Barnstable residents, for a total of 888 individuals and families assisted in the Town of Barnstable last year.
Taking a close look at that figure through some of our larger programs, the impact to the townspeople of Barnstable is quantifiable. For instance, our homeownership assistance program, which includes foreclosure prevention counseling, assisted 260 Barnstable residents.

Our homeless prevention program assisted 117 individuals and families in the town of Barnstable to prevent them from falling into homelessness.

Our energy, weatherization and home repair program assisted 183 low-income homeowners in the town of Barnstable to stay comfortable in their homes and save money on heating and cooling.

We are currently in pre-development on a housing project that I wrote about in this column last month. The project will bring $1.6 million in investment to an economically challenged corner of Hyannis.

As CEO of Housing Assistance Corporation, I am so proud of the impactful work we do to help people throughout Cape Cod. This is our social imperative. One benefit of having a nonprofit mission is that we reinvest money into the community. I am equally proud of the important role that we play in driving the local economy in the town of Barnstable and in the region.

Tags: Economic Impact, Alisa Galazzi, job creation, Section 8, affordable homeownership, foreclosure prevention, homeless prevention, Housing Development, Affordable Housing Development on Cape Cod

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

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

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

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

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