HAC in the News Archives

'Homelessness czar' coming home to Cape

Posted on Mon, May 11, 2009

fter seven years as the country's "homelessness czar," Philip Mangano is heading home to Cape Cod. Mangano, who owns a home in North Eastham, spoke Friday with the Cape Cod Times in a telephone interview from his office in Washington, D.C., about his time as the executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness and what the future holds. Friday is Mangano's last day.

What's next?

The plan is to move back up there. I'm very much looking forward to coming up and being with my mom and catching up on some sleep ... There is one thread through what I've done for the last 30 years: the abolitionism of homelessness. I'll have more time to devote to the Cape and to my larger abolitionist work nationally and internationally as I've done for the past 10 years.

How is the new administration doing so far on homelessness issues?

There is an intent to continue to reduce the homeless population in general and an ongoing commitment to the new homeless family population. I do feel like I can leave and what we did during the seven years, not only will it be sustained, but we will see an even deeper level of commitment from the Obama administration. The president ensured that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act ... was an expansive recovery act that included $1.7 billion targeted toward homelessness.

How would you rate Cape Cod on its efforts to address homelessness?

I think the good news on Cape Cod — and certainly this is what I've seen on my visits — is that you have provider agencies for the most part that are not stuck in the past, that are not wed to a status quo that has not worked for our homeless neighbors. Duffy and (Housing Assistance Corp.) — they are looking to the future. When you ask a homeless person what they want, they never ask for a pill, a program or a protocol. They ask for one thing, a place — a place to live.

How do you rate your efforts?

I have far exceeded what was anticipated and really accomplished the mission. (Homelessness advocates) had very low expectations of what would happen in (the Bush) administration, not in the current administration. There was great concern that things could be rolled back. To the credit of the president and the administration, they were very amenable to that re-framing of the issue and, very important, they were very supportive of a bi-partisan support for the issue.

Philip Mangano

  • Outgoing executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness 61 years old
  • Appointed as national "homelessness czar" in 2002
  • Helped increase federal spending on homelessness to record amounts for nine consecutive years, doubling from 2000 to 2009 to more than $5 billion
  • Oversaw first documented decrease in the nation's homeless population equal to a 30 percent decrease in street and chronic homelessness and a 12 percent overall decrease between 2005 and 2007
  • Helped develop Ten Year Plans to End Homelessness across the country, including on Cape Cod and the Islands
  • Supported a "housing first" approach, the rapid rehousing of homeless people with support services as the central strategy of strategic planning

Cape homeless provider runs out of money

Posted on Wed, Apr 29, 2009

By Susan Milton April 29, 2009 ORLEANS — For the first time since the 1990s, the Cape's largest source of housing for homeless people and those at risk of homelessness has run out of money to help.

"We have turned away — and this is shameful — we have had to turn away 100 people in the last two months," Allison Rice, vice president of the Housing Assistance Corp. of Cape Cod, said yesterday.

The nonprofit and other homelessness-prevention groups are seeing an increased demand for such help as rent subsidies, emergency shelter, food and fuel.

In 2008, HAC distributed $952,000 to prevent homelessness on the Cape and Islands. Through April this year, HAC has already spent $998,000 because of the poor economy, Rice said at a summit about homelessness at the Church of the Holy Spirit in Orleans. She was talking to about 33 advocates for the homeless who help run programs across the Cape.

Yesterday's event was intended as a legislative breakfast, but all House members were involved at the Statehouse in debate on the state budget, which offers no prospect for housing relief in the year beginning July 1.

The current House budget proposal would cut the $35.8 million budget for rental vouchers by 45 percent, according to executive director Libby Hayes of Homes for Families, a statewide advocacy group for the homeless.

The voucher program is a cheaper way than shelters to fight homelessness, said Hayes and Rice, who are worried about the impact on renters, as well as landlords who count on the rent.

"For a family to be in a shelter on the Cape costs $4,920 a month," Rice said. "We can house a family for a year-plus for just over $2,000, and most don't come back. I'm not good at math, but I can understand this."

Health and human services budgets "are on the chopping block," said state Sen. Robert O'Leary, D-Barnstable, who attended the meeting. "There will be a battle, a debate, and we'll try to temper (the cuts) largely through a tax increase" of some kind, he said. The House has voted to increase the sales tax from 5 percent to 6.25 percent.

At least 81 state representatives have objected to a cut in rental vouchers, HAC executive director Rick Presbrey said. Advocates yesterday asked people to call state legislators to lobby for the funding.

Not all the news was bad yesterday. The Cape homeless prevention network is waiting impatiently for $765,000 from the current state budget with $322,000 specifically targeted to prevent families and individuals from becoming homeless, Rice said.

The money originally was due Jan. 1.

The state budget problems are worrisome to Diane Ellison of Dennisport, who was homeless last August with her four daughters. They moved into a shelter; she got a job and found a house she could afford with a $300 monthly rental subsidy.

"My kids said the other day that this is the first time in six months that we haven't had anything shut off," Ellison told those attending yesterday's summit. She now is happy to be working 40 hours a week in the laundry room of a Cape nursing home.

Unfortunately, the state program that helped Ellison now only provides rental subsidies for two months, not a full year, Rice said.

Dennis motel tenants spared from eviction

Posted on Thu, Apr 09, 2009

SOUTHDENNIS — The relief was audible at the Dennis Senior Center yesterdaywhen residents of a Dennisport motel learned their landlord could notkick them out Monday.

The Dennis Board ofHealth voted in March to suspend owner Lalit Gandhi's license for theJonathan Edwards Motel on Route 28, effective Monday, citing a litanyof state sanitary code violations. Although tenants say Gandhi hasasked them to leave, town officials said the 30 or so residents haverights and more time.

"I have at least some time to figure out where I'm going to go," said Carol Craghead, 49, a Jonathan Edwards Motel resident.

Townofficials also have formed a team to enforce regulations prohibitingthe use of motels as long-term housing. But yesterday they promisedresidents that their intention was not to force them from their homesbut to make the motel owners comply with health and buildingregulations.

More than two dozen people cameto the senior center on Route 134 yesterday to learn what other optionsare available to them. Most, but not all, live in the dilapidated62-year-old motel.

But the residents have adaunting challenge in finding another place to live if they areeventually evicted legally. So-called affordable housing is not alwaysaffordable or available for people of the lowest incomes, housingexperts said this week.

There is little moneyright now to help people in search of transitional or permanentaffordable housing, Allison Rice, vice president of program operationsfor the Hyannis-based Housing Assistance Corp., said Tuesday. Althoughthe definition of affordable housing varies, the rule of thumb is thatit must be affordable to a household earning 80 percent or less of anarea's median income, Rice said.

For ahousehold of four in Barnstable County that 80 percent figure equals$62,100, Cape Cod Commission affordable housing specialist PaulRuchinskas said yesterday. Some residents of the Jonathan Edwards earnless than a third of that, according to what they told the Times.

Amore refined definition of "affordable" is housing that costs ahousehold no more than 30 percent of its income, Ruchinskas said. Eventhat doesn't allow many low-income residents to buy or rent a home onCape Cod, he said.

Motels are popular withpeople who want to pay one bill for rent, cable television, phone andutilities, Rice said. And motels don't usually require the first- andlast-month's rent and a security deposit up front, she said. The priceof the rooms at the Jonathan Edwards — between $100 and $200 a week —does not come close to what it would cost to rent a suitable home for afamily, Rice said.

"On the surface $200 aweek translates into about an $800 a month housing unit," Rice said."You're not going to find many of those on the Cape."

Additionallythe waiting list for subsidized housing certificates at the HousingAssistance Corp. alone is more than 2,000 applicants long, Rice said.

Despitethe odds, an army of housing advocates and other social serviceagencies stood ready yesterday at the senior center to help withapplications and information.

MaureenRivieccio, her boyfriend and their 3-year-old daughter cannot affordmore than they are paying for their two rooms at the Jonathan Edwards,she said yesterday. The couple brings in $1,962 a month and pays $900for their rooms at the motel, well above 30 percent of their incomes.

TheDennis Housing Authority told Rivieccio that she would have a bettershot of getting into an emergency affordable housing unit in Harwich orChatham, she said. Knowing that her family would not be kicked out soonwas a relief, but the uncertain future was still stressful, she said.

"She's my main concern," she said pointing at her daughter.

Dennis police Lt. Peter Benson reassured the tenants yesterday that the department does not assist in illegal evictions.

"Oftentimesin landlord-tenant issues the landlord tries to use the policedepartment as the stick that they are going to hit somebody over thehead with," Benson said. .

There is also alaw against landlords locking residents out unlawfully or shutting offutilities, Benson said. Residents should call the police if thathappens, he said.

While the motel was out ofsync with building and zoning regulations, the town hoped yesterday'sgathering would help find housing for all residents of the motel, saidDennis Selectman Wayne Bergeron.

"The town's issues are with the property owners themselves," he said.

Lombard Farms Opens Its Doors

Posted on Fri, Mar 27, 2009

West Barnstable development awaits residents

It took more than a few decades, but the Lombard Farm in West Barnstable has finally come back to the village it calls home.

Soon, others will call it home. On March 26 a ribbon- cutting ceremony was held, heralding the completion of the new affordable housing development.

The new residence will house up to 18 of the Cape’s 55+ population with low- to moderate-income in 12 apartments.

“This has been a property the Town of Barnstable has wanted to develop for a long, long time,” said Rick Presbrey, CEO of Housing Assistance Corporation. “I think everybody’s happy.”

The property has been a part of Barnstable history since 1754 when Parker Lombard left it to the town with the understanding that it would be used to benefit the poor. The property was actually known as the “poor farm” until the 1970s.

“So much of what we do is not about building buildings,” said Presbrey. “It’s about helping people get back on their feet.”

Prior to the ribbon-cutting local officials, future residents, town dignitaries, and many who were involved in bringing the project to fruition enjoyed tours of the ground level of the building, which will feature day rooms and an on-site laundry.

Jack Delaney, a member of HAC’s board of trustees, called the building “a great reward for the Town of Barnstable. I guarantee you this building will win a national award for affordable housing.”

Assistant Town Manager Tom Lynch joked about the protective booties folks wore to keep the floors clean, and praised the efforts it took to make Lombard Farm a reality.

“I want to thank everyone for the opportunity to put these booties on,” he said. “The building is wonderful, but it’s the people that are going to move in here [that really matter.] They are going to be a part of this village. It was a wonderful project to be part of.”

The application deadline for Lombard Farm is April 3 at 3 p.m. For more information, call 508-771-4141.

Affordable rental housing closer to reality

Posted on Fri, Mar 20, 2009

Two workshops were held this week for people interested in moving into one of two new Housing Assistance Corporation rental developments in West Barnstable.

At separate sessions, attendees learned about Lombard Farm’s 12 one-bedroom apartments for those age 55 or older and Kimber Woods’ 18 two-bedroom and 10 three-bedroom units. Some of the units at both locations will be dedicated for holders of Section 8 housing vouchers.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held at Lombard Farm on Route 149 March 26 at 2 p.m., with occupancy expected next month. Kimber Woods, behind and above the YMCA off Route 132, is expected to open in June.

There’s a tight deadline for completing applications for both developments: April 3 at 3 p.m. for Lombard Farm and May 8 at 5 p.m. for Kimber Woods Call 508-771-4141 for an application for Lombard Farm and 508-778-7535, ext. 1, for Kimber Woods.

Hopeful About Helping The homeless

Posted on Wed, Jan 21, 2009

Billy Bishop got a chill Sunday, but it wasn’t from the biting winds.

As the president of Homeless Not Helpless, a housing program in Hyannis, helped Alan Burt put up a tent outside the Salvation Army on Dec. 21, he saw two men walk by in the cold.

“Two guys I used to live with in the woods were passing by, going to the woods,” he said at a press conference on National Homeless Persons Memorial Day. “Today is a day of survival if you’re out in the woods. I thank God every day I have a roof over my head.”

In solidarity with people who don’t have roofs, Burt, executive director of Homeless Not Helpless, spent a night in that tent at the corner of North and Winter streets (see commentary, page A:5). He was joined by his daughter Shawnna, Doug White of Cape Cod Covenant Church, and Deacon Dick Murphy of St. Francis Xavier Church of Hyannis.

Burt and White joined Bishop in speaking at the press conference in the Salvation Army chapel Sunday. It was a gathering of warriors who have been fighting to get their fellow men and women off the streets for years.

Salvation Army Major Ralph Hansen welcomed the small group, and called attention to a “whole new group” of homeless – younger people – who are seeking the Army’s services.

Town Councilor Jan Barton, who’s led efforts to involve not only Barnstable but other Cape towns in taking action to help the homeless. She reported that Barnstable has budgeted another $10,000 for the effort.

Recalling the eight homeless people who died on Cape Cod this year, Rick Brigham of Housing Assistance Corporation said, “We must never stop caring for those in need, and never stop telling their stories. And we must never stop loving those who do not understand.”

“It’s a day to remember those we’ve lost,” said Cape Cod Council of Churches outreach worker Tom Naples. “It’s also a day to say, ‘OK, let’s pick it up. Come up with some new ideas.’”

The town’s Operation in from the Streets was once one of those new ideas. Through that program, Naples said, “some people are indoors right now who would be under an awning or under the bandstand.”

Suzanne Sullivan, advisory board president for the state Department of Mental Health on the Cape and Islands, protested a reduction of case managers from 13 to 6 in the region and warned of further cuts. “The safety net is being dismantled piece by piece,” she said.

Without case managers to help people on the margins stay in housing, Sullivan said, the needy will keep turning up in hospital emergency rooms. “That is so not cost-effective,” he said.

Murphy reinforced the speakers’ philosophy of helping the homeless.

“The way you get ‘em out of the woods,” he said, “is to love them like any human being.”

Housing Assistance Corporation Employees Rescue Hyannis Woman

Posted on Wed, Jan 21, 2009

BARNSTABLE —

The efforts of two Housing Assistance Corporation employees saved a Hyannis woman from carbon monoxide poisoning.

In early December, energy program coordinator JoAnne Cournoyer received an alert from South Shore Community Action, which administers fuel assistance that an elderly woman in Hyannis was having trouble with her heating system.

Cournoyer sent Energy Analyst Marc Campbell to the woman’s home.

He noticed a strange odor and began checking carbon monoxide levels, which registered 300 ppm. The safe level is below 30 ppm.

Campbell immediately opened the windows and told the woman to leave the home. She told him the detectors had been going off recently, but she disconnected them because she thought they were faulty.

Campbell called the fire department, which turned off the heating system and secured the house. They told Campbell the CO levels were lethal and if he hadn’t arrived when he did, the woman would have died.

Within days of Campbell’s visit, HAC hired a contractor to get to the woman’s house and install a new system.

Opening Doors for Cape Codders

Posted on Mon, Jul 07, 2008

ASHLEY KOMPASS PHOTO

MANY HANDS FOR A LARGE TASK – Celebrating at the groundbreaking ceremony for affordable housing in West Barnstable, are, left to right: Richard Mason, Mass Housing Partnership; Julie Creamer, Housing Investments, Inc.; Paul Ruchinskas, Barnstable County HOME Consortium/Cape Cod Commission; Carmen Panacopoulos, Citizens Bank; Jo Anne Miller Buntich, assistant director, Town of Barnstable Growth Management Department; Kathy McGilvray, Massachusetts Housing Investment Corporation; Patricia Belden, Housing Investments, Inc.; Barnstable Town Councilor Hank Farnham; Kris Clark, West Barnstable Civic Association; Mark Nelson, Horsley Witten Group (engineer); Rick Presbrey, CEO of Housing Assistance Corporation; Christian Valle, The Valle Group (builder); and architect Rick Fenuccio.

HAC breaks ground for 40 units of affordable housing for seniors and families

After three centuries, Parker Lombard’s last wishes for the farm that stood on Meetinghouse Way in West Barnstable are being followed through in full.
Lombardwilled the property to the town so it could build a house for the poor. The almshouse built there was abandoned during the 1950s and then became a halfway house for recovering addicts. Two decades later, the house suffered a fire and was finally bulldozed.

Art Kimber, then executive director of Barnstable Housing Authority, started once again, in 1986, to turn the Lombard Farm into a place for affordable housing. The site was approved for 32 units of elderly and congregate housing and, two duplexes of family housing.

This week, Kimber was part of a happy group gathered at the site off Route 149 for a groundbreaking ceremony.

“It’s just wonderful to see affordable housing being built on this site, as well as the YMCA site,” Kimber said. “After all these years, something is finally happening here.”

The West Barnstable Communities, an affordable housing initiative of Housing Assistance Corporation, will offer 28 units of family housing near the YMCA on Route 132 and 12 units of senior housing at the Lombard land off Route 149. Near the YMCA on Route 132, the family units will consist of 10 3-bedroom and 18 2-bedroom apartments in seven buildings. The senior development’s units are for individuals 55 and older. The residents of both developments must have incomes that are 60 percent or less of the area median income.

“Those who think this is just beginning have no idea how long it took HAC to get here,” said Richard Mason of the Mass. Housing Partnership. HAC responded in 2004 to a request for proposals from the town.

Judy Barnet, HAC board member, who worked with Kimber in the ‘80s, said, “We even think the older West Barnstable folk fighting us back then (in the ‘80s) will live here now – which is great.”

The builder of the new affordable units is The Valle Group Inc. “We build whatever we build it as if we are living in it ourselves,” said Joe Valle, chairman and CEO. The project architect is Brown Lindquist Fenucio & Raber, and Horsley Witten Group is providing the engineering. HAC’s consulting partner on the project is Housing Investments, Inc.

The $11.2 million project is funded primarily with low- Income housing tax credits through the state Department of Housing and Community Development. Other funders include: the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, Mass. Affordable Housing Trust Fund, Mass. Housing Partnership Fund, Mass. Housing Investment Corporation, Barnstable County HOME Consortium, the Town of Barnstable Community Preservation Committee, Citizens Bank and TD Banknorth.

At the groundbreaking ceremony on June 30, HAC CEO Rick Presbrey encouraged other villages in Barnstable to get to work and accomplish what West Barnstable has.