ED MARONEY PHOTO
ORLEANS — In the midst of a pandemic, the Homeless Prevention Council has found another way to connect people in need to resources. As of Oct. 1, the Orleans-based agency is the Lower and Outer Cape outreach partner with the state for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
“We are certainly thrilled about SNAP,” HPC CEO Hadley Luddy said in an interview this week. “We have always helped people with SNAP and fuel assistance applications. Being certified allows us a direct line into the (state) department of transitional assistance (to) log in as your representative and figure out problems (and) get food as quickly as possible.”
As a partner, HPC will also spread the word about SNAP benefits, which help qualified families and individuals buy groceries. “The SNAP outreach program allows our case workers to share more information with potential participants,” Luddy said. “We’re hoping to see that connection with our work to encourage more people to ask for help. We want people to reach out to HPC sooner rather than later.”
The organization helps people who are homeless and many more who are threatened by homelessness. “A lot of people see ‘homeless’ in our name and don’t reach out until they’re in that place,” said Luddy. “The reality is we can do so much around the prevention piece. The sooner people connect when they’re dealing with financial instability,” the sooner HPC can provide links to resources.
“People are asking for guidance around getting financial assistance,” Luddy said, “who to go to first. We do a lot of work orienting people to resources that are most impactful. We hope people in need come to HPC as a starting point. We’re able to determine, looking at all the resources and agencies, where somebody should go next.”
HPC’s case managers, one of whom speaks Spanish, can “put the puzzle pieces together,” said Luddy. “We can point people toward the financial resources that best match their situation, connecting with Lower Cape Outreach, St. Vincent de Paul, Housing Assistance Corporation,” among others. “We’re with them every step of the way, A to Z, from start to finish. We’ll work with you until your situation is addressed, resolved, or you have enough information for a concrete plan. That can take weeks, months. There are folks that have worked with us for years.”
The problems HPC helps solve include “housing insecurity, potentially not being able to pay the rent and mortgage,” Luddy said, “and other looming issues including credit, insurance costs, car repairs. People don’t know which bill to pay first. We go through a budgeting exercise to determine where the funds are going. We can look at the long term, and long-term support.”
HPC, whose services are free, has been helping people for many years. Founded in 1991 as the Interfaith Council for the Homeless by a group of volunteers and faith-based organizations, the organization has worked with people to address financial insecurity and help year-round residents keep their homes.
Although most who contact the organization have low or moderate incomes, “we don’t have any restrictions,” Luddy said. “We’ve had people reach out, certainly in the pandemic, who may have a high-paying job or own property of significant value. Something major may have happened to them.” During non-pandemic times, case managers keep regular weekly hours at a number of community sites in Provincetown, Harwich, and elsewhere. HPC has always had an open door policy, according to Luddy, and that extends to working with people dealing with challenges related to substance abuse issues. “Folks might have a situation that improves significantly, then goes downhill,” she said, referring to mental health challenges.
Supported by grants and donations, HPC finds other ways to involve the community in helping neighbors in need. There’s the Adopt a Family program at Christmastime that matches several hundred families with donors that supply everything from clothing needs for children to the wrapping paper to put under the tree. The Backpack-to-School program ensures that youngsters have a backpack and school supplies every September. Between the two programs, 457 children from 217 families were aided last year. The total number of clients for 2019 was 1,622.
HPC’s new REACH (Resiliency Empowerment Achievement and Hope) program represents another step toward ensuring stability for Cape Codders. Clients who “are just about financially secure, doing fairly well, and are making critical decisions about their future,” Luddy said, are invited to make a four-month commitment to the program that focuses on empowerment, mindfulness, and individual coaching. “They set a goal, something they always aspired to,” and the organization provides a matching financial stipend. Last year, a client used her funds to sign up for a veterinary tech program and get a computer and printer.
Beyond helping to find homes for clients and help them hold on to them, HPC “is a voice in the community,” Luddy said, to encourage property owners to offer affordable rents and to press for development of more affordable housing. The organization works with colleagues such as the Community Development Partnership and Cape Cod Children’s Place around issues affecting low- to moderate-income families and individuals.
Program Director Maggi Flanagan said since the pandemic hit in March through this August, HPC’s caseload has gone up 71 percent. But rather than focus on the numbers, she shared a story of helping a family that had to find another place to live when the Truro Motor Inn had to close. “This is somebody who doesn’t have a vehicle but needs to be able to get to work, and also be available for the kids when they’re out of school or after-school programs,” she said.
“Eventually, they were able to get into an affordable housing unit in their community, Truro. The kids are able to stay in the same school and (the parent) is maintaining a year-round job. What’s kept Flanagan at the Homeless Prevention Council for 20 years? “The mission,” she said. “It serves the community I live in.”