Housing Assistance officials and special guests unveiled a special art exhibit, “Home is Where the Heart Is,” in front of Housing Assistance’s Hyannis offices Thursday morning.
The exhibit presents 100 drawings by Cape Cod second-graders illustrating “what home means to me.”
“This exhibit serves as an urgent reminder that while the school year is drawing to a close, summer break is no vacation for children who are housing insecure,” said Housing Assistance CEO Alisa Magnotta. “The housing crisis impacts children, families and teachers across Cape Cod. For children, the impact can be traumatic, affecting their ability to learn and thrive.”
More than 22,000 children enrolled in Massachusetts schools in the last school year were homeless. On Cape Cod, between 100 and 200 children every year live in one of Housing Assistance’s family shelters.
“Each spring, dozens – if not hundreds – of families and individuals across Cape Cod do the summer shuffle,” said Magnotta. “They lose their winter rentals and are forced to look for housing in a market that has a 1 percent vacancy rate. Many families are faced with desperate decisions. Some share cramped spaces with relatives or friends, some bounce from place to place, still others live in their cars. Some set up tents in the woods. Others leave, giving up their lives here on Cape Cod in the hope of finding an affordable place to live.”
Dr. Scott Carpenter, Superintendent of Monomoy Regional School District spoke about how the housing crisis is affecting his district – from the teachers who turn down jobs because they can’t find housing, to the children struggling to do their academic best because they are living in the shadow of housing insecurity.
“I worry more and more that the American dream is becoming increasingly further and further out of reach for the young families I serve and for the young teachers I try to hire,” he said. “The drawings behind me talk about home being safe and a source of happiness and joy. These factors are tremendously important for children as they are growing. Children can’t learn if they’re not joyful, if they’re not feeling safe.”
Cheri Armstrong, Career Education Counselor at Monomoy Regional High School and Chairperson of the Greater Cape and Islands Educator Action Network, said she sees the impacts of the housing crisis in the lives of her students every day.
Armstrong shared the story of a student whose family had been couch surfing for the entire school year. “As these pictures illustrate, even the very youngest among us can understand that everyone deserves a home,” she said.
Gemma Rehm is Director of Housing Assistance’s Carriage House Shelter in Falmouth, where up to 10 families live in transitional housing. One boy who came with his mother from off-Cape to stay at Carriage House told Rehm, “I miss my friends at school. I miss my teachers. I miss my grandmother.” She added, “We hear a lot of things about the explosion of homelessness, and you can see from the artwork how much home means to children.”
Magnotta said that everyone has a role to play in helping to keep Cape Cod a thriving, year-round community where families and people of all ages, incomes and backgrounds can access stable and safe housing that fits their budgets. “I urge you to join Housing to Protect Cape Cod, where you can be part of a coalition of nearly 1,000 people who are Speaking Up for Housing in towns across the region,” she said.
The “Home is Where the Heart Is” exhibit will be on display in front of the Housing Assistance office at 460 West Main St., Hyannis, until June 30.