Housing Assistance Corporation is helping the 48 Venezuelan migrants at Joint Base Cape Cod who were transported from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard last week, helping them to navigate the shelter system and connect with resources through the organization’s new Housing Response Fund and Volunteer Coordination effort.
“This is a tool for our staff to respond to humanitarian crises’ as they are arise, focusing on people in transition, whether that be immigration-based, due to domestic violence or homelessness,” explained Housing Assistance Chief Executive Officer Alisa Magnotta
This effort is similar to the way Housing Assistance responded to Cape & Islanders losing their jobs and income during the pandemic when it launched the Workforce Relief Fund. Between that and other state and local funds, Housing Assistance stabilized 1,764 Cape and Islanders and pumped nearly $10 million into the local economy. The Housing Response Fund and Volunteer Coordination effort is in addition to existing resources.
As a nonprofit that triages and helps people of all backgrounds connect to services on a daily basis as well as provides shelter services, the organization brought those skills on site to Joint Base Cape Cod over the last week.
“Whether their next step is going into shelter elsewhere in the state or connecting with friends or relatives elsewhere in the country, regardless of the reason behind a humanitarian need, we respond and we help people figure out next steps with dignity,” said Magnotta.
As the only local contractor designated by the state Department of Housing and Community Development for emergency and long-term housing programs, Housing Assistance received an early call from the agency as they formulated the state’s response for the 48 migrants brought to Martha’s Vineyard on Sept. 15 and was there to greet them upon their arrival at Joint Base Cape Cod. in Bourne. Along with Father Bill’s, the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, and DHCD, and other agencies, Housing Assistance has been on site ever since.
“We’re happy to help,” said Magnotta. “Displacement happens every day in the world. Sometimes it’s people fleeing natural disasters, war or violent persecution. Other times, it’s economic forces pushing our Cape workforce off Cape, or moms fleeing domestic violence. We help with the urgent displacement while maintaining our long-term focus on addressing the Cape’s housing crisis. In addition, we have the capacity to handle any humanitarian emergency that arises, whether that’s housing challenges resulting from the pandemic or people arriving on our shores. At Housing Assistance, we look at the totality of the need, and care for each situation accordingly.”
The organization provided similar services to residents of New Orleans – also temporarily located on Joint Base Cape Cod – displaced due to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. More recently, Housing Assistance helped Afghan and Haitian refugees, in concurrence with its work at the forefront of the Cape’s housing shortage.
“We are anticipating future humanitarian response needs based on what we are experiencing,” said Magnotta. “Having experienced Katrina and recent refugee crises, we know they happen, often when you least expect them, and as humanitarians we need to respond to suffering. State and federal programs aren’t tailored to unexpected emergencies, and we need to be prepared. That’s why we need a flexible emergency relief fund to help people not served under the narrow rules of existing funds.”
In addition to the fund, Housing Assistance is coordinating translators and other volunteers.
The agency has received numerous calls from people in the community who wish to help, Magnotta added.
Those wishing to support the Housing Response Fund & Volunteer Coordination may do so by donating at at https://haconcapecod.org/
“As we work with our colleagues Father Bill’s, MEMA and DHCD and interview the families, we’ll know more about the needs,” said Magnotta. “The most important thing right now is everyone is safe and is being connected with needed resources.”