Today_Real_Estate.jpgThe team from Today Real Estate were adorned in festive outfits at last month’s telethon. 

The twelfth time was a charm for the Shelter Cape Cod Telethon, bringing in a record $100,000 in donations and pledges that will go to support HAC’s shelter programs.

While the total raised was significant, HAC CEO Rick Presbrey noted at the end of the four-hour long telethon, “It’s not about the money. It’s what we can do to improve the services for the families and individuals who are homeless.”

Cape Cod Broadcasting’s Matt Pitta who hosted the last two hours of the telethon – WCAI’s Mindy Todd hosted the first two – called the event “a very important night, one of the most important each year for Housing Assistance Corporation as we get together with the community, from one end of Cape Cod to the other, Provincetown to Bourne, and all spots in between.”

Though the focus of the telethon is fundraising, it also places a spotlight on the homelessness and housing issues facing the region, mixed in with lighter fare that included musical performances from elementary school students at the St. Pius X Catholic School, Sarah Swain of Harwich and a live, acoustic rendition of “Away in a Manger” by NOAH Shelter director Greg Bar.

There were five eighth graders from Cape Cod Academy who spoke about their portrait project in which they interviewed people at HAC’s NOAH Shelter as well as at CHAMP Homes and Homeless Not Hopeless, helping put a face to Cape Cod’s homeless. “What I learned is that these are real people with real stories they want to share with the community,” said eighth grader Maeve Lonergan about the project.

On-air guests included Paula Mallard, the facility director at The Village at Cataumet; Jay Coburn, executive director of the Community Development Partnership in Eastham; and Paula Schnepp, the coordinator for the Regional Network on Homelessness.

All spoke about the housing challenges facing Cape Cod, starting with Rick Presbrey who pointed out in the first minutes of the telethon that “there’s a big gap between what people earn on Cape Cod and what housing costs.”

For individuals, he said, the housing challenges can be even more cumbersome when someone becomes homeless.

Mindy_Todd_and_Billy_Bishop.jpgWCAI’s Mindy Todd talks with Billy Bishop, founder of Homeless Not Hopeless, about the homeless issue on Cape Cod. 

Homelessness is an issue that affects those of all ages. Gina Hurley, director of student services for Barnstable Public Schools, said there are 140 students in her district that are homeless. “How does it affect their learning?” she asked.

Anne Van Vleck, executive director of CCYP, spoke about the importance of having affordable housing for young professionals. “Housing is an issue for all of the Cape,” she said. “And the homelessness issue which you are doing such important work here tonight is really something that needs people’s attention and focus.”

To provide some perspective of its impact on Cape Cod, Dr. Nate Rudman, an emergency room physician at Cape Cod Hospital, said that 91,000 ER hours were dedicated to those who are homeless in 2015, equaling roughly 10 beds per day. And for those suffering from an illness or disease, he said, homelessness can exacerbate the problem. “Imagine having pneumonia and not having a home to go to,” he said.

Billy Bishop, former president of Homeless Not Hopeless, has a firsthand knowledge of how difficult homelessness can be. He spent more than a decade living on the streets. “There are nights you can’t stay outside. You will die,” he said. He credited HAC’s NOAH Shelter for keeping him safe. “They saved my life,” he said, repeatedly.

The solution to many of the problems related to homelessness, said Gosnold CEO Raymond Tamasi is collaboration among the region’s social services agencies. “The networking of those services has the potential to lift people out of homelessness and, more than that, hopelessness,” he said.