EDITOR'S NOTE: A correction was made to this story on Sept. 25, 2022 about the sources of funding for the new initiative.
HYANNIS – Triggered by the unexpected arrival of 48 mostly Venezuelan migrants on Martha's Vineyard, the Housing Assistance Corporation's latest initiative underscores that it can remain true to its core mission but can help other people in crisis, according to the agency's leaders.
The Humanitarian Response Fund and Volunteer Coordination initiative will serve displaced people whether it is due to immigration, domestic violence, or homelessness, Chief Executive Officer Alisa Magnotta said.
While the agency's core mission is Cape Cod's housing crisis, the flexible emergency relief fund is meant to help cut through red tape to help people. State and federal programs are not tailored to meet unexpected emergencies, according to the organization, leaving the need for a flexible emergency relief fund.
"It's just heartbreaking for our staff to say 'no' when people call for help," Magnotta said during a phone interview on Thursday. "That's what we do is try to put the resources together so that they can say 'yes.'"
Fund is similar to past efforts
The effort mirrors how Housing Assistance responded to local residents losing jobs and income during the pandemic with the launch of the Workforce Relief Fund. Between that initiative and other state and local funds, HAC said in a press release it stabilized 1,764 residents and pumped nearly $10 million into the local economy.
The fund will be financially supported by donors and foundations, Magnotta said.
"We know we have the capacity to both help our locals and to help the people who want to come here," Magnotta said. "We just have to have the courage and the discipline to make those important investments."
Catalyst was migrants on Martha's Vineyard
Forty-eight mostly Venezuelan migrants came to Martha's Vineyard without warning on Sept. 15, aboard two charter planes from Texas paid by the state of Florida. Their arrival was orchestrated by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. His representative said the migrants were flown to Martha's Vineyard as part of the governor's "promise to drop off undocumented migrants in progressive states."
Magnotta said the news helped bring the idea to completion.
"We've been thinking about it, but this definitely was the catalyst that made us push it over the finish line where you have a group of people coming in who literally have nothing and are needing resources," Magnotta said.
Some of the migrants are temporarily housed at Joint Base Cape Cod, as they determine what to do next. Some have since moved on to other parts of the country to connect with friends or family.
The Hyannis nonprofit is among the local organizations and agencies on the base providing assistance to the migrants, along with Brockton's Father Bill's & MainSpring, the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, and the state Department of Housing and Community Development.
More will be known about the migrants' immediate needs as work continues, Magnotta said.
"They might need a bus ticket or they might need help with rent or they might have information that they need," Magnotta said. "So we'll be working very closely with the other agencies on site and the other resources that are available to try to fill in that gap."
The nonprofit also lent a hand to New Orleans residents displaced by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 who were also temporarily housed at the military base then, and Afghan and Haitian refugees.
How you can help
Donations can be made to the the fund by visiting https://haconcapecod.org/humanitarian.
Potential volunteers may email firstname.lastname@example.org, especially native Spanish speakers and those willing to drive migrants to appointments on or off Cape Cod, including Boston.
According to HAC's website, donors interested in learning more about the fund should contact Anne B. Van Vleck, Chief Development Officer, at email@example.com or by calling 508-771-5400, ext. 228. Those interested in contributing gifts in-kind should contact Lin Grace Rohr, Director of Community Engagement and Donor Stewardship, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"Really, what we do is respond to what we're seeing in the community," Magnotta said.
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This article originally appeared on Cape Cod Times: Housing Assistance launches emergency fund for people in transition