CAPIC’s Fuel Assistance Program Provides a Vital Service to Residents

CAPIC’s Fuel Assistance Program  Provides a Vital Service to Residents

Under the leadership of Executive Director Robert Reppucci, Community Action Programs Inter City (CAPIC) has been a national model in addressing the needs of low-income families in Chelsea, Revere, and Winthrop.

CAPIC’s fuel assistance program has been one of its most utilized services, aiding more than 2,700 residents in the three communities.

Since his appointment last July as energy director, Giancarlo DeSario has overseen the program that is in its sixth decade of existence. The recent addition of well-known Chelsea community leader Henry Wilson as an outreach coordinator has also helped expande the program and bring recognition to the valuable services CAPIC provides in many areas.

DeSario explained the process by which residents can apply for fuel assistance.

“If someone finds themselves in need – whether they’re a tenant, homeowner, family or single person – they should call the CAPIC fuel assistance line to set up an appointment,” said DeSario. “We would conduct an interview with the individual and review all their paperwork. We’ll let them know if we need additional information and then we’ll process their application in about 30-45 days.”

Candidates for fuel assistance must meet some income guidelines.

“In order to qualify for fuel assistance, you need to be at 60 per cent of the state median income, which for a single person would be $35,510; for a family of four people, it would be $68,280,” said DeSario.

CAPIC’s program covers heating expenses between the months of November and April.

According to DeSario, the fuel assistance program is funded through federal and state grants. CAPIC is currently waiting for a supplemental budget to be approved by the state.

“What we’re looking for is $30 million extra dollars in funding to help out with this heating season, but we’re looking closer to receiving $11 million,” said DeSario. He indicated that CAPIC has been working with Chelsea’s state legislators to secure additional funding.

DeSario has made a point during his tenure to “get out in the field” and meet individual clients. He has earned praise for his accessibility.

“I’m always available – I hand out my direct extension to clients all the time,” said DeSario. “I find it’s really important that if you’re going to serve clients correctly, you have to be in touch with them and understand their needs.”

DeSario has local roots

Giancarlo DeSario grew up in Maine, but he has always had local connections. “I’ve been coming to East Boston since I was a child. My mother (Yolanda DeSario) moved here from Italy when she was 10 years old. And my grandmother (Maria Caserta) has been living in East Boston for 50 years.”

DeSario attended high school in Maine and graduated from Roger Williams University where he studied Business and Legal Studies.

He began his career in woodworking and was promoted to the position of project manager, working with clients in Manhattan and Long Island, New York.

From there, DeSario entered the solar industry as a district site surveyor and rose through the company to become operations manager, overseeing several projects throughout the New England region.

DeSario came to CAPIC last July. “I saw a position was open and I applied for it. I was ready to go back to my old job when I got a call from Executive Director Robert Repucci, requesting that I come in for an interview.”

Like the entire staff at CAPIC and residents throughout the area, DeSario has come to appreciate Repucci’s exceptional leadership of the agency. Repucci arrived at CAPIC in 1972 and has been of Chelsea’s most influential and revered leaders.

“Mr. Repucci is an outstanding leader of CAPIC and in the community as a whole,” said DeSario. “He really pushes you to be a better person. He’s inspiring. He wants you to put people ahead of yourself, and you can tell, because he does that. He leads by example and I respect that about him.”

DeSario has also been impressed by the dedicated and knowledgeable staff at CAPIC.

“I was fortunate to come in to an agency where we have some really key players who know the programs in and out,” said DeSario. “The transition in to this industry was tough, because you don’t know it – but I was lucky to have a very good support group here to help out. They really care about the programs succeeding.”

DeSario said he finds his job rewarding and he appreciates the kind words from clients.

“There is nothing better than when we get a letter (of gratitude) or a phone call from a client who had no heat and we were able to restore a heating system that went out overnight, replace a heating system with a new one, or weatherize someone’s home,” said DeSario.

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CAPIC to Seek Alternate Location for Wrap-Around Services

A proposed short-term Resource Center for homeless and addicted persons in Bellingham Square will not seek to locate in the former Cataldo Ambulance building, according to CAPIC Director Bob Repucci, but will seek an alternate location due to some in the community who oppose the location.

“Here, we have a situation where there was support from many residents and service providers alike who recognize the problem and support the need for a Resource Center, yet we have opponents who recognize the problem, but have not proposed solutions,” he said. “This situation places me, as director of the anti-poverty agency commissioned with the task of bringing people out of poverty, in a dilemma. We know that the people best served by this type of facility are not likely to travel to the outskirts of the city, yet local opposition calls for that approach. The answer appears to rest in finding an alternative location that satisfies both needs. I believe that there will likely be opposition to any location, either from elected officials, residents or business. My decision to compromise on the Hawthorne Street location was based primarily upon the promise of elected officials who opposed this project to help CAPIC find a more ‘appropriate’ location. I will hold them to that promise and my determination and resolve to address the problem of homelessness for these individuals will not diminish.”

Repucci said the source of the opposition, which he said might be only a few people, came due to the proximity of the Silber Early Learning Center about one block away. Others were uncomfortable by the Center’s location near the downtown business district and what that might do for business, he said.

“It appeared the debate was drifting from the need for caring services, to the appropriateness of recipients receiving services in proximity to a school and the downtown district,” he said. “Of course, the target population is already located downtown and there are other client based services with similar missions in close proximity to schools.”

Repucci’s plan looks to create a Resource Center for those in the Square who wish to make a change in their lives. It would be available for 25 people at a time and would offer food, a shower, a haircut, clinical services and short-term stays for some. The Center would only act as a stopping point for those headed on to something more permanent, he said. He describes it as a pilot program that would last two years, and then be analyzed.

“It is generally thought that persons who want to become sober would seek this help, which would include a compassionate understanding of the problem and an opportunity for a fresh start,” Repucci said. “Before someone can achieve sobriety, they may need to address hygiene, hunger, obtain clean clothes, haircut, access to health care and a caring community. The Resource Center would be the place to receive these and other services.”

Repucci stressed that by no means has the idea been defeated, just the location whereby it would be carried out.

City Manager Tom Ambrosino said the City has no preference as to where Repucci’s Center would be located. The City is preparing to release two RFP’s for services related to short-term help for those in the Square looking to sober up and get off the streets.

CAPIC is expected to bid on one or both of those contracts, but Ambrosino said the Cataldo building project was independent of that.

“Our efforts were completely independent of what he’s doing there,” said Ambrosino. “We’ll still planning our efforts and hope to put RFPs out on the street this week…It’s very important we provide services to the people downtown who need them.”

He said the City Navigator, Rev. Ruben Rodriguez, has good contact and rapport with the folks that congregate in the Square, but his resources for immediate, short-term help are limited.

As an aside, a second navigator is still being planned and North Suffolk Mental Health is still in the process of choosing the right person.

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CAPIC,City to Establish Wrap Around Services for Bellingham Square

The City and at least two potential partners are looking to establish a short-term wrap around services center in the Bellingham Square area to provide food and shelter to the homeless, prostitutes and drug addicted populations that frequent Bellingham Square.

Yet, it’s not coming without some controversy as details of the plan leak out and some try to envision what it might be like – and how it could negatively affect quality of life in Chelsea’s downtown.

Bob Repucci, long-time director of CAPIC, said in an interview this week that he is ready to move on a plan whereby CAPIC would establish a short-term services building at the old Cataldo site – where Centro Latino was supposed to locate before it went defunct. He said he is aligned with several churches, volunteers, City Manager Tom Ambrosino and other political leaders who are passionate about making a dent in the long-standing problem populations in the Square.

“This is a neighborhood center and that’s basically what we’re going to do here,” said Repucci. “We’re trying to embrace these people in the Square and get them the services they need. These people are not going away. They also are not lepers that should be shipped to the outskirts of town. Most of them are from Chelsea and they have alcohol and drug problems. Many grew up here. Many are Latino. We’re going to take these men and women who need help and show them the compassion they need.

“This is not a shelter, it’s not a detox, it’s not a Methadone Clinic, it’s not a treatment center,” he continued. “It’s a place where people can walk in and get the attention they need to help them change their lives if they want to. These are men and women who need help because they have chronic problems. I haven’t seen anybody come up with any other good ideas to change this because it’s been there for years. We are taking the responsibility to do something and help them change their lives. I know it will be successful.”

Repucci said the Center would potentially be open three times a week and would offer a hot meal, a shower, a change of clothes, a clinician by appointment, counseling, financial management assistance, and temporary shelter.

There would be 25 people there at at time and no one would be allowed inside if they are intoxicated. It would also be for Chelsea residents and people in Chelsea who are homeless.

“This isn’t going to be a hang out,” he added. “It’s going to be well supervised and fully supervised…If people come over from Boston or Everett thinking there is a handout happening here, we will refer them to a provider in their area. This is for Chelsea residents and those in Chelsea who are homeless and want to change.”

Those at the service center would also be able to obtain short-term employment by cleaning roofs, shoveling snow and doing other such tasks under supervision.

Ambrosino said he does support the proposal out of a stance of compassion and also out of a stance to develop the Square and the Broadway Business District.

“You have a serious problem in the Square and on the Broadway corridor,” he said. “These people need services. Nothing is going to change unless we get them services and they are able to move elsewhere. This business district and downtown won’t change unless we change this situation. Ignoring it and putting our heads in the sand is not an answer. I’m willing to try anything except doing nothing.”

Ambrosino said the effort by CAPIC to move downtown is independent of the City, but there is potential cooperation through two line-items approved by the City Council on Oct. 19.

In fact, two Requests for Proposals (RFPs) have just gone out with $100,000 available for each. The first one will be to provide emergency food and shelter in the form of dedicated short-term detox beds. The second will be to provide a clinician to treat the population in the Square.

Ambrosino said he expects CAPIC will bid on one or both of the RFPs and he said he also expects Bay Cove Human Services to bid as well.

“I do expect CAPIC is going to bid on one or more of these services that we’re putting out to bid, but those services have nothing to do with the independent project of CAPIC to move some of its services downtown,” he said.

Ambrosino said he would expect that the first RFP could be used for folks who need a night or two of shelter until they can get into permanent housing.

“This will help folks who have an apartment lined up on Nov. 1, and it’s only Oct. 28 and they need somewhere to go,” he said.

Repucci said his plan to move existing services downtown, and perhaps to be a winning bidder on the City’s RFP, is something he believes many in the community are already rallying around – in particular the faith-based community that has noted and discussed the large homeless population in Chelsea.

Repucci himself learned firsthand of the problem from City Navigator Ruben Rodriguez last winter, when he was given a tour of the places under the Mystic/Tobin Bridge where may of the homeless and drug addicted/prostitutes tend to live and congregate.

He said he learned about the people down there, and he learned their personal stories.

He said that gave him a passion to do something about it, and he said he’s a little turned off by the push back from some folks – as he believes this can help a troubled population and solve a long-standing problem for residents.

“These people should be rallying around our efforts to change people’s lives,” he said. “That’s the only way to get them off the streets unless they are found dead under the Bridge due to exposure from the cold. We need to embrace these folks and help those who want to change and stop characterizing them as people who don’t want to change. Many of them lived in Chelsea and had decent lives and lost it all due to drugs, alcohol and other circumstances…Those against this should be more concerned about the men and women on Broadway unsupervised.

“We’re going to be successful in helping these people and showing them there’s a better life they can lead off the Square,” he continued. “I believe it will be the long-term solution to the poverty problem in Bellingham-Shurtleff.”

Repucci said he would like to try the idea for two years and collect data and see if it is working. If not, perhaps there’s a better idea.

“Again, people maybe don’t support this, but I don’t hear anyone coming up with any other suggestions,” he said.

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