Belonging to Each Other (BTEO) was founded in 2015 by concerned residents and faith-based communities in Falmouth in response to an awareness of a growing homeless population in our town. Through volunteer efforts and with generous donations from the community, we housed and fed 27 homeless men and women in motel rooms during the winter of 2015-2016. The next winter, we secured 2 rental properties with combined occupancy of 12.
During our first four years (2015-2019), we accepted a total of 109 homeless individuals into our program and placed 83 of them into more permanent housing. Since BTEO’s inception, our cold weather housing season has expanded from 3 months (season 1) to 4 months (season 2) to 5 months (seasons 3 and 4) and now to 6 months (beginning in season 5).
We have transitioned to a blend of part-time staff and a core of volunteers, beginning in 2020. Since then, BTEO has become a nimble and flexible organization, using what we learn from our historical residential program and our collaborations with Falmouth’s Emergency Services Network to serve our most vulnerable neighbors.
The COVID-19 pandemic has added an element of uncertainty as prolonged unemployment and a growing number of evictions created a new wave of homeless individuals. It also exposed the risks of having a single emergency homeless shelter in the mid-Cape. So, in collaboration with other agencies lead by the Duffy Health Center, has provided 45-50 additional individuals in Falmouth with winter emergency motel rooms and food for the past 2 seasons (BTEO’s main roles were providing thousands of meals using a core of volunteer chefs, delivery and packers and using our program staff to screen and place eligible people.
In 2021-22 we piloted expanding our case management services from the 31 weeks, during our “in-residence” season, to year-round. Through the expanded case management services of this program we call Community Assist, we were better able to help our former residents maintain the gains they made during the residential months, as well as to help others in town who were experiencing homelessness during the warmer weather. The Community Assist program has led to more placements in actual homes and apartments vs transitions to longer term shelters or placements with family, and is now a core part of our program.