Belonging to Each Other (BTEO) is a coalition of volunteers from more than 10 Falmouth congregations and other community members, founded in late 2015 to address the problem of homelessness in our community. BTEO provides temporary housing, food, transportation, and internet services at no charge for men and women experiencing homelessness in Falmouth while helping them identify more stable housing and/or necessary services. It is a high-touch, high-intensity model.
Who We Serve
We serve individuals over 18 years of age in Falmouth who are experiencing homelessness. We house our residents in rental houses during cold weather months. We can accommodate up to 12 homeless men and women from November through April. As residents transition to more stable housing, others who meet our eligibility criteria will cycle into available spots. Housing case management services are provided year-round to assist people experiencing housing insecurity.
BTEO was founded in 2015 in response to an awareness of a growing number of people experiencing homelessness in Falmouth. As an organization, we believe strongly that we should provide for the most vulnerable among us, allowing them to remain in their own community.
In the fall of 2015, seven faith-based institutions quickly mobilized and formulated a basic mission statement, which continues to describe our program: “To provide temporary housing and year-round loving support to our Falmouth neighbors experiencing homelessness.” Within 90 days we had a plan in place. That winter we housed and fed 27 men and women experiencing homelessness (up to 8 at a time) in motel rooms for more than three months. The community responded generously with their time and their money. At the end of our first season, the majority of our residents had transitioned into more stable living arrangements.
On December 1, 2016, BTEO began its second year of operation. We partnered with the Housing Assistance Corporation (HAC) and Falmouth Human Services (FHS) to fund a part-time case manager for an expanded four-month winter program. We again rented motel rooms, but we also partnered with two landlords – the Falmouth Housing Corporation (FHC) and a “snowbird” couple – to rent two homes in Falmouth. These houses proved more cost-effective than motel rooms and provided more dignified living arrangements.
From December 1, 2016, through March 31, 2017, BTEO provided housing, case management, friendship, food, transportation, and other critical services to 23 homeless men and women (up to 12 at a time).
In February 2017, we received notification from the IRS that our status as a charity was approved. Prior to this time, we had operated under the umbrella of St. Barnabas Episcopal Church, which acted as our fiscal agent for purposes of donations.
From 2017- 2020, BTEO expanded to a five-month season of operations in two rented houses. We interviewed an average of 55 people each year, and housed an average of 29 of them in our houses. We referred the others to more appropriate agencies.
In 2019, our Board appointed a committee to review our first 5 years of operations and programs to suggest ways to ensure that BTEO would be able to continue its unique way of working with our Falmouth neighbors sustainably experiencing homelessness. That included integrating our outsourced case management and hiring an executive director. These changes gave us the ability to work as one -volunteers and paid staff alike - and nimbleness in approaching issues facing our community and its most vulnerable people.
Turns out, this was a very timely move. . .
In 2020-2021, the pandemic was full-blown in Massachusetts. BTEO was able to open two houses for six months and operate while maintaining COVID protocols. This included using a swing motel bed so prospective residents could isolate and be tested before entry. We interviewed 64 people and provided 1330 nights of housing to 18 people. We were able to place 5 more people into stable housing or programs directly, to avoid too much movement into and out of our houses. We also began providing a few meals in support of Duffy Health Center’s cold-weather emergency sheltering program in Falmouth for persons at risk from exposure.
Our 2021-2022 season highlighted the growth of homelessness on Cape Cod and in Falmouth. We interviewed 87 people and provided 1702 nights of housing to Falmouth-connected people experiencing homelessness. One in three of the 25 people we housed were more than 60 years of age. A growing percentage of the people we housed were working while homeless, often in multiple jobs. With the expanded need, BTEO partnership with the Duffy Health Center on its Cape-wide “In From the Streets” weather emergency housing program expanded ten-fold. Our volunteers made and delivered to motels more than 325 meal packs with hot dinners (981 meals) for people sheltering in Falmouth during dangerous weather. Our collaborations with other community organizations, including housing agencies, local congregations, the Falmouth Service Center, Falmouth’s Department of Human Services and the Falmouth Police Department, provides an Essential Services Network allowing us collectively to protect our most vulnerable neighbors and avoid duplication. BTEO began providing year-round housing case management to our alumni and to people referred to us by other agencies for help navigating a housing search during the pandemic. We called this pilot project the “Community Assist”.
We are half-way through our 2022-2023 season and the housing situation on Cape Cod has become a full-blown crisis for Falmouth. In our first 3 months, we have provided more than 400 days of meals (1200 meals) for Falmouth people sheltering the In From the Streets Program.