“Between 2019 and 2023, I have moved six times,” said Dian Hamilton, who now lives in Provincetown. “I am 80 years old.” Some of her moves were within Provincetown. Some of those moves were to the town of Truro. Some were just winter rentals.
“You know, there are challenges,” she said. She fell down the stairs in one place in Truro, she said.
“I was very determined to get back to Provincetown. I very much missed the energy… Provincetown very much feeds my heart and soul,” she said. “I can’t imagine living anywhere else. I’m always smiling in Provincetown.”
For her most recent and successful move into a room in a house in Provincetown with a woman she already knew, she credits Dan McKeon, a professional photographer who lives in town.
McKeon played matchmaker between the landlord and Hamilton, she said. “He is part of the reason why I am here,” she said.
McKeon, who is the administrator of the Facebook group page, “Ptown Residents Seeking Year-Round Housing,” introduced Hamilton to her current landlord and roommate.
“He saw the need and took on the responsibility of trying to match people up with homes,” she said. “He’s doing a wonderful service for us.”
MeKeon is “a seminal part of this community,” said Hamilton. “He’s our Provincetown photographer… He’s very much part of the fabric of Provincetown.”
Dan McKeon’s personal search for housing in Provincetown has gone through four rinse-and-repeat cycles that went something like this: Dream come true followed by a rude awakening about the realities for renters in town.
Since moving to Provincetown in 2009, he has lived in four places. And counting. He must move again by the end of October 2024. He is “determined to stay” in Provincetown, he said. “I’m not going anywhere,” said McKeon.
That, essentially, is the backstory to the popular Facebook group page, “Ptown Residents Seeking Year-Round Housing” that Mckeon started in 2015 when he began his second search for housing and discovered that he had many friends in the same position. The page has since evolved into also helping people find seasonal housing, he said.
“Hey, let me know if you hear anything,” was the repeated request he had heard from friends in the same situation. “It’s a Provincetown-wide dilemma,” said McKeon.
So he started the page and soon, strangers were also joining.“That’s when I learned it wasn’t just limited to me and my core group of friends,” he said.
“People were joining left and right,” he said. “People I knew, and people I didn’t know were all saying the same thing: ‘I am losing my housing with no hope in sight,’” said McKeon. Many have since moved out of town, he said.
The Facebook private group, now with 2,400 members, is a place for landlords to list places or people looking for a place to say what they are looking for.
And behind it all is McKeon, determined to stay in his beloved adopted home of Provincetown while also helping to match landlords with prospective tenants.
The page “was designed for landlords to post if they had an opening,” he said. The idea was to use this social media platform and his numerous connections in town as the photographer for many Provincetown businesses and events to make connections that people can trust.
McKeon said he was acting as a sort of first filter “because I had a pretty good grasp on the people who lived in town.”
When he started the group, McKeon said, he had “immediate results.” He placed “four or five people,” he said.
And that was when he said he “found myself realizing that people had come to rely on me.” He felt he was suited to take on the task because “I’m always there. Everyone knows me. I follow up. I’m super friendly and I care about people.”
McKeon said he makes no money from it. He is clearly very engaged with the page, liking, commenting or responding to every post. Sometimes, he will suggest someone send him a private message.
“My filing system is the housing page,” he said. “I don’t keep a list.” After all, it is all right on Facebook. But, he said, he does sometimes make an extra effort to place certain people.
“Right now,” he said recently, “I have a list of three people I really want to get placed,” he said. One is an actor appearing in a play this summer, another is a musical performer/impersonator, and one is a business owner, said McKeon. “Those people are at the top of my mental list,” he said.
McKeon, like everyone in town, is very aware of the dire housing situation for workers in Provincetown. And he understands people’s anger and frustration at some of the exorbitant rents in town, including some that have appeared on his page. Rentals at $5,000 a month and even at $10,000 a month have recently appeared on the page.
“It’s not affordable housing,” he said. “I’m not looking for affordable housing. I’m looking for available housing.”
But he has found himself having to remove posts commenting on price and having to explain the policy. On March 14, he posted, “To the folks whose comments I removed, please remember this is not a page to air your thoughts and feelings, but one that offers constructive information to people seeking housing.”
And on April 15, he wrote, “So while I am impressed with people’s concerns about our currently bleak housing situation, and value their thoughts, beliefs and opinions on these issues, this page is not the forum for these discussions.”
McKeon made one other point about the expensive rentals that occasionally appear on the page. “Ninety percent of the people on my Facebook page cannot afford that,” he said. But people who can pay $10,000 a month will pay $10,000 a month. And that takes them out of the equation for the $1,500 a month place.”
Housing availability in Provincetown has many sides, he said. “I try to look at it from every angle,” he said.
As for landlords, said McKeon, “I honestly think there are more good eggs than bad eggs.”
“In my opinion, most people that rent out their houses are doing it because they love Provincetown and want to be part of the solution,” he said. “People who are opening their homes to people are saints in my eyes.”
“People get the impression that Provincetown landlords and homeowners are greedy people. There are some greedy people and people think that’s the norm. I don’t think that’s the norm,” he said. Often, he said, rents are high because mortgages are high. This is especially true of those who recently purchased in town, he said.
“Rents aren’t high because landlords are greedy. They’re trying to pay their mortgage. I don’t think that’s greedy,” said McKeon. “That’s the reality of the rental market.”
Another reality, he said, is “there have been a number of scams recently.” Rentals have been listed on Craigslist of places that are not actually for rent, he said.
On March 20 he posted this warning on the page: “I am posting this again as the season is nearly upon us. And right now, there are scammers out there trying to steal your money.”
“They’ll go on Zillow and pull an apartment up for sale from five years ago and then download the pictures and create a fake Craigslist ad,” he said. “I’ve exposed six of these in the past six weeks,” he said. He has researched the apartments and found the real owners who confirm there is nothing for rent at that address.
The scammers “will want the money up front,” he said. “They ask you to pay without looking at the place.” There is usually some sob story about why it can’t be seen yet, he said.
While he works to shut down scams when he sees them, he said a woman recently lost $4,800 to a scam after making a wire transfer for an apartment she had not seen. The apartment is not for rent. “That money is gone,” he said.
“The scammers are all connected,” he said. “They tried to infiltrate the page.” McKeon said that since exposing scams he has received many harassing phone calls at 6 a.m. from someone calling him a gay slur.
“I’ll get robo calls. From two a day to 60 a day,” he said. Despite the harassment, he said he is determined to expose scams when he finds them and continue his efforts to play housing matchmaker.
There are limited rentals available and many more people looking, “I will not give up on this,” said McKeon. “It seems bleak. I have a lot of friends in town losing their place… I try to offer them a beacon of hope.”
Empathy for the plight of others, and a deep love of Provincetown are the reasons for his efforts, he said.
Start with the town.
McKeon, 68, who grew up in Troy, New York, first came to Provincetown when he was 16. Troy, he said, is “a small town in upstate, New York.” His family usually took summer vacations to Lake George, but that year his father took the family to Hyannis “in the hope of seeing the Kennedy’s,” he said. It was 1970.
While on their Cape vacation, McKeon said, the family took a day trip to Provincetown. “I thought I had died and gone to heaven,” he said.
“I love this town beyond belief.”
At the time, McKeon said, he was still grappling with his own identity. “Back then, [being gay] wasn’t something you admitted to yourself,” he said. But, he said, “I knew I was different from the time I was a little kid.”
So the trip to Provincetown when he was 16 was a revelation, he said. It had been explained to him that in Provincetown “there are artistic people that are different than us. I was very intrigued. That sounded like me,” said McKeon.
“I knew I was with my people,” he said. “There was a sense of relief that there are people like me” living such an open lifestyle. “They were who they were,” he said.
It made an indelible impression on him. As an adult, he lived in Albany, New York for decades and vacationed every year in Provincetown. And for decades he told himself, “Someday when I am old enough and have enough money, I am going to move to Provincetown.”
“I love this town beyond belief,” he said.
He grew up in “a close residential neighborhood. There was a church, a parish, a school.” His father was an electrical engineer working for New York Telephone.
“My parents wanted me to go into some kind of scientific field I was a very smart kid… But I was book smart,” he said.
“My parents were gearing me towards following in my father’s footsteps,” he said. “But I was interested in helping people.”
McKeon’s father “designed our house,” he said. “He wired the entire house. He was a guy who could fix anything. He could build anything. But I had zero interest in any of that.”
Instead, it turned out, McKeon he was looking to fix, or at least help, human beings.
“When I was a kid, I was a big soap opera fan,” said McKeon. One season the soap opera that he liked most, ‘The Edge of Night,’ featured a complicated plot revolving around an autistic girl and the girl’s mother, who murdered someone.
The plot included a therapist who helped the girl, he said. “That was when I knew what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to help that girl, or people like her.” And he also watched thinking the girl’s mother could use some help. “I’d watch the story line from that perspective,” he said.
He said he recognized, now, from the distance of time that, “I’d watch cop shows and I’d wonder about the criminals on The Mod Squad or The Streets of San Francisco. I was imagining the backstory of the criminals and how they got to be criminals,” he said. He’d wondered what they would have been like if they had had a different life.
Away from the television, he did the same thing with his imagination when he would take a bus into downtown Troy. He would see people on the bus or in the city neighborhoods and in his mind he would make them over and imagine them dressing different and living different lives. “I was doing makeovers in my mind well before those kinds of shows were on TV,” he said.
People could change, he thought. “I’d go with my mother. She’d get her hair done every Monday. She’d go in looking one way and come out looking like a princess,” he said.
As he was nearing high school graduation and thinking of college, his parents made clear to him that they thought it best for him to go into engineering.
McKeon had other ideas on what to do with his life. He went into and then graduated from the new psychology program that had launched at Sienna College. He graduated in 1976.
His plan was to be a child psychologist, he said. As part of his college program, he said, he worked with disturbed children for a local Catholic organization. After a year of volunteer work, he was due to be hired onto the staff.
By this time in his life, McKeon had acknowledged to himself that he was gay and he had a partner, Eugene, that he lived with in Albany.
The Catholic organization, however, did not know he or Eugene were gay. McKeon introduced Eugene, who is black, to the administration. “I thought he would be great for the school,” said McKeon. “There were no black people on the staff.”
Then McKeon was seen by someone from the Catholic charity at a new club in Albany. He was seen dancing with Eugene and other friends, other men. It was reported to the head nun.
The nun brought him to her office and “told me she knows everything about me. I was told to be out in 15 minutes or the police will be escorting me out. Then she looked me dead in the eye and said, ‘All you (gay slur) are pedophiles. Now get the fuck out of here.’” recalled McKeon.
McKeon, who said he comes from an extended family “with five priests in it” was taken aback. And he was hurt. He loved the job and the kids he had worked with. “I had been part of these kids lives for the past year,” he said.
When McKeon lost the job at the Catholic charity, he also lost his dream of becoming a child psychologist. “This was the 70s, he said. “There were veiled threats about what would happen if they [authorities with the charity] found out I was going to pursue a career working with children,” he said.
First, he went to work as he had all through school working for his family’s side business – filling cigarette vending machines in Troy and in Albany. He worked every day filling those machines “for my father,” he said.
And then he found a job with a psychiatric hospital in Albany, which was opening a drop-in social program in Schenectady. This was just after patients were being discharged from state psychiatric hospitals.
The job was to “get people back in the community that they came from and to live the best life possible.”
The state run program started with three staff members and nine patients. It evolved to have 250 patients drop in every day to work with 15 staff members, he said.
“When the program first started, it was brand new for the community. It was brand new for the patients and brand new for the caring staff who wanted to make these people’s lives better.” he said.
“We all felt our way through it,” he said. The staff asked the patients what they wanted to do, and what they wanted to learn. As the numbers grew, they started to take trips into the community. They would go to a lake, or maybe a shopping mall.
McKeon recalled taking 20 patients every Tuesday afternoon to his parents house where his mother and a friend would have a cookout. Until then, he said, “probably most of our patients had never been on a picnic.”
Beyond the fun adventures, he said, patients were taught life skills such as managing a checkbook, “things we take for granted because we grew up doing these things.”
Patients, he said, were “fearful of normal things we do every day. Things they’ve never done.”
“It wasn’t a normal 9 to 5,” he said. “We had fun. We’d draw on our own skills and likes as a staff. It was a fun job to go to every day.
He worked for nine years in the drop-in program. And then he ran a 12-bed community residence, and after that he ran a 21-bed apartment program in which the apartments were scattered throughout Schenectady and he would visit each apartment at least four times a week.
Then he worked at newly opened inpatient psychiatric hospital for 17 years before retiring.
He changed what he did a few times during his career, he said, because, “You tend to burn out when you are doing the same thing over and over again.”
“I was really good at what I did,” McKeon said. Through the years he rose in the system but he resisted a change to administration because, “I was adamant that I wanted to do direct patient contact.”
He wanted to help people.
And then after 33 years of working for the state of New York, he retired at 55 years old.
He wanted to move to Provincetown.
He had been thinking about the possibility of moving to Provincetown since the first time he visited, when he was 16 years old in 1970.
For many years during his professional life, McKeon and his then-partner Eugene visited Provincetown every summer. They eventually split up in 1997. In 1998, McKeon opened a bank account in Provincetown. He began saving towards his dream.
In December, 2009, five weeks after he retired, McKeon moved to Provincetown. He kept his apartment in New York too, but he moved Provincetown. He had found a two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment in the center of town for $1,400 a month plus utilities.
It was the first apartment he looked at in Provincetown and he took it immediately. “It was everything I dreamed of,” he said.
It remained a dream come true until 2013, just a few weeks after McKeon threw a party for his landlords thanking them for letting him stay in a place he loved. “You’ve made my dream come true,” he said he told them.
The landlords told him he was the best tenant they ever had. They had just had twin babies and told McKeon he could stay until their twins were grown, he said.
“Six weeks later I got a call from them saying, ‘Hey, I don’t mean to shock you but we’re going to sell the unit.’”
“That was a rude awakening,” he said.
He was told he could stay until they sell it. He began looking. “That was my introduction to there’s not a lot of places to rent in Provincetown,” said McKeon.
His personal social media page where he posted that he was looking for housing, was “decidedly quiet… I was getting sympathy but not help. There was, ‘Oh my God Danny, we’re in the same position.”
Then he received another call from his landlord saying they were not going to sell and he could stay as long as he wants, McKeon said.
So he posted again that he was being allowed to stay. “The response I got from that second post was, ‘If you hear of anything let us know.” Many said they had no hope of staying.
Many people have since left town for good, he said.
McKeon has since moved into his fourth place in Provincetown. Each place he has lived seems to come with its own version of dream come true followed by rude awakening. Along the way, he has had to threaten legal action as well as cite his tenants rights when having at least two contentious discussions with previous landlords.
While many landlords in town are good, the bad ones “show their true colors. That happens a lot in this town,” he said. “I’ve heard more stories about landlords towards the end of a lease acting like landlordzillas.”
In all his years of renting in upstate New York, McKeon said, “I wasn’t used to dealing with snotty pissy landlords.”
Still, despite his own experiences with bad Provincetown landlords as well as hearing about the experiences of others, he believes “there are more good people than there are snakes.”
McKeon is the photographer for the Provincetown Business Guild, the Boatslip Tea Dance, and also Provincetown Magazine, he said. He has been hired to shoot weddings at Pilgrim Monument and he has worked as a photographer for Realtors.
“People have said anything that happened in Provincetown between 2011 and today, if I didn’t photograph it, that event didn’t happen,” he said.
And after his career helping people in the psychiatric hospital, “I was worried when I moved to Provincetown about what am I going to replace it with.” He found volunteer work.
He volunteers at the Methodist Church thrift shop and previously volunteered with at Ruthie’s Boutique.
And his background of knowing so many people in town led McKeon to start the “Ptown Residents Seeking Year-Round Housing” Facebook group page and act as the matchmaker.
The way it works is simple, he said. “I am a person who chases after every rumor” of places for rent, he said.
When he becomes aware of a rental he posts it on the page and then sends along the first five people who respond and leaves it to the landlord. “If you are interested, follow up,” he tells them. Play by their rules, he said. “Don’t try to talk them into a dog if the landlord says no pets,” he said.
If none of those five prospective tenants work out, he send along the next five who responded, he said.
The landlord “tells me the rent and then it’s a waiting game with a group text,” he said.
That is, unless he sees a perfect match between a landlord and a tenant looking. And then he will make a specific suggestion.
But beyond his page, he urges those looking to get the word out and then get it out again. Tell people over and over, he said. The best way to find housing in Provincetown, he said, is word of mouth.
But McKeon is doing what he can to help.
“My whole thing is, 50 years ago when I landed in Provincetown for the day with my family, I knew I was going to live here someday,” he said. “People still have that same dream.”
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