For a long time people viewed the dearth of affordable housing on the Vineyard as a daunting and seemingly insurmountable problem. Even those who work in the field of affordable housing — which now has become its own industry on the Vineyard — will readily admit there are no easy solutions to the problem.
“We don’t sugarcoat it when we discuss [affordable housing],” said Patrick Manning, executive director of the Island Affordable Housing Fund. “This is a crisis situation and will continue to be a crisis for years to come. But every week and every month — every time we place a person or family in their own home — we take a little step forward. But we understand there is still a long road ahead.”
If the problem of affordable housing is viewed as a war — and to many people it is — there have been some recent victories recently: The Morgan Woods affordable housing project in Edgartown, Bradley Square in Oak Bluffs and Jenny Lane in Edgartown.
Affordable housing advocates have become even more innovative when it comes to fund-raising. The three leading affordable housing agencies on the Island — the Island Affordable Housing Fund, the Dukes County Regional Housing Authority and the Island Affordable Housing Trust — have created the Housing on the Tube Telethon, which takes place this weekend.
The second annual telethon starts this morning at 8 a.m. on Plum TV channel 76. The program will continue through Sunday, with eight to ten hours of live telethon programming each day. A collaboration between Island Affordable Housing Fund, Plum TV and Comcast, the event will feature an impressive lineup of talent over the course of three days.
The studio for the telethon was moved this year to the agricultural hall in West Tisbury, which will provide more space for the audience.
Last year the event netted an impressive $625,000-plus; the tentative goal this year has been set at $550,000, Mr. Manning said. “We’re going to be bigger and better this year, and I believe we can easily match or exceed last year’s tally. But we have set a target goal of $550,000 as a reasonable figure to shoot for [during the telethon],” he said.
For the first time this year, Plum TV will stream the telethon live on their Web site (plumtv.com) which opens the event up to a national audience.
Much like the annual Jerry Lewis telethon held to benefit children with muscular dystrophy, this weekend’s event will be a mix of entertainment and education about a pressing problem.
At a time when charitable giving is down, the innovative approach of a telethon has proven highly successful, Mr. Manning said.
A premiere kick-off celebration will also be held at the agricultural hall at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday. Musicians Jim Belushi and Jerry Bennett and the Sultans of Swing will take the stage at 7:30 p.m.
Food will be provided by well-known Island caterer Jaime Hamlin, along with Humphreys sandwiches, Saltwater Restaurant in Vineyard Haven and Slice of Life in Oak Bluffs.
Asked to assess the state of affordable housing on the Island, Mr. Manning said there is much to be excited about.
Last year marked the first time the Dukes County Regional Housing Authority had all its basic administrative functions funded by all six Island towns.
Last year also marked the first time towns contributed community preservation funds to the regional housing authority.
Mr. Manning said every time a longtime Islander leaves the Island because she cannot afford a place to live, the community loses part of its root system. And growing new roots can be difficult, as the demand for affordable housing continues to exceed the supply.
“But we’re making progress, little by little. We try to be realistic about the problem, but we don’t want to paralyze people into thinking it’s too late to make a difference, because it’s not. We have more exciting projects in the pipeline right now than ever; and we are doing things on this Island [to address the problem] that people in other parts of the country are only talking about,” he said. He concluded:
“This telethon fits right into that innovative approach. We don’t mind if people tune in just to be entertained, but we hope that in a few hours they will be moved and will find themselves reaching for their checkbooks. We hope this event reminds people that we are all in this together.”
Housing on the Tube runs from Friday through Sunday at the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society Hall in West Tisbury. The premier party is Saturday at 6:30 p.m. For more information, call the Island Affordable Housing Fund at 508-696-0943. Tickets can be purchased and donations can be made by visiting islandaffordable.org or by calling Plum TV at 508-696-1970.