“I never, ever, imagined moving to Martha’s Vineyard I would have to worry about homelessness,” Rev. Chip Seadale said to a room full of Islanders Thursday evening. “And I can tell you, I don’t think you feel tinier than when you are a clergy person and someone comes to you and says, ‘my son who is in the high school and I are sleeping in the car’. And it’s February, and it’s pitch black. And you have very little money in the till. The worst feeling is when someone comes to you and there is really not much you can do.”

Reverend Seadale’s comments were part of a conversation about homelessness on Martha’s Vineyard among Island clergy and other community advocates held at the West Tisbury Public Library. The conversation shed light on the gravity and severity of the Island’s housing shortage, but offered practical solutions to sheltering the Island’s homeless, including a new initiative by Island churches to provide emergency housing for those without a home.

A successful effort made by churches in Hyannis and Wareham to provide shelter to the homeless is being mirrored on the Vineyard, Reverend Seadale announced Thursday.

Outgoing associate county commissioner for the homeless Connie Teixeira was honored Thursday. — Megan Cerullo

“At first it’s kind of scary to open up your doors for anybody to come through. So for a few months the question was, are our congregations ready to do this?” he said.

“But we called a meeting for people of the Cape communities this past February and I was astonished at how many people showed up,” he continued. “We had probably 25 to 30 people there, and I got commitments from everyone.”

From Jan. 1, through March 31, at least two churches on the Island will be open every night to those in need of sustenance and a roof over their heads. St. Andrew’s Church and the Federated Church, both in Edgartown, have agreed to serve as host sites for the program, which is called Hospitality Homes.

“The other faith communities provide human resources to staff overnights and make simple dinners, simple breakfasts, and I said, you are kidding me, we have been looking for this forever,” said Reverend Seadale, referring to the model provided by the Cape churches.

In tandem with this new initiative from the Island clergy, Reverend Seadale also announced that state Rep. Tim Madden’s office would be providing funding an associate county commissioner for the homeless, a formerly unpaid role that outgoing commissioner Connie Teixeira occupied for the nine years.

Reverend Cathlin Baker of West Tisbury’s First Congregational Church wished Ms. Teixeira well and presented her with a gift as thanks for her service to the community. “Our gift to you is a lantern because you were the one that shined the light on homelessness for all these years,” she said. “You put a spotlight on the issue and led us and guided us and you will continue to be our guiding light.”

“We love you and are so grateful to you,” Reverend Baker continued.

Ms. Teixeira thanked the community for its support. “It’s really about you helping me do what God sent me to do,” she said.

“You find the place where it is about time for my baby to go to kindergarten,” she said metaphorically about her support for the homeless community. “So I have to now open my hand and let go and know that it can get on the bus and travel along and I don’t have to be over there to oversee the whole thing. I want to thank each and every one of you for getting involved and raising my baby.”

Opera singer Lia Kahler took the spotlight toward the end of the evening and closed with a dramatic performance of Summertime, with Phil Dietterich accompanying her on piano. The performance was a sneak preview of Ms. Kahler’s benefit concert for the Island homeless and veterans, which is scheduled for Sept. 20 at 3 p.m. at the Old Whaling Church.