Safe. Secure. Warm. Concepts not so difficult for most people on Martha’s Vineyard. Unless you find your summer savings drained by February, or your basement apartment no longer available because the home was sold. Or you are struggling with addiction.

This winter, three Island churches, a dedicated team of clergy, and more than 170 volunteers have made that promise to the Island community. Safety, security, warmth. They will throw in healthy meals, too.

Beginning in January, those who need shelter can find it at the Federated Church in Edgartown, St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, also in Edgartown, or at the Grace Episcopal Church in Vineyard Haven. Seven nights a week one of the three churches will provide shelter and meals to men, women and families who need a place to get in out of the cold.

“Once there’s enough people that decide something’s going to have to happen, it will get done,” said Father Vincent (Chip) Seadale, of St. Andrew’s.

There will be shelter available every night of the week from January 1, 2016 through March 31, 2016. Shelter is available from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. Guests must be inside by 8 p.m. If no one arrives by then, the shelter will shut down for the night.

Along with St. Andrew's (pictured), people will be housed at the Federated Church in Edgartown and Grace Church in Vineyard Haven. — Mark Alan Lovewell

The clergy who organized the program, called Hospitality Homes, put their faith in Island residents by asking for volunteers to staff the church shelters, and provide other services. But even they were astonished at the response. About 150 people signed up to help. More than 70 have already completed training sessions to prepare them for shelter duty. Others have volunteered to provide food or supplies. The volunteer list is still growing.

“This is truly a caring and compassionate Island where people just don’t talk, they step up and do something,” said Dorie Godfrey, one of four weekly coordinators in the tightly organized structure of church shelters.

“It was so telling to see how many people turned out for something like this,” Father Chip said. “There are people out there that really want to address something that’s a really big issue, a tough issue, a complex issue.”

The churches have borrowed heavily from a similar program in Wareham as a model for the winter shelter program.

The three churches will rotate as hosts. On Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday nights, St. Andrews Episcopal Church at 34 North Summer street in Edgartown will open its doors, if needed. On Monday and Thursday nights, The Federated Church at 45 South Summer street will serve as a shelter. On Friday nights, Grace Episcopal Church at the corner of Woodlawn avenue and Williams street in Vineyard Haven will be the host.

Father Chip said it will take some time to gain trust.

“I don’t know if we’ll get a lot of people right away, we suspect we won’t,” he said. “Most people that are unhoused prefer not to be known. They’re very good at being invisible.”

Each church will provide shelter space, cooking facilities, bathrooms, mattresses and blankets. Each weekly coordinator will schedule volunteers and provide or arrange for supper and breakfast. The shelter volunteers will coordinate with the popular Community Supper programs held by churches around the Island, to provide some of the meals.

Volunteers will serve one of two shifts. The first shift will arrive at 6:30 p.m., prepare the evening meal, clean up and staff the shelter space until 10:30 p.m. The overnight shift arrives at 10 p.m., sleeps over, prepares breakfast and departs at 7 a.m.

Derek Fairchild-Coppoletti has signed up for the overnight shift.

“I’m a bit of a night owl,” he said. He expects his volunteer service to be an enriching experience, and he wants to set an example for his two sons.

“This is something we can and must do for the community,” he said. “I think it’s definitely the right answer to provide for those who otherwise would be at real risk and peril.”

Based on the experience of similar programs, organizers have established some strict rules and policies. They will advise guests that there is a zero tolerance policy on the rules. Break them and you will have to leave.

Among the rules, anyone who needs shelter must arrive by 8 p.m. It’s lights out at 9 p.m., and everyone must leave the shelter space by 7 a.m. the next morning.

During training sessions there were some frank questions about safety, and how to handle guests who may have addictions or mental health issues. There are clear rules for those situations, too.

Alcohol, drugs or weapons of any kind are not permitted on the church property. Inconsiderate or aggressive behavior will not be tolerated. Volunteers are trained in techniques to defuse conflict, while strictly enforcing the rules.

“When someone first comes in we sit down with them and go over all the rules,” Father Chip said. “One of them is, if it’s time for you to leave, we will call the police.”

Reverend Cathlin Baker of the First Congregational Church in West Tisbury said no one is really sure of the scope of the problem on Martha’s Vineyard. She said the shelter program will help assess the problem with real experience, while raising consciousness in a broad way.

“We, as the clergy, have been trying to put little Band-Aids on this here and there, and feeling overwhelmed and ineffective,” Rev. Baker said. “We see too many of our good community folks having to leave the Island if there’s some kind of crisis. We can do better.”

For more information or to volunteer, contact St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church at 508-627-5330, Edgartown Federated Church at 508-627-4662, Grace Episcopal Church at 508-693-0332 or the West Tisbury Congregational Church at 508-693-2842.