The Vineyard’s once informal homelessness advocacy network made strides this week to establish new funding streams and greater permanence, with Harbor Homes making an offer on a house for low-income congregate living space, and the Island receiving a $200,000 state earmark for homelessness prevention.

The state earmark was secured by Cape and Islands state Sen. Julian Cyr and announced Saturday at a gathering in the county administrative building attended by Island clergy members, county officials and others.

The funding will include $50,000 to maintain Karen Tewhey’s position with the county as homelessness prevention coordinator and case manager, while $150,000 will go to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission to develop a broader housing plan that includes identifying housing needs by town, counting Island residents who are homeless or housing insecure, analyzing wastewater capacity by town, and then enumerating the money needed to meet those needs.

The money comes from a rare $700 million budget surplus that the state received for the 2019 fiscal year.

“Homelessness is one sort of urgent challenge that we have. The other is getting a sense of what our housing needs are Islandwide,” Senator Cyr said on Saturday. “Homelessness is a symptom of the housing crisis.”

On a related front, a group that has been working to help people who are homeless get back on their feet has formed new partnerships and secured private funding to buy a house.

Although the plan to buy property is still in the very early stages, Ms. Tewhey, who has worked part time for the county since 2016 and has spearheaded the Harbor Homes initiative, said it was made possible through a partnership with the nonprofit affordable housing developer Island Housing Trust and money from a private donor.

Harbor Homes of Martha’s Vineyard is dedicated to providing housing for Islanders at or below 30 per cent of the median family income. The model is based on a Cape Cod program called Homeless Not Hopeless, which offers housing and life counseling services for homeless residents on the Cape.

It all adds up to a growing recognition of homelessness as a manifestation of the Island’s shortage of affordable housing, while also shining a wider light on a population that has for a long time existed in the Island’s shadows.

Once a largely unknown demographic with an ad-hoc support network consisting of clergy and tireless volunteers, the Island homeless population has begun to receive more attention in recent years through the work of Ms. Tewhey and others who have dedicated themselves to data gathering, services

and advocacy. According to Ms. Tewhey, there are more than 120 critically homeless individuals living on the Island, finding shelter in cars, the state forest, motels and elsewhere. She said there are hundreds, and potentially thousands more who are housing insecure.

This marks the fourth year that Island clergy will provide winter shelter through the Houses of Grace program, an overnight warming shelter for homeless and housing insecure residents run by Rebecca Jamieson. The Rev. Chip Seadale said the winter shelter had a cot filled every night from Jan. 1 to March 31 of 2018.

But Ms. Tewhey said resources for homeless Islanders remain limited. “We have stuck crisis intervention pieces in place that are totally unsatisfactory, and unfortunately, there are still gaps,” Ms. Tewhey said.

One month ago, Ms. Tewhey and MVC executive director Adam Turner came to Mr. Cyr with separate funding requests. Ms. Tewhey wanted to ensure the Island could continue its emergency call services for homeless residents as well as provide a representative at the Cape and Islands’ regional network meetings where officials decide on homelessness resource allocation. Mr. Turner requested funds to conduct a homelessness and housing study on the Island, so the commission could create a comprehensive housing plan.

On Saturday, Senator Cyr made it clear that the state heard the calls for assistance.

“We have a real crisis on Martha’s Vineyard when it comes to housing,” he said. “We have a real estate market that is largely driven by second or even third or fourth home ownership. And it’s fundamentally changed how people make their lives in a community here.”

Island leaders vowed that the money would go not just toward data collection, but solutions.

“In the four years I’ve been here, we’ve talked about housing. The issue has been discussed many, many times,” Mr. Turner said. “But this is funding to look at solutions. I think that’s the most important piece that I can discuss . . . This grant will begin to provide real solutions.”

Island clergy, who have been on the front lines of homeless advocacy for decades, said stability for Ms. Tewhey’s position and recognition of the issue would help jolt further action.

“This kind of thing really gives us a shot in the arm,” Reverend Seadale said. “This is a way for the entire Island community to feel hopeful.”

Speaking about the property offer, Ms. Tewhey declined to disclose the location or price, but said elected officials had been supportive of the endeavor.

The plan calls for coming before towns for community preservation funds to help with the purchase of the house later this year.

“It’s pretty turn-key. We’re very excited,” she said. “We looked for a house where individuals would be comfortable sharing a kitchen, bathroom and common space areas. This would be very comfortable.”

The house will have six rooms and two shared kitchens. Residents will pay $450 a month for rent, and will be required to contribute to the maintenance of the house, participate in a weekly meeting and work with a case manager for professional guidance.

“It’s considered an educational nonprofit,” Ms. Tewhey explained. “There will be a screening of skills and people will set goals for themselves, and help make a plan to move out of poverty and take the next step in their lives.”

She said the offer would not have been possible without real estate expertise from IHT, which entered into a letter of intent to work with Harbor Homes last year. According to the agreement, Harbor Homes will own the home and the improvements to the structure, while IHT will own the land and ensure it is deed restricted for affordable housing long into the future.

The trust is a nonprofit dedicated to creating affordable housing on the Vineyard. Although much of its work services residents at or above the median family income, executive director Philippe Jordi said a partnership with Harbor Homes made sense because it allowed the organization to help ensure affordable housing for a broad spectrum of Islanders, from the very poor to those at 150 per cent of the median family income.

“They’re [Harbor Homes] looking to provide services,” Mr. Jordi said. “We provide real estate development . . . we wanted to lend our resources and services, and allow them to focus on what they need to be doing. Frankly, it’s been really just Karen and a group of wonderful volunteers who have been working with the churches to provide shelter. They’ve been doing a lot, and we felt we could help.”

Harbor Homes and IHT are still looking for funding to help with mortgage and down payments on the home. According to Mr. Jordi, the purchase will require a bridge loan and/or donations totaling $400,000 over the next month.

For Ms. Tewhey, that makes it all the more important to press on with her advocacy and management work. She said she received a call the day before from someone who had spent the night outside in below-freezing temperatures.

“We are hopeful about moving forward. There is still a critical population of people who are very, very vulnerable,” Ms. Tewhey said.