On Monday, Harbor Homes of Martha’s Vineyard dedicated its newly opened, six-bedroom home on Tashmoo avenue in Vineyard Haven. The moment was shared live via Zoom to various constituencies and benefactors who made the moment possible.

The organization also announced a $50,000 matching grant challenge by the Methodist Society of Martha's Vineyard.

Harbor Homes was formed to provide a home for Islanders who do not qualify for affordable housing because they fall below the required income threshold. The idea is modeled on a Cape Cod program called Homeless Not Hopeless and combines group housing with counseling services.

After three years of collaborative effort from numerous individuals and entities, Harbor Homes purchased the house on Tashmoo avenue for $800,000. This June, six men moved in, paying a modest monthly fee.

Karen Tewhey, executive director of Harbor Homes, said the most challenging part of bringing the project to life was trying to sell a new concept without a physical program or house. Now, with a finished home and tenants working towards established goals with help from professionals, Harbor Homes is looking to carry out its mission to “ensure that everyone on Martha’s Vineyard, regardless of income level, has a safe and secure place to live,” Ms. Tewhey said.

The organization envisions a second house down the road aimed at helping women and children. 

David Vigneault, board member of Harbor Homes and executive director of the Dukes County Regional Housing Authority, said the need to support homeless individuals on the Island is observed daily at the Dukes County Regional Housing Authority.

“Individuals and families of all types deal with the near-total absence of housing options for folks with very low incomes, ongoing mental health issues or substance and alcohol recovery efforts,” Mr. Vigneault said. “Harbor Homes represents a first and important step. This program, this home, provides support to Islanders working personally to take their next steps out of homelessness.”

The Rev. Chip Seadale, board member of Harbor Homes and rector of St. Andrew’s Church in Edgartown, agreed. “We’re just tickled to death that we have this place behind us that offers people a chance to change their lives . . .  Our hearts are in this, it’s been a tremendous gift to see this come about in this way.”

Board member Rise Terney said that the coronavirus pandemic has only increased the issue of homelessness on the Island.

“It will grow and become more pervasive as more and more people face economic insecurity and are less able to afford the high cost of living on Martha’s Vineyard,” she said.

Ms. Terney added that highly skilled professionals to assist the tenants in achieving their goals as well as donations to offset operating expenses not covered by rent payments are still needed.

“We are turning to you, as part of the Vineyard community,” she said. “There is no alternative housing for so many people here on the Vineyard.”