At a recent Dukes County Health Council meeting, those present witnessed what a community responsive hospital looks like. This is to congratulate Martha’s Vineyard Hospital CEO Denise Schepici and her team on recognizing a serious community health need and acting immediately to put a solution in motion.

Council members heard a brief presentation from Karen Tewhey, director of the new Harbor Homes. Karen summarized the coming plight of chronically homeless individuals on the Island. She reported that due to Covid 19, the volunteer system for staffing the warming day center, and House of Grace overnight shelter (rotating church function rooms) would not be offered due to the virus risk to the largely over-60 volunteer staff. The consequence of no shelters in approaching cold/winter season would likely result in chronically homeless individuals committing minor offenses to secure shelter in local holding cells, possibly enter vacant summer residences to get out of the cold, and probably set up tents in the state forest, risking, fire, freezing and Covid spread. The issue of chronic homelessness on the Island has always been addressed more in the spirit of charity, with great sympathy and less as an institutional problem, requiring a systemic response.

To her credit and the credit of the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, Ms Schepici recognized this as a serious threat to public health exacerbated by the Covid pandemic, and volunteered to offer a grant to support a full-time person to develop a plan and resources to deal with chronic homelessness as a systemic issue. And for the immediate need, the hospital offered support for paid staff for the current warming center and House of Grace.

This is what a community hospital, responsive to community needs looks like.

Thank you for making the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital in this image.

Victor Capoccia

Vineyard Haven