Following on its June 2020 establishment of a group home in Vineyard Haven for formerly homeless men, Harbor Homes of Martha’s Vineyard is preparing to launch a similar property for women in Oak Bluffs.

“We are passing papers on a house at the end of April,” the nonprofit’s executive director, Karen Tewhey, told the Gazette late last week.

The former bed and breakfast at 111 New York avenue is part of a larger property once known as the Martha’s Vineyard Resort and Racquet Club, although Ms. Tewhey said most of the playing courts on the land are not included in the upcoming transaction.

“I think we have half a tennis court,” she said.

Former racquet and tennis club on New York avenue in Oak Bluffs. — Ray Ewing

The three-story building, with a prominent porch in front, has five bedroom-bathroom suites, as well as a common kitchen and lounge area, Ms. Tewhey said.

Harbor Homes is partnering with the nonprofit Island Housing Trust in the venture.

“They are assisting us by giving us a significant donation as well as helping us arrange a bridge loan to purchase the property,” Ms. Tewhey said.

The purchase price has not been disclosed yet.

IHT will hold the ground lease on the property, while Harbor Homes will own the house and be responsible for improvements and operating the program, Ms. Tewhey also said.

While the plan is to prioritize women at risk of homelessness, she said there may be room for a family.

“One [suite] has two small bedrooms,” Ms. Tewhey said. “We’re thinking possibly a single parent might move in there with one child.”

The house, which has two floors above a walk-out basement, will likely also become the nonprofit’s headquarters.

“We’ll probably be setting up some office space on the first floor for staff who could address the housing crisis of other residents on the Island who are facing homelessness,” Ms. Tewhey said.

But first, the property needs some work.

“The house needs renovation prior to anybody moving in,” she said. “We’re hoping it will be the beginning of the summer.”

Women 18 and older who are interested in living on the property can fill out a brief pre-application at, or contact Ms. Tewhey directly at or 978-273-0533.

“We’re collecting pre-applications now,” she said. “We’ll be outreaching once we own the house.”

There’s no time limit to the amount of time a resident may stay, Ms. Tewhey said. A program fee of $450 a month will be charged for each room, and residents will be expected to help keep common areas clean.

Along with a permanent home, residents will have access to a Harbor Homes caseworker who can connect them with services for mental and bodily health, employment, education and other resources, she said.

Applicants for rooms must earn less than 30 per cent of the regional median income, which works out to about $22,000, Ms. Tewhey said.

“You have to have an income below that to be eligible, and be facing homelessness,” she said.

The home will not have a resident supervisor: “People need to live responsibly and independently, or have the capacity to live responsibly and independently,” Ms. Tewhey said.

For that reason, she said, the program does not accept applicants with active alcoholism or other substance abuse disorders.

“We encourage them to go to recovery first and then apply,” she said.

In addition to its existing and planned group houses, Harbor Homes also operates the Island’s winter shelter, which was founded by local clergy and is now located in Edgartown’s Old Whaling Church.

But permanent, congregate living spaces remain the nonprofit’s main focus as it seeks to help homeless Islanders move out of poverty.

“Our first house in Vineyard Haven has been a tremendous success,” Ms. Tewhey said. “We have six gentlemen living there. They’re all at least part time employed. It’s a wonderfully supportive environment.”

More information about Harbor Homes can be found at