Harbor Homes of Martha’s Vineyard withdrew its proposal to create a permanent home base for its winter homeless shelter in Oak Bluffs this week in the face of overwhelming pushback from neighbors.

The organization began as Houses of Grace, creating homeless shelters each winter at various churches around the Island. For the past two years, Harbor Homes has maintained a shelter at a temporary location on the Martha’s Vineyard Community Services campus.

The organization was hoping to set up more permanent roots when a building that formerly housed hotel workers at 21 Hudson avenue came up for sale. Last week it went before the Oak Bluffs zoning board of appeals seeking permits to convert the building into a shelter.

But on Sunday, Harbor Homes’ new executive director Kristin Leutz announced that the nonprofit was pulling its application after the board referred the project to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission for further review. 

“The ZBA voted to send the proposal to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission for DRI, which would have significantly delayed the nonprofit’s ability to fulfill the terms of its contract to purchase the home, presenting insurmountable costs and challenges,” Harbor Homes said in a statement. 

The project, which was envisioned to shelter up to 19 people in the dormitory, also sought to create housing for families experiencing homelessness or domestic violence in an attached two-bedroom apartment.

Neighbors around Hudson avenue, while saying they supported the Harbor Homes’ mission, questioned the location. Several told the zoning board they feared for their children’s safety and about 40 people signed a petition against the project.

“This is a project that you’re bringing into a neighborhood of children,” said Lisa Silvia, who lives on nearby Barling avenue. “It is a direct route to our elementary school. I see children walking everyday.”

The community pushback also factored into Harbor Homes’ decision to withdraw its application.

“Given the outspoken opposition from neighbors on Hudson Ave., Harbor Homes staff realized it would not make sense to place at-risk individuals in a location where they are not welcomed into the neighborhood to build trusting relationships,” Harbor Homes said in the statement said.

The shelter is set to reopen this season on Nov. 1 at a building on the Martha’s Vineyard Community Services campus. Guests can stay from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m.

But the withdrawn application now leaves Harbor Homes without a firm place to land next year. The building in which the shelter is located is scheduled to be demolished.

In an interview with the Gazette, Ms Leutz said the search for a new location has resumed. One of the most attractive parts of the Hudson avenue property was that it was turnkey, she said, meaning the shelter could have moved in quickly. 

The nonprofit is now looking back at past potential sites and it may have to find a temporary solution if there are no turnkey options available. 

Ms. Leutz, who started earlier this month, was at the zoning board meeting and was heartened to hear that many opponents, while against the location, were still in favor of the group’s mission. 

“It really felt encouraging to me that the Martha’s Vineyard community is behind Harbor Homes and the people we serve,” she said. “With the opening, we look forward to people who shared their support of the mission get more involved.” 

Harbor Homes also asked people to reach out to the nonprofit if they had any ideas on a new location for the shelter that could work for the community.

“We know this need is not going away, it’s growing,” Ms. Leutz said. “We want to provide for everyone.”