Vineyard House begins campaign for a new facility
Photo by Ralph Stewart
The Vineyard House program was launched in 1997 to give a fresh start to Islanders in early recovery from drug or alcohol addiction. According to board president Mark Jenkins, the residential facility "offers a transitional living situation for people who are coming out of detox or rehab and going back to live on their own."
The nonprofit organization is launching a major capital campaign in an effort to relocate from their current less than adequate facilities — three single-family homes in Oak Bluffs — to one purpose-built campus in Vineyard Haven.
A substantial matching grant by seasonal Chilmark residents Joel Greenberg and Marcy Gringlas spurred the Vineyard House to move from the quiet phase of their ongoing capital campaign. The grant will match any donation of more than $5,000
The Vineyard House made the official announcement of the campaign last month. Between the eventual sale of their existing properties and money raised through ongoing fundraising efforts, the organization still needs to raise $1 million of the projected $3 million budget.
Currently residents are housed in three converted homes which, collectively, can accommodate 23 people. The new facility will be located on 4.4 acres off Holmes Hole Road in Tisbury's B1 commercial district. The land has already been purchased. The proposed campus will incorporate five buildings — two men's houses, one women's house, an office building, and a common building containing a manager's apartment, senior resident quarters, and a meeting room for 12-step support groups. The residential units will accommodate 24 people in double-occupancy rooms.
Mr. Jenkins said that the five-structure building plan, developed by architectural firm Mashek McLean and contractor John Early, has been designed to have a low visual impact in the neighborhood and to provide residents with a comfortable, non-institutional environment.
The current facilities include the original Vineyard House which was donated to the organization by a private citizen in 1997, and two other converted single family homes. The two men's houses are currently on the market. According to Mr. Jenkins, the new buildings will cut down on maintenance, be more energy efficient, eliminate the need for the current rented office space in Vineyard Haven and, by consolidating the compound, operate more efficiently and require less staffing.
Furthermore, Mr. Jenkins believes that the new facility will more effectively serve the residents. "Our goal is to get people back on their feet and back into the mainstream of society," he said. "What we are going to offer is a much better environment. It's more secluded, more serene. It will provide a more cohesive community. We'll be able to better serve our client base and because of that we feel that we'll be able to have better outcomes."
He believes that residents will be encouraged to extend the time spent in a safe environment. "Statistically, the longer people stay, the more likely they will stay sober and achieve the success we hope for them," he said.
The Vineyard House has served more than 500 individuals over the course of its 15 years. Residents, who must be employed, pay $130 a week for a bed in a double-occupancy room. They are required to do chores, attend 12-step meetings and house meetings, submit to random drug testing, maintain health insurance and attend an outpatient addiction program offered by Martha's Vineyard Community Services.
"We do not offer treatment," Mr. Jenkins said. "But we do offer a sober living situation so people can develop skills and learn what it's like to live sober."
The houses' demographics include people from ages 18 to late 60s and from professionals to those who have had trouble keeping a job or are just entering the work force. Some come from the court system, but most enter the program voluntarily.
Residents are asked to commit to a six-month stay, although a year is recommended. Anyone found using a substance while in the home is asked to leave but can reapply after two weeks if they are drug and alcohol free.
After six months, residents may become eligible to transition to senior resident status and have their rent reduced in exchange for duties, such as administering drug tests. House managers come from the recovery community and are often former residents. Their rent is subsidized and they receive a stipend for overseeing the house.
According to Mr. Jenkins, being part of a recovery community and being required to adhere to a certain amount of structure and a level of responsibility has proven a successful model. The alternative — returning to an unsafe or isolated living situation, or facing homelessness — can often lead to relapse.
"We're a grassroots organization," Mr. Jenkins said. "We take care of people who often don't have a voice." He notes that the courts, law enforcement and the community at large have long supported the Vineyard House. A number of individuals have already made substantial donations to the capital campaign. Money raised includes a leadership grant of $500,000 from an anonymous seasonal resident of West Tisbury, and at least one other six-figure pledge.
Mr. Jenkins said that any size donation — even $5 or $10 — is welcome and much appreciated. Visit vineyardhouse.org to help support the capital campaign effort.