Island homeless count set to begin

Volunteers will try to identify the number of homeless people on Martha’s Vineyard who may qualify for state funding or services.


Island advocates for the homeless were scheduled to conduct a “point in time” homeless census beginning Wednesday evening, part of a Dukes County initiative in cooperation with the Cape & Islands Regional Network to Address Homelessness.

“What we’re looking for is where we might find the homeless,” said Ewell Hopkins, a member of the Oak Bluffs planning board who has been active in affordable-housing issues. “The homeless issue here is so invisible. In urban settings, you can identify the locations where homeless people are. We have a lot of people on the edge, who are close to being homeless, but we have such a charitable community, there’s such informal support, they don’t qualify as homeless.”

Mr. Hopkins said past efforts to quantify the number of homeless people on Martha’s Vineyard were ineffective, hampering efforts to apply for state funding to help them.

Response teams will be available Feb. 25 to 27 to follow up on any reports from the public. The teams want to hear from residents who know of people sleeping in a vehicle, a shed, an abandoned building, or any other structure that is not ordinarily used as a regular place to sleep. People who know where homeless people may go during the day, or where they get services, are encouraged to volunteer that information for the homeless survey.

“Information collected is used for statistical purposes only, and will be treated as confidential,” according to an email statement from the group. “No full names or other personal identification information are necessary. Participation is voluntary, and refusal to participate will not result in any refusal of services.”

To notify the organization about a person who is homeless, contact Oak Bluffs planning board member Ewell Hopkins (508-560-4912), Tisbury selectman and county commissioner Tristan Israel (774-563-0707), or Oak Bluffs Affordable Housing Committee member Marie Doubleday (508-208-6070).