‘Give me shelter’

Art sale will support Harbor Homes in combating homelessness on-Island.

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An upcoming art sale at the Grange Hall will support Harbor Homes’ mission to eliminate homelessness on Martha’s Vineyard, and will also benefit local artists that contribute their work.

The gallery sale, called “Give me Shelter: An Art Sale to Benefit the Homeless on Martha’s Vineyard,” will begin at 2 pm on Tuesday, August 3, and go until 8:30 pm. There will be a reception from 5 to 8:30 pm where folks will be able to enjoy live music and refreshments as they peruse the art from a variety of different local artists.

On Wednesday, August 4, from 10 am to 5 pm, all the art will be on display and available for purchase, and David Stanwood will be playing “music to enjoy art by” as part of the sale. There will also be piano performances during the reception.

Jennifer Frank, chair of the development and outreach committee for Harbor Homes, said

50 percent of the proceeds from any art sold will go to Harbor Homes for their general operating fund, and the other 50 percent will go to the artists.

The art sale itself will be set up very much like an art gallery opening. Folks can show up and enjoy the art, and Frank said she hopes they will find a piece of art they love, and will want to help the cause. But anyone can attend the event, hear some music, and make a donation if they wish.

A Harbor Homes board member will speak at around 6 pm during the reception, and at least one Harbor Homes member will be present during the sale to answer any questions folks have about the homeless shelter program, or how folks can receive support even if they aren’t homeless.

Even though this is the first event of it’s kind for Harbor Homes, Frank said she hopes this will become an annual event that can garner support for and provide information around homelessness.

So far, Frank said she has seen a strong desire to support the cause from artists and members of the community.

For many on Martha’s Vineyard, particularly seasonal visitors and short-term residents, they are unaware of how prevalent homelessness is here, and have never even heard of Harbor Homes or their initiatives.

“I am a summer resident, and I only learned that there were homeless people on the Island about three or four years ago,” Frank said. “I felt shocked that such an Island like Martha’s Vineyard, with a lot of affluent people coming and spending the summers here, has people living here year-round that don’t have a safe and secure place to live — it felt like a problem that could be solved.”

She noted that the housing crisis on Martha’s Vineyard is making it harder and harder for low-to-middle income folks to find a consistent place to live, and there needs to be attention paid to this segment of the population.

“I feel it is our responsibility to help our community and make sure that everyone has a roof over their head, because everyone deserves to have that. Where can these people live and pay rent on the Island when they are only making $28,000 a year or less?” Frank said

Right now is a critical time for Harbor Homes, as they now have their men’s congregate house up and running which is currently serving six residents, and just recently purchased a property in Oak Bluffs that will serve as women’s congregate housing.

Harbor Homes also operates a winter shelter and daytime warming center, and has helped many homeless people on-Island by providing shelter in collaboration with partner hotels.

But the housing crisis on Martha’s Vineyard is driving up rental costs and making it difficult for some folks to maintain a steady living situation, or find one in the first place.

“We have more people who need housing than we are able to provide, and we have these different groups of people that are homeless that have different needs,” Frank said.

The art sale isn’t just meant to raise money for Harbor Homes and provide some money and recognition for local artists — Frank said she hopes the event will raise awareness and visibility surrounding homelessness on Martha’s Vineyard.

“We have about 100 people who are either homeless or living in substandard conditions. We have a lot more work to do in terms of providing housing for the rest of the community that’s living this way,” Frank said. “A lot of people aren’t even aware that homelessness exists on Martha’s Vineyard.”

Tanya Augoustinos, director and curator of A Gallery, is volunteering her time to curate art for the event. She said that together with artist Marjorie Mason, she has selected about two dozen artists who will have their work shown.

All artistic mediums will be represented, and all the artists being featured are locals, save for one guest artist — Christos Farantatos — who has had his art featured in shows in Boston and New York.

Augoustinos said she got involved in this initiative because she thinks homelessness is the number one problem on the Island right now. She stressed that the problem is serious, and should be met with a serious and immediate response.

“Ultimately, there are people who grew up here, who spent their whole lives here, and can’t afford to live here anymore. We are losing year-round long-term residents to the increase in housing costs. It’s easy to deal with something before it becomes a problem, but this is already a problem here,” she said. “Things happen in people’s lives — unexpected things, and it could happen to anybody, that’s what we all have to understand and remember.”