Harbor Homes looking for winter shelter support

On its way to reopen a shelter for those experiencing homelessness, organization looks to community for staff, volunteers, and another facility.

St. Andrew's in Edgartown will once again host an overnight shelter this winter. — Monica Busch

Harbor Homes is looking to reopen its winter shelters, and is reaching out to the community for a final push of support.

A winter shelter has been operated by Island clergy for the past six years until last year, when Harbor Homes, a nonprofit organization leading the way in providing respite to people experiencing homelessness, secured space at the Old Whaling Church in Edgartown to open an afternoon warming shelter and an overnight shelter. The shelters at the Whaling Church were made possible in part through a $150,000 grant from the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital and a $10,000 donation from Bad Martha’s to buy food.

This year, without the significant influx of funding, Harbor Homes is proposing to reopen its overnight shelter from November to March, from 6 pm to 8 am. Saint Andrew’s Church and the Federated Church of Martha’s Vineyard, both in Edgartown, will be hosting the shelter. Saint Andrew’s will host four nights, and the Federated will host two nights.

With six nights secured, Harbor Homes is looking to make a final push for support to get the shelter up and running by November.

“What we are still in need of is space for one night to operate the shelter, and we’re recruiting for paid staff for the overnight shift and volunteer staff for the dinnertime shift,” Tewhey said.

Volunteers are needed for the 6 to 8:30 pm shift to give out meals, and paid staff for overnight shifts.

Additionally, Harbor Homes is looking to secure a facility to use as a warming shelter during the winter, most likely from 12 to 2 pm. The warming shelter would provide those experiencing homelessness a chance to come in from the cold, warm up, and have lunch.

Last year, COVID restrictions limited the number of people that could be at the shelter, but with case numbers low and the vaccine available, restrictions have been eased. Still, Tewhey said, precautions will still be taken.

“We will screen people and take their temperature when they come in the shelter, we will still be sanitizing, and people will be required to wear masks,” Tewhey said. “But we don’t have a cap on the number of people.”

On average, five to eight people spend the night at the shelter, according to Tewhey. For the past six years, there have been a total of 25 people every winter who stay for one night or for the full season.

Along with the churches, Harbor Homes is working with the hospital, which is funding Lisa Belcastro’s shelter coordinator position.

The shelters will be operated by some paid staff and volunteers. Those who would like to apply for the paid overnight staff position or as a volunteer should contact Tewhey at harborhomesmv@gmail.com. Food and monetary donations are also welcome.

“We’ve really been fortunate in the past, and we anticipate people will be supportive this year as well,” Tewhey said.


  1. With so many churches on MV, of all denominations, why is it so hard to find one to host a single evening?
    To my mind it lays bare the selfish hypocrisy of so many established churches unwilling to share their “houses of worship” with those less fortunate.
    Maybe time to revisit their religious tax exemptions.

    • What is your church doing about the homeless problem?
      How much do Island churches contribute to the homeless?
      Should it be just churches that should take in the homeless?
      What about synagogues temples and mosques?
      If you accepted Jesus Christ as you personal savior should be required to take in the homeless?
      What else beyond taking in the homeless should churches be required to do to maintain their religious tax exemptions?
      Praise the Lord?

  2. Perhaps it’s more complicated than that. Do other island churches have the beds, adequate bathroom facilities, insurance, etc.? Just because they’re homeless, doesn’t mean that they should be satisfied with sleeping on a bare floor and taking a whiz outside in 30 degree weather. If they’re doing it, it should be done right.

  3. I was recently stunned to learn that the Preservation Trust didn’t donate the use of the OW Church to Harbor Homes free of charge last year — or at least rent it only at cost (utilities, insurance rider and such). The Church was off limits to other activity anyway, due to Covid. SMH.

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