MVRHS committee debate over homeless shelter request

A public hearing for MVRHS fiscal year 2024 budget is set for Nov. 29. 

The MVRHS committee kicking off the meeting.

A request from Martha’s Vineyard Community Services (MVCS) to allow Harbor Homes to use its campus for the homeless shelter program met some resistance during the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) committee meeting on Monday evening. 

Despite some opposition, it was approved by a 6-3 vote, with committee members Kimberly Kirk, Kathryn Shertzer, and Louis Paciello casting the dissenting votes. 

“Last year, we did extensive work to obtain approval to operate the homeless shelter of Harbor Homes on the MVCS campus,” committee chair Robert Lionette read from the MVCS letter. “We had no incidents, and it was a perfect location. Harbor Homes has asked to use the site again.”

The committee voted on this issue since MVRHS is the owner of the campus. If it gets all the other necessary approvals, the shelter would open on Nov. 22. Last year’s request was for one year, which MVCS supports having again. Lionette said the request came in late because Harbor Homes and MVCS had incorrect addresses for him, so the letter “bounced around a lot.” 

Committee member Skipper Manter said since this is a continuation of an activity that was approved last year, he did not see an issue with it. Manter later made a motion to approve the request, contingent upon the acquisition of the necessary permits and approval from relevant Oak Bluffs boards and committees.

“We had no incidents to report. It was smooth last year,” MVRHS Principal Sara Dingledy said before the vote. 

Some of the committee members expressed concern that approving the shelter could be setting a precedent. “Last year when we talked about this, it was just a short-term fix,” Kirk said. “I would have liked the opportunity to ask the representatives of Harbor Homes, Is this going to be now a long-term solution? A new location so that we’re going to be doing this each year?”

Kirk said that it may be fine for this precedent to take hold, but she wanted more details on “where we’re going with this.” Lionette said that is “totally appropriate,” and suggested the possibility of Harbor Homes participating in the Dec. 15 committee meeting. 

“I personally need to hear that before I can feel like … I’m in a position to vote,” Kirk said. 

Shertzer concurred with Kirk’s concerns. Shertzer said she had pointed out last year that this issue would “come back” before the committee.

“I specifically asked ‘will you be asking for this next year?’ and they said ‘no, this is a one year only,’” Shertzer said, adding that she wants to know Harbor Homes’ plans for the future, and what MVCS uses the space for when the shelter is not in place. 

Superintendent Richie Smith clarified that the space is primarily used for storage by MVCS.

Manter pointed out the urgency of the request, although he did not want to dismiss the concerns of his fellow members.

Kirk said she understands the urgency, and that it is a good cause, but the committee needs to have “some questions answered.” In particular, she brought up how there was a formal request that acted “as a documented contract as a part of the lease agreement,” compared with an email this year. 

The request was passed after more discussion, with an adjusted motion to include a version of the previous year’s document with an updated signature, to reflect what will happen this winter. 

“However, I will reach out to both Harbor Homes and MVCS and see if we can do something on [Dec. 15],” Lionette said. 

In other business, a public hearing about the proposed MVRHS budget for fiscal year 2024 will take place as a hybrid meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 29, at 7 pm. The in-person location is at the MVRHS library. 

The committee unanimously approved an athletics subcommittee consisting of Paciello, Shertzer, Michael Watts, Kris O’Brien, and Kirk. Kirk will act as the initial chair. 

The committee unanimously approved several grants, which totaled $140,138. These were $100,000 from the Peter and Elizabeth Tower Foundation, $3,500 from the NEA Foundation, $19,988 from federal and state grants, and $16,650 from the Sound Foundation. 


  1. Harbor Homes is a worthy non-profit organization that provides housing for homeless and poor. Please enact a real estate tax on all residential, corporate owners to expand, buy or construct tiny homes or group homes for each town across the entire island.

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