|Karen Tewhey, HAC’s HCEC housing counselor on Martha’s Vineyard.
What can $81,658 buy on Martha’s Vineyard? Housing for seven of the island’s homeless.
That is exactly how HAC will use that money, which was awarded to the agency last month, courtesy of a Continuum of Care grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. “It’s the first time in many years Martha’s Vineyard has gotten funding from the [Continuum of Care] so we’re incredibly excited,” said Karen Tewhey, HAC’s Housing Consumer Education Center housing counselor on the island.
Tewhey, who wrote the grant, said roughly half of it will go to rent a year-round permanent home for seven homeless men who have strong roots on the island. The remainder will be used to cover the cost of a program manager who will also reside in the house.
“We are looking at potential sites right now,” Tewhey said, with the goal of opening the home at some point this year.
As part of the program, Tewhey said, HAC is currently seeking additional funding for a case manager who will work with each individual, connecting them to medical, mental health, education and employment services needed for them to become self-sufficient.
The HUD grant serves as a long-term compliment to a short-term one that the United Way of Cape Cod is funding to help address homelessness on the Vineyard. That grant is paying for homeless individuals and families to stay in four island hotels over the winter months.
Tewhey, who celebrates her one-year anniversary at HAC this month, said that there have been 80 individuals on the Vineyard who have been identified since last January that are homeless. “The majority of those individuals end up couch surfing,” she said. “We do have probably up to two dozen individuals who have been unsheltered, living outside or in their cars or in sheds.”
These people serve as a reminder of the disparity of wealth that exists on Martha’s Vineyard. “This is primarily a service economy and this is an extraordinarily expensive place to purchase real estate,” she said. “So many people are dependent on rentals and there is a rental housing crisis on the island. We probably need about 1,000 units of rental housing here.”