The Vineyard Gazette – Martha’s Vineyard News

Island women fleeing homelessness have a powerful new ally in the Cottagers, Inc. With nearly 100 members, the all-female philanthropic group based in Oak Bluffs is partnering with the nonprofit Harbor Homes, Inc. to provide necessary furnishings and program support for the recently opened Women’s House on New York Avenue.

“They’re helping to make this place a comfortable place for residents,” Harbor Homes executive director Karen Twohey said Monday at a gathering at the women’s home to celebrate the new partnership.

Founded in 1956 by 10 women of color who owned homes in Oak Bluffs, Cottagers, Inc. was already in its seventh decade of supporting island causes when members learned of Harbor Homes’ plans for the women’s home.

“We wanted something special,” said Cottagers member Jocelyn Coleman Walton, who chairs the group’s ways and means committee and presented Harbor Homes with a check for $15,000 on Monday.

Jocelyn Coleman Walton presents a check for $15,000 to Harbor Homes. Executive Director Karen Tewhey accepts checks for the organization. — Kevin Hooks

“You are tackling a real issue in our community and we appreciate your vision,” she told Ms Tewhey.

“We can’t do this alone,” Ms Tewhey said.

The only restriction on the funds is that they must be spent on the women’s house. “Anything they want,” Ms. Coleman Walton said.

In normal years, the Cottagers hold fundraising events such as their annual home visit to support Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, scholarships, and other causes. But members dug into their own pockets to find this week’s donation, Ms Coleman Watson said.

They also brought four bright red Valentine’s Day gift bags for women aged 33 to 78 who moved into the house last November.

Cottage owner Gretchen Coleman-Thomas chats with Harbor Homes board member Edward Vincent. — Kevin Hooks

The offices of Ms Tewhey and case manager Maura Morrison are located on the sprawling first floor, with upstairs residences and parking to the rear. A spacious and bright common kitchen in the basement was built with materials and labor donated or at cost from local suppliers and contractors, said island builder Doug Best, a member of the Harbor Homes board of directors who oversaw construction.

The New York Avenue home is the second established by Harbor Homes, which also operates the island’s winter shelter program. A six-bedroom men’s home opened in 2020 on Tashmoo Avenue in Vineyard Haven.

Residents pay a monthly program fee of $450 which covers their housing and a case manager. Internet access and a computer are available in the common areas. House rules prohibit weapons, alcohol, marijuana, and illegal drugs, as well as sharing prescription drugs and lodging overnight guests.

The Women’s Home currently has a vacancy, Ms Tewhey said. Applicants must be at least 18 years old, homeless or at imminent risk of homelessness, and earning no more than 30% of Dukes County median family income.

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