Hospitality Homes is making sure no one on the Vineyard is cold this winter. The program, sponsored by the Martha's Vineyard Island Clergy Association, invites men, women and families in need to spend a warm night inside.
From Friday, January 1 through Thursday, March 31, three island churches will open their doors from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. to anyone who is homeless, out of heating fuel or just needs a warm place to stay.
The churches will rotate through a weekly shedule. On Monday and Thursday nights, the Federated Church at 45 South Summer Street in Edgartown will be open. On Friday nights, Grace Episcopal Church on Woodlawn Ave. in Vineyard Haven will be open. Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday nights, St. Andrew's Episcopal Church at 34 North Summer Street in Edgartown will be open.
On each of the nights, those taking shelter will be provided with bedding, dinner and breakfast. The evenings will be safe, secure and warm and will be supervised by volunteers from each of the churches.
Reverend Vincent "Chip" Seadale of St. Andrew's said the clergy association has been holding public meetings about the program since last March. "It's been quite a phenomena" he said of the number of people who showed up at the meetings, 30-40 new faces each time. By September the association believed that had enough volunteers to staff the program (four adults would be needed to volunteer at each overnight--350+ "shifts" for the entirety of the program). Volunteers sign-up via an online program and are able to pick dates based on real-time availability.
Reverend Seadale said the program is based on a similar program operated in the Wareham-area called Nights of Hospitality (operating this year from December 27 through March 19). That program was developed by a fellow clergyman at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Wareham.
The Vineyard version of the program is an interfaith project, according to Reverend Seadale who said 14 to 15 different faith communities are participating. Organizers aren't sure how long it will take for the program to become a success. They know it will take time to build trust and word of mouth to get to the people who will benefit the most from the program.