Island women escaping homelessness have a powerful new ally in the Cottagers, Inc. Nearly 100 members strong, the all-female philanthropic group based in Oak Bluffs is teaming up with the nonprofit Harbor Homes, Inc. to provide needed furnishings and program support for the recently-opened women’s house on New York avenue.

“They’re helping to establish this as a comfortable place for the residents,” Harbor Homes executive director Karen Tewhey said Monday, during a gathering at the women’s house held to celebrate the new partnership.

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

“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 $15,000 check on Monday.

Jocelyn Coleman-Walton presenting a check for $15,000 to Harbor Homes. Executive directory Karen Tewhey accepts check for the organization. — Kevin Hooks

“You are addressing a real problem in our community and we are grateful for 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 for the women’s house. “Anything they want,” Ms. Coleman-Walton said.

In normal years, the Cottagers host fund-raising events such as their annual house tour in order to support the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, student scholarships and other causes. But members reached into their own pockets to come up with this week’s donation, Ms. Coleman-Walton said.

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

Gretchen Coleman-Thomas, a mentor at Harbor Homes, talks with board member Edward Vincent. — Kevin Hooks

Offices for Ms. Tewhey and case manager Maura Morrison are located on the sprawling first floor, with residences upstairs and parking in the rear. A roomy and bright shared kitchen in the basement was built with donated or at-cost materials and labor from local suppliers and contractors, said Island builder Doug Best, a Harbor Homes board member who oversaw the construction.

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

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

The women’s house currently has one vacancy, Ms. Tewhey said. Applicants must be at least 18, be homeless or at imminent risk of homelessness and earn no more than 30 per cent of the median family income in Dukes County.

The online application is posted at

More pictures.