Island veterans gathered with friends and family Thursday evening to celebrate the ongoing development of the Vineyard’s first-ever veterans affordable housing complex, which is on track to begin construction in early 2024.

The complex will be built in Oak Bluffs on a 3.4-acre lot at 50 Bellevue avenue, just off of County Road, and is designed to house up to 12 Island veterans. It is a combined effort of the Island Housing Trust (IHT), Oak Bluffs affordable housing committee, Martha’s Vineyard Community Services (MVCS) and Cape & Islands Veterans Outreach Center in Hyannis.

Representatives from each group addressed the crowd at a festively autumnal feast at the Portuguese American Club, emphasizing the project’s historic nature and the importance of protecting and uplifting those who have served.

If all goes according to plan, the new Oak Bluffs development could welcome veterans in 2025 — Jeanna Shepard

“I’m a 25-year veteran of the Army myself, and I understand the buddy system and the importance of having community support,” said Mark Leonard, chair of the affordable housing committee. “We all have to take care of each other, and that’s what this project does.”

The project is the brainchild of MVCS veterans outreach coordinator Bob Tankard and associate executive director Tom Bennett. The pair took a trip to the Cape and were inspired by the number of veteran housing options available there. With guidance from the veterans outreach center, the two became determined to establish veteran-designated homes on the Island.

“I just knew that we could put something together and that we could make it happen,” said Mr. Tankard.

Mr. Tankard is spearheading the complex’s development alongside IHT chief executive officer Philippe Jordi and veterans outreach center executive director Jim Seymour, but it continues to be largely influenced by the work of former MVCS veterans outreach coordinator Bill Stafursky, who passed away in 2018. In many ways, said Mr. Tankard, the project honors him.

“Billy was a veteran… and he was always helping people in whatever way he could and inviting them to stay with us,” said Mr. Stafursky’s wife, Margaret Stafursky. “I think he would agree that it’s time for this Island to start taking care of its veterans and build them a home.”

The complex will consist of three separate houses with four, 650-square foot single-bedroom apartments. There will also be an on-site resource center where residents can participate in group activities, use shared computers and more.

Construction is estimated to cost $5 million and will be largely funded by the state and all six Island towns.

“Individual support from the community is really important, too,” said Mr. Jordi. “Everything helps, and it really shows the state how much this Island has this project’s back.”

If everything falls into place, he added, the complex will be ready to welcome its residents by the end of 2025.