Less than a month after a fire sent contaminated smoke billowing throughout the Havenside elderly housing complex in Vineyard Haven, nearly all of the displaced residents have returned — though most of their belongings are gone forever.

An appeal for donations on the GoFundMe web platform seeks to raise up to $100,000 for the nine Havenside tenants evacuated after the fire.

“They’ve lost furniture, clothing, food,” said Jerimiah Miller, Havenside’s manager for buildings and grounds, this week. 

“Many of them didn’t have any kind of rental insurance policies,” he said.

All of the residents at Havenside were displaced in the wake of the fire. — Ray Ewing

The fire broke out May 28 in the kitchen of a vacant Havenside unit that had just been cleaned for new tenants expecting to move in June 1.

It was the first serious fire in Havenside’s nearly 50-year history, Mr. Miller said, and left the facility uninhabitable for weeks.

Although Tisbury firefighters responded quickly and quelled the flames before they spread to occupied apartments, he said, the entire complex filled up with smoke laden with burned building materials.

“It’s all the oils that are in the plastics, the woods [and] the polyurethanes — they carry everywhere,” he said.

Once the smoke cleared, the residue remained on every surface, Mr. Miller said.

“It’s like that greasy pan in your sink that you can never quite get clean,” he said.

All of the apartments have had to be deep-cleaned, with some also needing new floors and walls, Mr. Miller said.

Havenside is raising money to help residents get back on their feet. — Ray Ewing

Seven of the tenants — most of whom are in their 70s, 80s and 90s — have now moved back in, he said, with another due back this week and the last expected to return next week.

Along with the loss of their personal property, Mr. Miller said, Havenside tenants are also feeling trauma from the fire, evacuation and aftermath.

“They need support and an ear and a hug,” he said. “The fire smolders on in that regard.”

The burned Havenside apartment is still being remediated, with construction unlikely to begin until next month, Mr. Miller said, adding that the tenants who were due to move in on June 1 have interim housing until their place is ready.

Mr. Miller said he and Havenside operations manager Lucinda Kent created the GoFundMe donation drive in order to replace tenants’ lost items and rebuild the Havenside operating budget, which has been hit hard by hotel bills for the displaced seniors.

While Havenside was able to book rooms at the Mansion House with a modest discount, the costs have mounted steeply, Mr. Miller told the Gazette.

The fire started on a stovetop, according to Mr. Miller. — Ray Ewing

The Vineyard’s only private nonprofit for affordable elderly housing, Havenside funds its operating budget entirely from tenants’ rent payments, he said.

While it was founded in association with the Episcopal Church, and still has a church representative on its board, Havenside has no other affiliation with the denomination, Mr. Miller said. 

The $100,000 online fund-raising goal, if met, would provide $10,000 to each tenant to replace lost belongings and $10,000 for Havenside to help recoup its losses from the fire and aftermath, he said.

“Insurance will cover some things, but there’s still going to be an impact, financially,” Mr. Miller said.

“We’re taking care of our residents — that’s first and foremost,” he said. “Going forward, we’re going to need some help.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, Havenside’s GoFundMe campaign had drawn $3,870 from 40 donors, with pledges ranging from $25 to $500.