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Shelter director says winter demand reflects uptick in unhoused people

Lisa Belcastro is the winter shelter director for Harbor Homes in Oak Bluffs
Lisa Belcastro
Harbor Homes
Lisa Belcastro is the winter shelter director for Harbor Homes in Oak Bluffs.

A link between the island's housing crisis and the number of people experiencing homelessness.

OAK BLUFFS—An overnight winter shelter saw its greatest demand ever, with more than 30 people visiting for the first time.

Harbor Homes, which runs the shelter between November and April, needs more beds to accommodate the rising demand, director Lisa Belcastro said.

"Harbor Homes saw a direct correlation between our extreme housing crisis on the island and the number of guests checking into the winter shelter," she added. The shelter has come close to reaching capacity several times.

Some people stayed there after losing their rentals, while others were seasonal workers whose housing dried up when the season ended.

The shelter sits on land leased by the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School committee to the island's Community Services, which owns the building.

No threat of squatting exists given the shelter's hours of operations, Belcastro said. Guests are admitted only until 7 p.m. during winter.

As public school officials weigh whether to approve Belcastro's request for more space, the nonprofit is looking to buy its own shelter. That way, guests will always know where to receive services.

"Everyone deserves care and a place to call home," Belcastro said. "Even if it's a shared space."

Patrick Flanary is a dad, journalist, and host of Morning Edition.