Hear Part 2: Habitat for Humanity
Two Cape Cods Series
For many years, Al Shackman was a session guitarist for
Atlantic Records. He's worked with music legends such as Arlo Guthrie, Harry
Belafonte, and Nina Simone. But despite his success, Shackman
and his partner Monica Miller can't afford a year-round home on Martha's Vineyard.
"Back in the days when I was doing a lot of the studio
during the day mostly, and then doing the jazz at
night, you were paid by the session. There were no
royalties involved. That's changed over the years, but
back then it didn't exist. People would think, I've
played on most of the world's greatest stages. You
would think everything would be set. But it didn't
work that way."
For the past twelve years, Shackman, Miller and their two
children have done what's called the Vineyard Shuffle.
Every June, they packed up and moved all their
possessions out of their winter rental in West
Tisbury and spent the summer in Canada. According to Miller, it was not a good way
"It was incredibly stressful moving. I just felt like
it was a trail of tears. I didn't want to show it, but
you know, there were a lot of tears ... We made the
best of it, and we had some really great times, but
the absolute exhaustion of having to move all your
possessions, including a lot of furniture, just got
absolutely ridiculous, and it got to the point where I
said to myself, I've got to do something."
Hundreds of Islanders face the same dilemma each year.
Ron DiOrio, president of Habitat for Humanity
Martha's Vineyard, says year-round housing has become
so unaffordable that not only is it threatening to
destroy the fabric of the community, it's forcing
people to live in very unhealthy ways.
"Because we are on an island that has a great number
of trophy houses and people think it's just a great
place to vacation — and it is — the assumption is
that everyone is living in these magnificent homes.
The reality is that people have to go camping every
summer. There are people living in converted garages
with absolutely no bathroom or kitchen facilities.
There are people who live in basements throughout the
year. This is the kind of family we're providing
Thanks to Habitat for Humanity, Shackman and Miller
left their winter rental for good a few weeks ago for a house on Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road. It's
the site of the old Twin Oaks Restaurant, a
building they never would have imagined they'd be
living in one day.
"You'd drive by and say, yuck! It was really falling
down, with a blue tarp over the roof. And it was a
real eye soar. We were assured that this house would
never be considered. We don't have to worry about it.
And indeed, that is what happened. This is the house,
and what a beautiful job."
Miller and Shackman were one of forty local families who
applied to Habitat for Humanity to help renovate this
old restaurant and eventually live here. To even be
considered for a Habitat home, a family of four must
make less than $47,000 annually, as well as go through
a home inspection of their current living situation.
The inspection might have been what put the Miller and
Shackman application at the top of the pile.
"I think they saw what some of the problems were. The
house is rotting into the ground. It has a shallow
well. We were distilling water to drink with this
Waterwise distiller, and the sludge that would come
out of it was pretty serious. And the worse thing was
having to move out in the summer. The house was
inadequate, but adding insult to injury was having to
move out of it and call that your home."
Habitat for Humanity of Martha's Vineyard has
renovated four homes so far, and is about to embark on
its fifth and sixth. It's progress, but the Vineyard
Housing Office estimates that the housing problem
requires the creation of at least 500 affordable units.
Miller and Shackman, say they were considering moving
to Maine or Vermont. But now they have a new home here,
one built with them by volunteers and with the help
of civic-minded businesses who donated most of the
building materials and mechanical works.
will pay Habitat $90,000 for the house, interest free.
It's a happy outcome because the Martha's Vineyard
community will not loose Miller, an entrepreneur, or
Shackman, a world-class musician. When asked if he
had a song that might express how he feels about this,
Shackman turns on his old, squeaky vibraphone.
"The living is easier in this house, so we'll do a
Two Cape Cods Series