Harvard alumni to open homeless shelter in Cambridge

The Cambridge Chronicle– April 17, 2015

Two recent Harvard graduates are creating pathways to help young adults get out of homelessness in Cambridge.

Sam Greenberg and Sarah Rosenkrantz, both of Somerville, are heading a project to create a student-run nighttime shelter for homeless young adults, ages 18 to 24, in the basement of the First Parish Cambridge Unitarian Universalist on Church Street.

The goal, they say, is to create pathways out of homelessness by stabilizing young adults and helping them find a more secure housing situation.

Y2Y Harvard Square is scheduled to open Nov. 1 after a comprehensive $1.25 million renovation, and it will offer short-term stay for up to 30 days with 15 to 20 beds, showers, laundry facilities, locker space and resources to help folks charter towards phasing out of homelessness, according to Greenberg and Rosenkrantz. Renovations are expected to kick off in June and conclude in October, they said.

“In Greater Boston, there’s a significant need for shelters for young adults ages 18 to 24,” Greenberg, project co-director, told the Chronicle on Monday. “Young adults who are homeless really don’t feel safe staying in adult shelters and rather stay on the streets.”

According to Greenberg, Cambridge does not offer shelter specifically geared to that age group, and there is only one 12-bed shelter in the area catered to young adults.

“This will be a peer-to-peer model, one of the first models in the country that we know of that will be students 18-24 providing services for young people 18-24 experiencing homelessness in their lives,” said Jayms Battaglia, a board member.

Greenberg and Rosenkrantz began heading the initiative in 2013, and they received a scholarship to work on the project fulltime after graduating from Harvard last year.

While studying at the university, they worked at Harvard Square Homeless Shelter, a student-run emergency shelter at University Lutheran Church that serves 24 people every night for the five coldest months of winter.

It was there that they realized that there wasn’t enough space to accommodate every person in need and many prospective volunteers were being turned away because there weren’t enough tasks for them.

“We realized there was a lot of capacity to do more, and we started learning about the issue,” Rosenkrantz said. “Being able to replicate the Harvard Square Homeless Shelter model and create more beds seemed like a good path.”

So working with a team of more than 50 local students, 30 advisory board members and the Phillips Brooks House Association- a student-run, community-based, nonprofit public service organization at Harvard University-Greenberg and Rosenkrantz developed a game plan.

In addition to temporary shelter, Y2Y is developing a student case management program to connect guests to other service providers and support services, Rosenkrantz said. Student volunteers will offer programming, including workshops in legal aid, career readiness and creative expression, she said.

The shelter will include a medical room that will serve as an outpatient clinic for guests and members of Youth on Fire, a program of AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts that offers a drop-in center for homeless and street-involved youth, ages 14-24.

“We all believe that young people should have places to go,” Greenberg said. “This project is about a group of us saying that we care about people who don’t have a place to go.”

For more information, visit y2yharvardsquare.org.

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