Y2Y Harvard Square

Boston Society of Architects– November 13, 2015

Over 600 young people in the Greater Boston area don’t have a place to sleep tonight. Architects and their allies want to change that.

Y2Y is a student-run overnight homeless shelter in Cambridge opening this fall.

Over 600 young people in the Greater Boston area don’t have a place to sleep tonight, yet there are only 12 shelter beds dedicated to them.  Y2Y Harvard Square will be the nation’s first overnight homeless shelter for 18 to 24 year-old youth that’s also created and operated by young people.

According to its website, Y2Y Harvard Square (Y2Y) employs a youth-to-youth model to provide a safe and affirming environment for young adults experiencing homelessness. Y2Y guests will have opportunities to collaborate with service providers, other young adults experiencing homelessness, and student volunteers to create sustainable pathways out of homelessness and develop skills for long-term success. Y2Y provides opportunities for both guests and volunteers to become the next generation’s leading advocates for young adult-driven solutions to homelessness. Read more about Y2Y’s mission.

In 2013, a pair of Harvard students approached the BSA Foundation-supported CDRC (Community Design Resource Center) asking for assistance in space planning and evaluating possible shelter locations. CDRC volunteer Jonathan Evans created those initial studies. The CDRC then introduced Y2Y to a variety of area architects, including Gail Sullivan AIA and Rashmi Ramaswamy of Studio G, who have led an exceptionally collaborative design/build process. The CDRC and the BSA Foundation are now connecting Y2Y with material donors and volunteers to help finish up construction. Y2Y aims to accept overnight guests before the snow falls. There are a few more weeks of construction to go.

On Friday, November 6, amidst a packed room of survivors, advocates, students, and leaders, Senator Elizabeth Warren celebrated Y2Y’s imminent opening. The Senator encouraged the crowd by saying, “together we can make change.”

Y2Y is still seeking your help with painting and minor carpentry—all skill levels welcome. Volunteer here.

Additional quotes from Friday’s celebration:

“They saw the problem. They had a vision for how to fix it, and that’s what’s going on downstairs. And I’ve got to tell you—it is beautiful.”—Senator Elizabeth Warren

“The key is local people saying, ‘I may not be able to fix it all; I may not be able to take on all 39,000 homeless youth. But what we can do is, we can make a start right here in Cambridge.’ And by making a start, we make a real difference, person to person.”—Senator Elizabeth Warren

“Oftentimes when you’re on the street as a young person, hope is the very first thing that you lose.”—Homeless attendee

“And yet, the real work starts when we open next month, when there are 22 meals to serve every night, when there are hundreds of dishes to wash, when there are bags of laundry to fold. When we open next month, we will have a sanctuary to create, momentum to sustain, and I think most importantly, a future to build. In a lot of ways, our journey is just getting started.”—Sam Greenberg, co-director, Y2Y Harvard Square

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