New Cambridge Shelter Provides Care For Homeless Youth

WGBH– February 19, 2016

As undergraduates at Harvard, Massachusetts natives Sarah Rosenkrantz and Sam Greenberg saw a problem within their communities. In all of Greater Boston, there were only twelve beds specifically for young people, and resources were spread thin across the city. “Our peers shouldn’t be sleeping on doorsteps, they should have homes,” Greenberg said in an interview with Boston Public Radio. Shortly after graduation, Rosenkrantz and Greenberg gathered funds and volunteers, and opened Y2Y Harvard Square, an overnight shelter for homeless youth.

Two months since the shelter opened its doors, co-directors Rosenkrantz and Greenberg joined Jim Braude and Margery Eagan for BPR’s weekly News Quiz.

“We feel that fundamentally, young people our own age shouldn’t have to sleep on the streets,” Rosenkrantz said. “Many times, young people don’t feel safe staying in the adult shelters.”

According to Rosenkrantz, homeless youth have specific needs, making it developmentally inappropriate to house adults and young adults in the same shelter. “Adult spaces are not necessarily built for young people,” she said. “In any circumstance, it’s hard for a 70 year-old to share a living environment with an 18 year-old. Young people have very different needs than the adult population.”

After young people have aged out of the foster care system, Rosenkrantz said they find themselves with no place to go. “A lot of times, it boils down to issues around the family, family doesn’t exist,” she said. “A lot of young people turn 18, or in some cases, 21 or 22, and all of a sudden, are cut off from their resources and their network. A lot of times, a large percentage of young people identify as LGBTQ, and so are being kicked out of their homes, or leave unsupportive families, and a lot of times, they’re just coming from families that are abusive, or aren’t safe to stay with.”

From 7pm to 8am (9am on weekends), the 200 Harvard student volunteers at Y2Y provide warm beds, case management, legal aid, financial literacy, and medical care, up to a maximum 30-day stay. A merger is planned with Youth on Fire, a daytime drop-in center in Cambridge, so both organizations can coordinate to provide 24-hour care for homeless youth, age 18-24.

The shelter is funded by private donations, donations from local charitable organizations, a crowdsourcing campaign and T-shirts sold on the Harvard campus. “Our donation range is really quite extensive, from very small gifts to very large ones,” Greenberg said.

According to Greenberg, the shelter relied on private funds for a number of reasons, including a difficulty in pinpointing the specific need, because of the way the data is gathered. “The way we count homelessness in this country is through the point in time count, where people go out on one night per year and count folks,” Greenberg said. “Going out one night every year is an amazing endeavor, and also flawed. You’re not going to find every single person, especially young people who don’t want to be found.”