CAMBRIDGE, Mass.—Since 1990, Cambridge’s homeless population has had an ally in the Community Learning Center’s (CLC) Project LIFT program, which offers Adult Basic Education, GED, and ESOL classes to the city’s homeless adults. Students can be taken in and assigned an advisor immediately, not having to wait for the monthly intake and orientation. They can join classes in progress, and leave when they feel they have acquired enough skills and knowledge. The LIFT program offers flexibility and assistance to an uncertain population.
“Students can attend on a drop-in basis and learn the skills they need in a self-paced environment with a lot of individual attention,” said Mina Reddy, CLC’s Executive Director for more than 20 years.
Unfortunately for students and the city, LIFT will cease operations at the Cambridge CLC at the end of this July.
“We are very sad to see the program go, but we are unable to continue supporting it,” said Reddy in an email interview.
According to Reddy, the LIFT program serves 50 to 60 people per year with a Housing of Urban Development (HUD) grant of $32,000 and matching resources from the City of Cambridge and the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
She added, “In recognition of the instability of life as a homeless individual or family member, and wishing to be as welcoming as possible, the CLC assigned an advisor to meet quickly for individual intake and orientation with people who identified as homeless rather than having them wait for the monthly orientations. The advisor followed up with students to encourage attendance and help them connect to other resources and benefits.”
This year’s HUD funding ended on April 30, and the CLC was informed it would not be continued. LIFT is being phased out gradually, with the CLC sustaining advising and computer classes through July 25.
While Cambridge enjoys a reputation as bustling hub of art, technology and higher education, it has a definite need for programs that provide help and tools to homeless adults on an immediate basis. The 2012 Cambridge Homeless Census counted 485 homeless individuals, a three percent increase from the previous year. The total number included 46 families. For these individuals and families, the LIFT program offers an opportunity to improve their skills in the arduous quest to climb up from poverty. The CLC provided two special classes: an individualized reading, writing, and math class and a computer class, each meeting twice a week.
Going forward, Cambridge’s homeless adults will still receive thorough and comprehensive services at the CLC.
“We will still be able to serve homeless adults in our regular program, which includes classes in English, literacy, high school equivalency preparation, citizenship and transition to college,” said Reddy. “Any student currently enrolled in our regular classes may continue in the fall regardless of place of residence. Any potential new students who are homeless will need to attend our regular intake processes, with monthly sessions both morning and evening for ESOL and literacy/high school equivalency.”
But even with LIFT coming to an abrupt and unexpected end, Reddy still holds the program’s impact in high regard.
“We believe our program made a difference in many people’s lives by increasing their confidence as well as their English and literacy skills, helping them write a resume or search for information online, and becoming connected to a community of learners,” Reddy said.“Students have earned a high school diploma, gone to college, and started new jobs.”
The Cambridge CLC is a division of the City of Cambridge Department of Human Service Program, and is situated on Western Avenue in Central Square. The Center annually helps more than 1,000 adults improve their lives and increase their community participation through free educational programs and services.
For more information on Cambridge Community Learning Center’s intake dates and eligibility, call the Center at 617-349-6363 or visit the reception desk at 5 Western Avenue, Cambridge.