Photo Credit: Zengzheng Wang
A group of Harvard students will open America’s first student-run youth overnight shelter in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
The Y2Y Harvard Square overnight shelter will open in December.
On November 6, founders Sam Greenberg and Sarah Rosenkrantz – both Harvard graduates – met with state officials, service providers and members of the homeless community at the First Parish Church in Cambridge to celebrate the creation of Y2Y.
Guest speaker U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren said that there is an estimated 39,000 homeless youth in the United States on any given night, 20-30 percent of whom are LGBTQ.
“We’ve got people who came together and said we’re going to create the right kind of space, the right kind of place for them to be able to come,” Warren said.
“The key of what I’m here today to celebrate is not anything we started in Washington. The key is about people locally 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.'”
Y2Y will operate out of the church’s renovated basement and will give guests and volunteers opportunities to “become the next generation’s leading advocates for young adult-driven solutions to homelessness,” Rosenkrantz said.
“For so long, this mission statement has felt so far off. There were barriers to overcome, there were hoops to jump through and there still are. But with Y2Y set to open next month, this mission statement has never felt more real or more alive.”
Former State Rep. and current Executive Director of the AIDS Action Committee Carl Sciortino said that Y2Y would offer a place for his organization to send their clients at night.
“For us as an organization, this is about the intersection of public health, social justice and a basic compassionate dignity for some of our most vulnerable in society,” Sciortino said.
“We know homeless youth are ten times more likely to acquire HIV, [so] we have an imperative to provide young adults the compassion, the safety net, the service access, everything we can provide and yes, a warm safe place to sleep at night.”
While those in attendance took the opportunity to thank Y2Y staff and volunteers for their efforts in creating the shelter, Greenberg said that the real work starts in December.
“The real work starts 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,” he said.
“When we open next month, we’ll have a sanctuary to create. We’ll have a movement to sustain, and I think, most importantly we’ll have a future to build.”