Boston Businesses Raffle Year in Apartment Benefiting Youth Shelter

A year of rent-free living in a fully-furnished Chroma Cambridge apartment was the prize in an online raffle benefiting Y2Y Harvard Square, a student-run homeless shelter exclusively for young adults.

Four companies, all based in Boston, collaborated on the giveaway, which raised more than $29,000. The winner was announced via livestream as Leonardo Topa and later confirmed online.

From May 2 to June 1, participants donated $10 to Y2Y on Flutter, an online platform for organizing charity drives, for a chance to win a year in the one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment in the southern Cambridge complex.

Sumu, a website for finding safe, affordable housing quickly in the Boston area, sponsored the fundraiser. Chroma Cambridge gave Sumu three months rent off of the $2,750 apartment. Wayfair, an online furniture store, donated the furnishings.

Wayfair is the only organization involved, including Y2Y, which is not a recent startup. The other four all began in 2015.

The idea for the campaign originated with Sumu. CEO Daniel Tefwik said the company chose to raise money for Y2Y to start a conversation about different ways of living in Boston and to support safety net housing.

free rent 2Chroma’s leasing manager, Lauren Dewey, said the complex wanted to make the contest winner feel like a member of the community. Parking, gym access, a conference room, a roof deck and a pet concierge service are among the amenities included.

“We really put a lot of emphasis on the community aspect of Chroma, and making our residents feel like they belong to that community,” said Dewey. “We often say that ‘You may play in Central Square and work in Kendall Square but Chroma is where you come home to.’”

She said the concept of home was a key aspect of the fundraiser and central to Chroma’s philosophy.

Y2Y Harvard Square currently has 22 beds, but its facilities are closed until October. Co-Director Sam Greenberg said they used the 2015-2016 winter as a pilot season. Greenberg and his associates plan to spend the summer considering ways to improve their programming and services, as well as looking at data from the winter.

Sarah Rosenkrantz, Y2Y’s other co-director, said the shelter provides meals, showers, laundry toiletries and clothing. It also offers programs designed as pathways out of homelessness and engages in legislative advocacy and awareness initiatives.

The shelter operates on a lottery system, with options for both one-night and 30-night housing. Rosenkrantz said they rely on creative fundraising opportunities, partly because the shelter is so new.

“It’s an incredibly bold and selfless thing these companies did,” she said.

free rent 2(1)

Like all of Flutter’s charity drives—which they call “experiences”—participants were limited to a single chance to win via a $10 donation, although participants could donate above that amount. Contributors could receive more chances of winning by referring others to the experience through social media, or gift chances to others through additional donations.

Eighty percent of the proceeds will go directly to Y2Y. Six percent will go to processing fees and 14 percent will be put toward rent costs.

Two other Flutter experiences benefited Y2Y in the past. An experience offering a “Tiny House” weekend getaway in New Hampshire raised $680 and Y2Y was one of two dozen charities that benefitted from Flutter’s 24 Days of Charity event last December.

Tom O’Keefe, one of Flutter’s founders and its chief creative officer, is also the owner of BostonTweet, a Twitter account he created in 2008 to help local businesses during the recession. He now uses the account, which has 183,000 followers, to promote Flutter’s activities.

O’Keefe said he created Flutter, in part, to make charitable giving more accessible to millennials who are concerned with charity but may often feel like they don’t have the money to make a difference.

O’Keefe is a vocal supporter of Y2Y. “Homelessness and animal abuse … are probably the two charities I’m most passionate about,” he said.

The Free Rent experience is the biggest Flutter has undertaken so far, with the next largest bringing in about $6,000.

Nathanael King is an intern and writer with Spare Change News.

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