Saving the Children Sanctuary

SANCTUARY, summer 1970: a storefront drop in center at 9 Mt. Auburn Street; a hostel in the Iroquois Club further down the street at No. 74; administration, education, research offices at the Old Cambridge Baptist Church and the Episcopal Theological School.

The storefront. Open 24 hours a day. With switchboard-hotline. People available, willing to talk. A lot of referrals, both by phone and in person. Where to look for birth control pills, abortions, draft counseling, VD tests, pregnancy tests. For those with chronic ailments, Cambridgeport, the free medical clinic across the street.

Emergencies, Cases for the Cambridge City Hospital: lacerations, overdose of downers, acid cut with strychnine. Talking down kids on bad trips. Getting lawyers for kids, assisting the kids in court, getting up bail from among their friends.

Talking, lots. Not pushing it. Giving the kids a chance to sit around, watch, trust. Helping kids seize control of their lives, accept the responsibility of their bodies. Not pushing kids to go home, although often, after they have lived on the streets, lived with independence, proved themselves, home is where they decide to go. Mostly just supporting kids in their break with boring, stifling environments, in their effort to find a new and better life. Limits placed on the number of those who could crash; not to be a home-surrogate.

The hostel. Kids sitting around, rapping, with each other and the staff. Sleeping. At night, late dinners of leftovers from El Diablo. Further into the summer, breakfast too; four days of welfare food, three of macrobiotic every week. Whenever running, the Free Wheel bus from Ecology Action getting kids to free dinners at Boston churches.

FALL, 1970. Hostel closed, but storefront still operating. Administration offices entirely located at Old Cambridge Baptist Church. Research moved to Catholic Student Center on Arrow Street. Storefront crashing about 20 people nightly, late dinners from restaurant at the Orson Welles as well as El Diablo. Fruit and vegetables from the Walden Street Organic Market.

Referral manual thicker now. Additional resources. New staff members, students from Harvard Divinity School and Episcopal Theological School doing field work. Research and education people, writing on the street scene, why people are there, drug counseling, working on conferences at secondary schools.

Problems. The difficulty of combining the functions of both hostel and counseling center in one storefront. Lack of room, too much noise, too much music. Scares away those who aren't sure of what questions to ask, what problems they have. Staffers find it harder to make contact with kids.

Needed, more room. For temporary crashing facilities. For counseling. A building where a permanent living situation is possible. A place where kids can stay for 2 or 3 months, set up more intense relationships between themselves and the staff, between themselves and each other. The courts would offer Sanctuary jurisdiction of the kids if only there was a stable environment in which to place them.

Lots of kids have been on the streets, many are at the point where a therapeutic commune could be really important. While, on their own they have been thinking. Now it's time to set that thought to work.