As part of an ongoing effort to ensure fair treatment for the homeless at Holyoke Center, Harvard Real Estate and a group of homeless advocacy organizations have adopted a set of guidelines governing the building.
Despite recent complaints from several homeless people that Harvard Police have repeatedly asked them to leave the grates outside the center, members of the group which wrote the guidelines say the new policies work well.
"To my knowledge, there have not been any concerns," said Happy Green, Harvard's director of community affairs.
Homeless people regularly sleep on the grates because they provide warmth. Some homeless have linked what they see as a new Holyoke Center crackdown by police to the October 20 opening of the Shops by Harvard Yard. The new guidelines went into effect in September.
The grates are the most popular gathering place for homeless people in Harvard Square, Harvard Police Lt. Charles Schwab said recently.
The University's guidelines do not specifically mention the grates, but do govern "Holyoke Center's public spaces," according to the policy.
According to the Harvard Police log, officers have been called to the center grates to remove homeless people 11 times since November 15. The log showed one arrest, on Nov. 19.
The guidelines state that Harvard Police will be called only if center management and security cannot solve a problem.
Staff members at several of the shops and Harvard Real Estate Assistant Vice President Beth A. Wald said they have not been calling the police to complain about homeless people.
"I don't know who has been contacting the police," said Wald. "Harvard Real Estate isn't calling over, over and over again."
The issue of the grates was discussed during the development of the new guidelines, said Harry T. Main, senior advisor for public relations for the homeless publication Spare Change, who participated in the discussion.
But a decision on a formal policy concerning the grates was postponed until a future meeting.
"It was a topic of conversation. I'm not surehow that gets resolved," Green said. "There arelots of perspectives and not a clear resolution."
Green said she thought the group would continueto meet if individual organizations had concernsthey wanted to discuss.
Main said it is possible the homeless will beallowed to use the grates between 9 p.m. and 6a.m.
The guidelines currently include provisionsthat "all retail patrons and the general publicmust be treated equally with courtesy, dignity andin a non-discriminatory manner...The patronage ofthe homeless will not be refused or discouraged."
In addition, the policy states that thecenter's restrooms are available to all people,although "sleeping, shaving, bathing and changingclothes" are prohibited.
"I think our bathrooms are working reallywell," said Beth A. Wald, assistant vice presidentfor human resources and communications at HarvardReal Estate. "I think people feel they're beingtreated fairly."
The guidelines also state that sleeping isprohibited at the "public benches, tables andchairs."
If patrons behave inappropriately, including"being physically or verbally abusive, usingprofanity in a way that disturbs the public,acting or being inebriated and panhandling," theHolyoke management will exclude them from thecenter.
Spare Change was involved in the policydevelopment because "we are the primary`spokespeople' for the homeless in Boston andCambridge, and we are the only group thatpractices empowerment," Main said.
In addition, Main said homeless people who sellSpare Change sometimes need to sit down nearHolyoke Center or use the restroom there