This is the second article in an occasional semester-long series on homelessness in Harvard Square. Read the first installment here.
Tucked into the basement of Swedenborg Chapel near the Graduate School of Design, Bread and Jams drop-in shelter serves the daytime needs of Harvard Square’s homeless population by providing hot meals and a warm place to stay five days a week. But recent changes in federal funding for homelessness services will force the shelter to shut its doors on March 25 after decades in operation.
Mary Shannon Thomas, the center’s director and a clinical social worker, said the decision by the Department of Housing and Urban Development to shift funding from supportive street outreach programs, like Bread and Jams, to permanent housing programs has exhausted the shelter’s funds.
According to Shannon Thomas, HUD categorizes housing programs into two tiers and, in recent years, the department has placed more permanent housing programs into the first tier, leaving less funding for programs like Bread and Jams in the second tier.
When Bread and Jams closes in two weeks, the Square will be left without an adult, daytime drop-in center. The only other such program in the Square, Youth on Fire, a drop-in center located near the Law School for those under the age of 24, will relocate to Central Square at the end of the month after seeing its own funding reduced.
“I do think that losing a low threshold drop-in in an area that always has been identified as high-need is going to have an impact on the community,” Shannon Thomas said. “I don’t think there’s any way around that.... No one will be immediately filling the void.”
From free mailbox services to a place to quietly sit down and eat a prepared meal each weekday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Shannon Thomas said the shelter provides mainly fundamental services that others do not. The program also helps connect the homeless to first-tier permanent housing programs, according to Shannon Thomas.