Youth Homeless Center Could Close After Budget Cuts

UPDATED: September 8, 2017 at 1:04 a.m.

After severe state budget cuts, Youth on Fire—a Harvard Square-based center for homeless youth—is at risk of shutting down at the end of the year if it does not receive more money from the government this month.

The drop-in center, which receives the majority of its funding from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Office of HIV/AIDS, will come up $300,000 short in its budget this year after state funding cuts. That budget shortfall means the center will not last the year without additional support, its director of communications said.

“At this point, there is no funding to keep the organization open next year,” said Chris Viveiros, director of communications at the AIDS Action Committee, which runs Youth on Fire.

Youth on Fire provides meals, check-in conversations, and HIV tests—among other services—to over 3,000 primarily BGLTQ young adults since its founding, according to its website. The center is now waiting on a funding decision from the Department of Public Health that could determine whether the space remains operational through the end of this year.

“The Commonwealth recognizes the importance of Youth on Fire and looks forward to reviewing the proposal that the organization submitted to continue to provide infectious disease screening and support services for the homeless, the LGBTQ community and at-risk youths,” Ann Scales, a DPH spokesperson, wrote in an email.

Y2Y, a youth-aimed homeless shelter run by co-founders Sam G. Greenberg ’14 and Sarah A. Rosenkrantz ’14, released a press statement in June calling on Governor Charlie Baker to reinstitute Youth on Fire’s funds.

“Without their programming, many of our guests will not have a safe place to go during the day, and our ability to provide wraparound services will no longer exist. We will no longer be able to provide near-24 hour services in one location,” Greenberg wrote in an email in June.

Amid worries about the center’s closure, John, a 28-year-old who said he used Youth on Fire’s services from the ages of 22 to 25, said he is confident that the center will be able to find new sources of funding.

“It happens all the time,” he said. “As long as they get some big donations, they will be fine.”

Youth on Fire had a similar funding scare three years ago that galvanized the local community and city members to save the shelter, according to a statement from the AIDS Action Committee. In that instance, the Department of Public Health restored funding for Youth on Fire.

—Staff writer Motoy A. Kuno-Lewis can be reached at motoy.kuno-lewis@thecrimson.com.

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