Students Gear Up For City Homeless

Short Takes

As the number of Massachusetts homeless reaches unprecedented levels, the Harvard Committee on the Homeless is increasing its services for Cambridge street people.

The group's 23-bed shelter, run by students and community volunteers, opens November 15. The associated food salvage project, which operates daily from November to April, will expand to serve three other programs this year, according to Virginia White '87, the committee's co-chair.

The shelter, in the basement of University Lutheran Church, has offered meals and beds every winter night since 1982 and is one of only two such residential shelters in Cambridge.

Starting last week, student volunteers picked up leftovers from the Leverett, Winthrop, Adams, and Lowell dining halls, and collected donations from Harvard Square restaurants, according to Harvard Food Salvage co-director Julie Schrager '86.

They will also buy damaged supermarket stock from the Boston Food Bank at special prices of 12 cents or less per pound.


The food goes to the Harvard shelter's 23 guests, a center for alcoholics in Somerville, a Cambridge service for the elderly, and a new program called HOPE (Help Other People Eat). Cambridge-based activist Carolyn Tribe founded HOPE last winter, but Harvard students will serve meals to the homeless from HOPE's vans for the first time this fall.

White said, "It's getting colder and you can see a lot of the same people on the streets. And there are lots of new faces too." She said the shelter supervisors try to find beds in other shelters for the people they turn away.

On a typical night at the shelter, student volunteers arrive at 9 p.m. to prepare dinner from donated food. Starting at 9:45, people enter, eat, and socialize with volunteers and other guests. The shelter is 'dry', and sends intoxicated people to the Somerville program. Curfew is at 11 p.m. and at least two volunteers stay overnight. They prepare breakfast in the morning.

The shelter consists of a dormitory with mattresses, plus bathrooms, a kitchen, dining room, and recreation room. One closet is full of donated winter clothing and boots, which any guest may take.

The Harvard Committee on the Homeless is funded by the State Department of Public Welfare and private donations. Organizers said interested students should contact the committee through the Phillips Brooks House community service office.