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Cambridge homeless people can now sit down twice a week to the same dinner that fills the stomachs of Harvard undergraduates, under the auspices of a new University program that begins today.
Every Tuesday and Wednesday night, Harvard Food Services will prepare 100 extra meals for distribution at a Central Square meal center, said John Shattuck, Harvard vice president for government and community affairs.
The University will pick up the tab for the meals at a cost of $180 a night until the last week of April when the program ends, Harvard Director of State Affairs Richard J. Doherty said yesterday.
Twelve freshmen working with the University's Public Service Program will serve the meals twice a month at a Central Square meal center operated by the Cambridge Committee of Elders, said Roberta J. Kellman '90, an associate member of the program.
On the other nights, city officials will arrange for food distribution at the Committee building, said Philip F. Mangano, Cambridge emergency services coordinator.
Student participants in the Phillips Brooks House Food Salvage Committee will transport the food to the Pearl St. establishment, which is one of three homeless meal centers in Cambridge.
According to a city report released last spring, Cambridge currently has more than 250 homeless on its streets.
"There should be somewhere people can go to eat when they're hungry in the cold weather," Kellman saidyesterday, explaining why she was participating inthe program.
The Phillips Brooks House committee alsocollects unused food from dining halls and arearestaurants and brings it to a student-runUniversity Lutheran Shelter and to a center forrecovering alcoholics.
"This is part of a long-term, coordinated,low-key attempt by Harvard to help the homeless,"Shattuck said.
"It's a very important initial step for Harvardto get involved with the homeless," Mangano said.
The University began a review of its resourcesin December to devise possible ways Harvard couldhelp the homeless and asked Cambridge officials toadvise them of their needs, Doherty said.
The University's initiative emerged last monthwhen the City's Department of Human Servicesapproached Harvard officials saying they neededmeals on the two nights in order to complete ahomeless program that would provide hot mealsevery day.
"We wanted to see if there were some simplethings we could do," Doherty said.
"There's really no extra work needed when akitchen serving 1900 people is involved," saidBenjamin H. Wilcott, assistant director of HarvardDining Services. "You only increase the quantitiesa little."
Harvard officials said that the food programwas just the beginning of further cooperationbetween the University and Cambridge to attack thehomeless problem.
"The real challenge now is to try to work withthe City to identify more long-term permanentsolutions," Doherty said. He said that theUniversity is currently working with Cambridge onpossible medical care and housing programs in aneffort "to make use of the University's differentresources.
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