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Drop-In Shelter to Hold Picnics in Local Park

By Joshua W. Shenk

An organization dedicated to establishing a new drop-in shelter for the Cambridge homeless is trying to bring residents, students and the homeless together by holding picnics with music and free food in Cambridge Common.

Beginning May 13, the Harvard Community Cooperative will hold "Bread and Jams" picnics every Sunday at 5 p.m. in an effort to bridge "the gap between students and non-students," according to homeless activist Tom Boland.

"The purpose isn't just to provide meals but to achieve a community," said Joel B. Gerwin '92. "In shelters and soup kitchens, I've never felt able to talk to the homeless because they were being served and I was serving."

Cooperative members said they hope the picnics fulfill the role that a drop-in shelter would--providing the homeless with a place to gather before night shelters open, usually around 10 p.m.

The cooperative has been looking to establish a new drop-in shelter ever since Harvard bought St. Paul's Church property and subsequently closed a shelter in the rectory basement. That shelter had brought together musicians students, residents and the homeless, Farkouh said.

This spring, Gerwin and Myriam R. Farkouh '93 organized students to work with Boland, a street musician who was homeless for several years and now lives in Central Square. Since the St. Paul's shelter closing, Boland has spearheaded community efforts to find a new drop-in shelter.


"The center we're looking for will be peer run--including homeless people and a broad spectrum of the Cambridge community," Boland said. It will be "multi-cultural, multiethnic," he added.

Since activists still have not found another building for the shelter, students said yesterday they will continue to hold the picnics until permanent space is found.

"Once we've shown that we can succeed with this, then churches and other organizations might be more willing to give us space," Farkouh said.

"Fair Foods" and "Food Not Bombs" are providing food for the picnic, but there will not be any alcohol, students said. Organizers said they expected about 50 homeless and low-income residents to show up for the picnic.

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