Students and congregation members celebrated the opening of the newly renovated Harvard Square Homeless Shelter at a ribbon-cutting ceremony yesterday.
The shelter, which has existed in the basement of the University Lutheran Church since 1983 as the "UniLu" shelter, has taken on the new name and a new image with the renovations. A revamped entrance and entirely refurbished interior are aimed at making the location more welcoming to guests.
With entertainment provided by the Harvard Din and Tonics and refreshments donated by local businesses, spectators at the ceremony admired the new facility.
The formerly makeshift shelter in the church's basement was redesigned into a welcoming and accommodating space. Before the renovations, guests of the shelter entered through a set of fire stairs next to a dumpster, one of the only ways to access the church's basement level.
The shelter, which reopens to guests Nov. 15, is equipped for 23 guests each night and guarantees a hot meal to anyone who comes through. Architect Robert Olson redesigned the space to give guests their own entrance on the corner of Winthrop and Dunster streets, where shelter staff can greet guests in a welcoming open reception area in the middle of the shelter.
UniLu has come a long way from its first years, when guests were put on mattresses on the floor. Now the shelter is furnished with new cafe-style tables, freestanding wardrobe-style closets, bunk beds and a lounge for the student-volunteers.
An important part of the contemporary-styled design is that the beds in the sleeping area and the tables in the meeting area can be arranged, providing flexibility to both the staff and guests.
The shelter's Emergency Director, Jennine B. Mazzarelli '01, said the improved facilities such as new plumbing, wiring, and ventilation systems, as well as more storage, showers and laundry facilities will have significant impact on the guests' quality of life.
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