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Homeless Shelther Holds Reopening

It's all in the bathrooms.

At the Harvard Square Homeless Shelter beneath the University Lutheran church on Winthrop Street, they're new and clean.

That, according to Rev. Thomas Chittick, co-pastor of the church, is a good reflection of how far the shelter has come.

"Look at yourself in the mirror and think about how you put yourself together in the morning. Then consider what these people lacked for 16 years."

He spoke Wednesday morning, as the shelter celebrated its re-opening with a who's-who of Harvard and Cambridge big-wigs.

Harvard money provided the foundation to renovate the ailing aid shelter.

The rehabilitation is one of several projects made possible by the University's 20/20/2000 plan, which pledges $20 million in loans over 20 years for affordable housing in Boston and Cambridge. Announced in November 1999, the loans are administered by three intermediaries, including the Boston Community Loan Fund, which lent $385,000 to the church for the renovation.

According to Provost Harvey Fineberg '67, who was on hand for the re-opening, "the fund is set up in such a creative way that it actually cycles around and amplifies the value of funds provided."

DeWitt Jones, president of Boston Community Loan Fund (BCLF) told a story about seeing the need for a touch-up or two.

Rather than donating money, lenders provide money in a revolving loan fund to needy organizations at low interest rates.

The program has been lauded by city officials, but several of those present said that questions over Harvard's civic role linger.

. In their view, Harvard's commitment arose only after numerous criticisms had been leveled against the University.

"We've often felt the University hasn't acted as a role model for its students," said State Rep. Alice Wolf (D-Cambridge).

Wold, a member of Harvard's Living Wage Campaign said, "If Harvard isn't a good example for its students in its own actions, it's not a good educational experience. We learn from what people do, not what they say."

"But I want to add that this program has been a good experience," said Wolf.

She also congratulated the student volunteers who have staffed the shelter since its inception in 1983.

Alina Das '01, director of the shelter, said she considers the program a success.

The only student-run shelter in the country, Harvard Sq. Homeless Shelter provides nightly service for about two dozen guests.

"It builds a sense of community," said Das. "Volunteers and guests get to know each other very well."

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