Tuesday, October 6, 2015

American scholars embrace homeless youth near Harvard

Ralph Waldo Emerson would be delighted. Back in 1837 he addressed Harvard's brightest students in the new First Parish church near Harvard Yard. He described the American scholar as someone "who raises himself from private considerations and breathes and lives on public and illustrious thoughts. He is the world's eye. He is the world's heart."

Believe it or not, the old gray, wooden church where Emerson spoke still stands (see below), and two Harvard scholars have raised themselves "from private considerations" by raising enough money to convert its spacious basement into an overnight shelter for homeless youth, age 18-24.

Sarah Rosenkrantz and Sam Greenberg, from the Harvard class of 2014, spent their undergrad years volunteering at a local homeless shelter for adults. They noticed a need for a separate shelter for youth, and did the exhaustive research necessary to establish one. City officials said the initiative, called Y2Y (Youth to Youth) is long overdue. The 24-bed student-run emergency shelter will open next month following a $1.1 million renovation of the church basement.

Harvard Square is often awash with homeless youth who need different help than adults. Many have aged out of foster care, or run away because of violence at home.  Rosenkrantz and Greenberg found a willing partner in First Parish, where senior minister Fred Small called Y2Y "a natural extension of the core values of my congregation -- unconditional live, equality and justice." If you'd like to meet the co-directors of Y2Y and hear them tell how they created the unique shelter, visit www.youtube.com/watch?t=333&v=Mjfd38zSltw

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