Youth Challenging Social Justice Issues: Homelessness & COVID

For her end-of-year project, Alison, a youth in one of our programs, teamed up with a classmate to research the question, “How is Covid-19 affect the homeless and our community?” Here is what she found out:

“2020 brought many challenges to the world, not only did it bring Covid-19 that killed many people sadly and left many families hearts broken all over the world but it also had small companies shut down, quarantine, and now has many students/workers on remote learning, in 2020 many MANY people faced challenges even kids, for sure 2020 was a very hard year that the whole world faced but it did not only impact those who have homes but also Homeless people by a lot!”

As we have seen over the last decade, youth are leading the charge in asking big picture questions that challenge the accepted realities of our society. Alison’s project challenged the glaring reality that COVID made impossible to ignore: the need for fair, equitable housing for all. 

“If you think about it Covid-19 actually has made it worse! It is important we talk about this subject because the homeless aren’t provided with the everyday necessities  they need to get through this. Like masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer. So that puts them at a high risk. That adds more cases and more deaths of Covid-19!” 

As the project concludes, Alison and her partner give classmates and their teachers action items for how to support the homeless community in Cambridge. “If you want to go above and beyond by  helping the homeless you can, first start off with donating things that you do not need, you can give it to the homeless person yourself or you can give them to organizations and they can collect all the donations and donate them to the homeless! Things that you can donate do not have to be new, you can donate things like clothes, shoes, blankets, pillows etc!” 

As we say at YWCA Cambridge, youth are the leaders of tomorrow. Giving them the space to lead, gives us a chance to better our future. 

Written in partnership: Michelle Howe, Whitney Mooney, and Alison O.

Tanner Residence, a Safe, Affordable Home for Single Women

LeNay Harper
Director of Housing and Shelter Services

No matter how you think about it, the one thing no one ever wants to be is homeless.

Without a roof (permanent or temporary) over your head, without a bed to sleep in, and without a  place you can come to at the end of your day, lock your door, and feel safe, the world can be a scary place in which to live. Not all, but many of the residents at the YWCA Cambridge’s Tanner Residence have experienced long term homelessness. They have known that feeling of being invisible – where no one wants to acknowledge, speak to, or even provide you with any assistance. Tanner Residence is a respite from that sense of not belonging. A place of welcome for all.

YWCA Cambridge offers 103 units of Single Room Occupancy (SRO) housing at the Tanner Residence with a number of different payment options. Some of our rooms are private pay, market rate; others are set aside for specific service providers, and yet other rooms are available through Cambridge Housing Authority’s Mobile Resource Voucher Program (MRVP) or Section 8 vouchers. Regardless of how women arrive at Tanner Residence or what payment arrangement meets their individual needs, each has her own room with access to shared bathroom, kitchen and laundry facilities, and to a large ground floor community room as well as to smaller community rooms located throughout the building.

YWCA Cambridge’s Director of Housing & Shelter Services provides supportive services to our residents through assistance identifying and engaging community resources and referrals, advocacy, housing searches, crisis intervention and much more. She also coordinates educational and informational workshops and meetings, wellness activities and social events. Tanner Residence is a non-smoking, elevator accessible building with 24-hour staffing. A beautifully landscaped outdoor area is available for the residents to enjoy, weather permitting.

Agency and service provider representatives are invited to share information and resources with our residents and to offer assistance in areas such as job preparedness, life skills training, credit repair and other services in Cambridge and the surrounding area..

Whether our residents wish to continue living at YWCA Cambridge’s Tanner Residence or move into accommodations elsewhere, our goal is to help provide the necessary tools that will enable them to live long-term in safe, affordable housing, while using their voices to advocate successfully for themselves.