Photo by CASPAR.

The Cambridge Community Foundation has awarded a new round of nine ‘surprise,’ need-inspired grants to organizations offering emergency housing and supporting people facing homelessness this winter. 

The $5,000 grants totaling $45,000 come from the Cambridge COVID-19 Emergency Fund, which is fueled by donations from hundreds of residents concerned about the impact of the pandemic on the livelihood and wellbeing of their neighbors. The Foundation has pledged to quickly distribute grants from the Fund to help nonprofits address emergency issues ranging from food insecurity, housing insecurity and shelter for the homeless, cash for urgent needs, access to connectivity, and emergency childcare. (To learn about our first round of need-inspired grants, which gave $40,000 to food pantries and programs last month, read more here.)

This year, homelessness is on the rise in Cambridge. The Street Outreach team at CASPAR, which helps those battling homelessness, reports that, of the people they support, 80% more are sleeping outside compared to last fall. “The numbers seem to keep growing,” said Julia W. Londergan, Esq., director of development. 

Ia normal year, winter is the most challenging time for people experiencing homelessness and home-insecurity, but during the pandemic, safe beds, healthy meals, and warm, socially-distant day spaces have become hardtofind, critical needs. 

At the Y2Y Shelter, where young adults aged 18 to 24 can find beds and support services, the loss of day-space is detrimental. “Some of our shelter guests are riding back and forth on the T to stay warm. The problem is it can take a toll on people’s bodies,” said Y2Y’s Asjah Monroe. “The displacement is just so much.” 

At First Church Shelter, mobile hot showers temporarily installed in the church parking lot, and home-made meals from volunteers have made a huge difference. The strong sense of community among the city’s homeless population and their willingness to share resources and help one another has been essential. “People are facing really stark challenges, but these are people who are fully active agents in their survival stories,” said Reverend Kate Layzer at First Church. 

“For people already in crisis, the pandemic has been particularly devastating, and the daily challenges for the homeless are unimaginable for many of us,” said Phil Johnson, CEO of PJA Advertising and a member of the Foundation’s board of directors, who has been a champion for the homeless providing support through the Bob Shea Memorial Fund. “It’s not only the homeless, but all of our vulnerable neighbors who struggle to make their way in the world, whether as a result of mental health issues, addiction, or poverty. Cambridge is fortunate to have nonprofits that understand not only our homeless community but all of the most vulnerable amongst us whose struggles have been compounded by the pandemic.”   

The grant recipients are: 

On behalf of our donors, we extend our profound thanks to these organizations for their dedication and support during a time of great uncertainty and need for so many in our community.