Letter from PBHA’s President & Executive Director
Dear Friends and Family,
We hope you are all as well as can be expected and staying safe. We are appreciative of our extended PBHA “beloved community” during this time more than ever. As we reflect on the whirlwind of the past few weeks and plan the path forward in the face of uncertainty, it is incredibly inspiring to know that we do so held up by a community committed to a common mission and values grounded in social justice.
On March 10th, 2020 Harvard made the decision to send students home in light of COVID-19 public health concerns. As students headed home from Boston and Cambridge, PBHA focused on how to best meet the needs of our most vulnerable members of our college student and constituent communities while having to suspend most programming. Programs serving the elderly and people who are incarcerated had to cease visitation for the safety of people in those facilities. Alternative Spring Break trips were canceled and After School and Mentoring programs came to a close within four days. Immediately after the announcement, several of our student volunteers faced financial hardship and safety considerations that prevented their ability to return home. In a time when people’s very ability to remain healthy was defined by their access to shelter, we were focused as an organization on keeping the Harvard Square Homeless Shelter and Y2Y Harvard Square Shelter open as long as possible and our guests and volunteers safe.
We put out a call for help and you responded. Over 250 alumni and members of the Harvard and greater Boston community answered the call to offer housing and storage for students who did not have other options and supported an emergency fund which allowed us to:
- Provide financial support for students most facing hardship (in partnership with the Harvard Latino Alumni Alliance and Harvard Primus).
- Provide financial support for community partners to meet the needs of constituents in programs we had to suspend.
- Provide food and transportation stipends for students who opted to stay over Spring Break to keep the shelters open.
- Fund additional outsourced costs for the shelters (cleaning, laundry, food, security) as we faced reduced volunteer capacity.
PBHA’s core mission has always been about mobilizing student leaders in partnership with Cambridge and Boston communities to address gaps in resources and opportunities. Our mission has never been more relevant.
As we look forward, we are grateful to share that, thanks to amazing partners at Y2Y Network, the First Parish in Cambridge, Unitarian Universalist, the City of Cambridge and Cambridge Public Health Department, and Boston Health Care for the Homeless, among others, the Y2Y Harvard Square Shelter remains open and we hope to extend beyond the end of the semester if possible. Student volunteers have begun sending pen pal letters to the people they worked with in the nursing home facilities and are reaching out to families from our mentor and afterschool programs to find out how they can support emerging challenges ranging from home schooling support to food security. Students have joined efforts with alumni to advocate for worker’s rights and to encourage Harvard to lead with moral authority by leveraging its resources in supporting our communities and the most vulnerable during this difficult time.
The needs of our constituents will only grow this summer, and PBHA is committed to continuing to meet those needs, even if restrictions may force our programming to adapt to new models.
We remain in contingency planning for PBHA’s summer programs including the Summer Urban Program (SUP). We hope to finalize a model for SUP by the end of April with applications available to families by May 8th. The goals of SUP to address inequity in educational experiences and support the wellbeing of families is critical now more than ever. Regardless of how SUP occurs this summer, we will engage teen and student interns to support our children academically and emotionally. Student leaders are also working on plans to support adult ESOL learners remotely and we remain committed to how we can broaden and continue our support of people experiencing homelessness.
While so much remains unknown, we know there are core truths that unite us during this difficult time. There is still injustice and inequity affecting the most vulnerable. Student leaders in deep partnership with our communities hold the idealism, dedication and creativity to make a positive meaningful difference. PBHA is part of an extended community of alumni, partners, families and supporters too strong to pull apart and too committed to turn away from our calling. Together, we will continue to answer that call of service.
Following please find links to resources to help one another in holding up our beloved community. This is an emerging list – if you know of other resources we can share, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you and be well and safe,
Meherina & Maria
This is not an exhaustive list, but is a start for those in need of local resources. If you have a suggestion to add to this list, please email email@example.com.
If you need immediate assistance in Massachusetts, call 2-1-1 or use the HelpSteps website or mobile app to find the services you need in your area at helpsteps.com. Available 24/7.
Boston residents should call 3-1-1.
Apply for MA unemployment benefits
Resources for Seniors
Seniors’ Guide to Mental Health During COVID-19
Project Bread FoodSource Hotline
— TTY 1-800-377-1292
Food for Free Cambridge COVID-19 Relief Delivery Program
— Cambridge Community Food Line: (617) 349-9155
Free school breakfast and lunch:
— Boston meal distribution (Map)
— Cambridge meal distribution (Map)
Resources for Families
Talking to children about COVID-19
— Boston Public Schools academic resources
— Cambridge Public Schools academic resources
— Boston Public Library online
— Cambridge Public Library online
— Khan Academy Kids
— Virtual museum tours
— Free children’s books to download
— Free coloring books to download
Comcast Internet (two months of free WiFi access)
How to Help
This is not an exhaustive list, but is a start for those looking to support local efforts. If you have a suggestion to add to this list, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
PBHA’s Emergency Support Fund
— Select “Emergency Support Fund” under Designation
— Provides emergency support to: financially insecure students who have been displaced, PBHA’s homeless shelters, and community partners who have taken in PBHA program participants.
— Y2Y Harvard Square, a PBHA program, is continuing to keep its doors open for young people experiencing homelessness.
Boston Resiliency Fund
Cambridge Mayor’s Disaster Relief Fund
How You Can Help Protect the Protectors
— Ways to support the medical community – created by Harvard Medical School students.