Cold Weather Shelter makes plans to expand

The Rev. Robert White

The Rev. Robert White

CAMBRIDGE – Local activists are cooperating to expand the city’s Cold Weather Shelter, as they prepare to serve the homeless this winter.

“What we hope to do in three to five years is develop a campus on the Salvation Army property,” the Rev. Robert White said on Friday. “We’re looking at more family services and programs to keep people from becoming homeless.”

But now, as the weather is just starting to turn, the immediate goal is to get set for this winter. The shelter has been located at a number of sites over the years, and this year will move to the Salvation Army at 200 Washington St.

“We have permission from the city to put three temporary units on their property,” the Rev. White said. The work was delayed, he said, because organizers “got hung up on getting utility connections.”

Now that things are getting straightened out, what is needed next is $75,000 by the end of October. Of that, $30,000-$35,000 will go towards paying for utilities and other operational costs, with the rest of the funds needed to buy, deliver and remove the units. The shelter is scheduled to be open from Dec. 1 until March 30.
The Salvation Army operates a year-round shelter of its own. “The limitation of both shelters is that they are emergency only, open at nighttime,” the Rev. White said.

Organizers recognized that the shelters had overlapping missions, and in fact served many of same people. At the Salvation Army, led by Col. William Crabson, 25-30 people find shelter, while about 30-35 use the cold weather site. The Rev. White said there is a homeless population of 60-65 people in Cambridge who find accomodation at the facilities.

The stereotype of a man, maybe with a drug, alcohol or mental health problem, doesn’t fit many of the homeless individuals. “We’ve started to see an increase in families, women and children,” the Rev. White said. “The stereotype doesn’t fit at all.”

With both shelters requiring people to vacate early in the morning, and limited beds during the cold months, “We don’t think that’s an adequate way to care for people,” he said.

Planning for this winter’s services and fundraising are continuing. For information, call The Salvation Army at 410-228-2442.

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