Restoring Bread and Jams for the Homeless

by Hasson Rashid

SATURDAY, JUNE 21, 2014— A Harvard Square day shelter for homeless people has been closed. It was a sad day for Cambridge. After decades of service, "Bread and Jams" will be missed. However a committee has been formed to restore the program's funding.

Bread & Jams Self Advocacy Center was a low threshold program, that had offered a safe place off the street for over 25 years. The program, despite its small staff and space requirements, had enormous impact on its individual users. Bread & Jams provided care to, on average, 55 people per day— access to meals clothes, mail delivery, showers, and case management, as well as help with housing search, job search, and benefits including Social Security, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, health insurance, and referrals when necessary.

The planned closure of Bread & Jams on March 25, 2014 due to budget cuts has disrupted the flow of integrated services to many homeless  individuals, as well as unforeseen impact on the greater Cambridge community

Click here to read related article in Harvard Crimson

Founded in the late 1980s as a meals program by a group of concerned students, Bread and Jams has operated under the fiscal and organizational oversight, of Eliot Community Human Services (ECHS)’ Homeless Services Division since 2008. Bread and Jams drop-in shelter had served the daytime needs of Harvard Square’s homeless population by providing hot meals and a warm place to stay five days a week.

But recent changes in federal funding for homelessness services forced the shelter to shut its doors on March 25. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HAD) shifted funding from supportive street outreach programs, like Bread and Jams, to permanent housing programs. HUD categorizes housing programs into two tiers and, in recent years, the department has placed more permanent housing programs into the first tier, leaving less funding for programs like Bread and Jams in the second tier.

Caroline James, a student at Harvard University’s Graduate School of design, first noticed Bread and Jams four years ago, as she walked by the entrance of the Swedenborg Church basement. Now she and others, including myself are looking at ways to possible resurrect the shelter. James found out about two months ago that Bread and Jams was closing and in response, helped form a committee of concerned citizens and stakeholders. Cambridge City Council members Marc McGovern and Nadeem Mazen have met with members of the  “Committee to Restore Bread and Jams,”  and intend to meet with members of Eliot Community Human Services (ECHS), and possibly local universities, to seek temporary housing for the shelter.

A petition for funding Bread and Jams is being circulated.

The city council may consider opening the doors of the Foundry Building for setting up a new home and location for Bread and Jams. Although this would be more than two miles away in East Cambridge, this would be in accord with the City's 10 year plan to end local homelessness.

Harvard Square is now left without an adult daytime drop in center, a low threshold drop in, in an area that always has been identified as high need, is going to have an impact on the community. At its last location, it was tucked into the basement of Swedenborg Chapel at 50 Quincy Street near the Graduate School of Design.

Bread and Jams purpose and use in Harvard Square for years, has been to faithfully provide homeless individuals with a safe, supportive drop in environment, where they could get off the street; address basic needs for hygiene, nutrition and clothing; and access case management and other supportive services furnished by program staff and staff from our other homeless programs. Now without the possibility of a home, these valuable community services for the homeless won't be provide any longer. For nearly 25 years  Bread and Jams responded to the basic survival and long term rehabilitative needs of homeless men and women on a Drop ­in basis from Monday through Friday from 9 am to 2 pm. Breakfast and lunch were served daily, and knowledgeable professionals worked with each individual.

Bread and Jams initially started as their own organization many years ago. However, about five years ago, the board transferred it to ECHS, which is housed in Lexington. ECHS’s five year contract with them ended in March.

According to Swedenborg, they reached out to Bread and Jams last September for lease renegotiations. After three months of attempts to contact them, Swedenborg was approached by a prospective new tenant. When Bread and Jams learned that they were being replaced by a new renter, they told Swedenborg that they had not sought to renew the lease because they were unsure if they could continue the program.  

ACT members and the wider community can help, by getting letters of support for Bread and Jams from elected officials, namely the Cambridge City Council representatives, appointed officials overseeing Human Services, and the community at large; and by signing and gathering signatures on a petition.

Petition Contact Information:

Caroline James,  Committee to Restore Bread and Jams—


Hasson Rashid, ACT Board, CCTV Human Service News and Information TV Program

Hasson J. Rashid

P.O. Box 382313, Cambridge, MA 02139