Y2Y: A Bold Experiment
A feature-length documentary film following Y2Y (Young Adults Uniting to End Homelessness).
Y2Y – Young Adults Uniting to End Homelessness -- is embarking on a bold experiment that has just begun with the creation of a 22-bed young-adult homeless shelter in Harvard Square, staffed by volunteer university students the same ages as their homeless guests. Blueberry Hill Productions has exclusive access to document Y2Y’s obstacles, hard choices, and triumphs over the next three years as homeless young adults and idealistic university students work together to create a safe environment for an extremely vulnerable population, and explore the possibility of replicating their efforts in other cities where hundreds of young people are currently sleeping on the streets.
Three years ago, Y2Y was the dream of two college sophomores, Sam Greenberg and Sarah Rosenkrantz, who were working 30+ hours per week in the Harvard Square Homeless Shelter, which provides shelter, food, clothing, hygiene facilities, and personalized case management to 24 adults nightly.
Sam and Sarah realized there was a gaping hole in the system: a lack of safe homeless shelter space for young adults. While all homeless populations are vulnerable, young adults are especially at risk. Service providers report that many unaccompanied homeless youth feel safer sleeping outside or in abandoned buildings than in adult shelters where they are at high risk for exploitation, exposure to harmful substances and diseases, robbery, and physical injury.
Against all odds, Sam and Sarah created an ambitious new enterprise: Y2Y. While still undergraduates, they assembled a board of advisors that includes some of the best service providers in the Boston area and numerous top scholars from around the world. They also solicited the input of homeless youth in Cambridge who are now on Y2Y’s Young Adult Advisory Council. They’ve built a well-organized, all-student volunteer staff, and together they’ve raised more then $1,000,000 to transform a large church basement on the corner of Church Street and Mass Avenue into a welcoming 22-bed homeless shelter for young adults, ages 18-24.
Filmmaker Laurie Kahn and Blueberry Hill Productions have exclusive access to document Y2Y over the next three years. The Y2Y staff and the members of the Y2Y Young Adult Advisory Council are eager to work with Laurie. They want her to document the project -- the good and the bad -- so that the film can be a valuable tool for others aiming to create young adult peer-to-peer shelters.
The main characters in the story are thoughtful and compelling, the interaction of homeless young adults and idealistic university students is inherently charged, and the challenges they will face together are huge. If the Y2Y model is translated from Cambridge MA to other cities across the country, the results are totally unpredictable.
The Y2Y experiment is the first of its kind, aiming to develop a sustainable and scalable model for youth-driven homeless shelters for young adults. Y2Y will be carrying out extensive quantitative and qualitative evaluation at every step of the way, measuring their successes and failures so they can take stock of what’s working and what’s not working-- and improve the model.
After operating the Y2Y homeless shelter in Harvard Square for a year, the Y2Y Staff is exploring how they might help one or two other universities replicate what Y2Y has done in Cambridge. Possible cities where a large number of homeless youth are at risk, and where there are universities with enough students to do what Y2Y is doing, include (among many others): Miami, Chicago, NYC, Detroit, and Berkeley CA.
This plan is wildly ambitious, and might seem impossible, but no one believed Sam and Sarah would get Y2Y off the ground either!
The filmmaking team will have the same respectful approach for which Laurie’s other films are well-known. Most importantly, the film Y2Y: A Bold Experiment will amplify the impact of Y2Y’s work. The film will be a tool for change, potentially inspiring dozens of universities in the US and abroad to create and operate peer-to-peer homeless shelters for young adults. While shooting, Laurie will share her footage with Y2Y, so the organization can make both fundraising reels and practical training films that can be shared on the Y2Y website.
Y2Y is aiming to shape a model that not only provides safe shelter for homeless youth, but also provides pathways out of homelessness. In the process they will encourage homeless youth and volunteers to become the next generation’s leading advocates for youth-driven solutions to homelessness. It is a bold experiment, and it is important to capture this on film.