Website: https://www.y2yharvardsquare.org/

Mission: Y2Y Harvard Square, a student-run overnight shelter, employs a youth-to-youth model to provide a safe and affirming environment for young adults experiencing homelessness. Y2Y guests have opportunities to collaborate with service providers, other youth experiencing homelessness, and student volunteers to create sustainable pathways out of homelessness and develop skills for long-term success. Y2Y provides opportunities for both guests and volunteers to become the next generation’s leading advocates for youth-driven solutions to homelessness.


How does your organization strive toward the attributes associated with Relevance?

  • At founding, Y2Y convened a Young Adult Advisory Council made up of young adults who had experienced homelessness. The Council met weekly and had significant influence on designing Y2Y’s policies and physical layout.
  • Youth with lived experience train student staff annually in a “Youth Homelessness 101” training. This is part of a rigorous training provided by local experts, which also includes trainings on racial justice, and sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • Y2Y’s weekly Guest Leadership Council provides a venue for guests to share feedback, and take ownership of new initiatives within the shelter.
  • Y2Y and Guests participate in advocacy events such as the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless’ Legislative Action Day, where guests meet with elected officials as experts and explain how legislators can better address the needs of youth experiencing homelessness.


How does your organization strive toward the attributes associated with Impact?

  • With support from professors at the Harvard Kennedy and Business Schools, Y2Y Network has developed a robust data-collection and performance evaluation system based on both qualitative (feedback from guests for example) and quantitative data (like bed utilization rates, or number of appointments with case managers).
  • All of the data Y2Y collects is analyzed by:
    • student Data Directors, with support and oversight from Y2Y staff
    • expert advisors from Y2Y’s Board and Y2Y Harvard Square’s Advisory Board
    • with guests at the weekly SPPC meetings.
  • Due to its mission-critical relevance and guests’ histories of trauma and/or mental illness, which negatively impacts their perception of safety, one of Y2Y’s key impact metrics is whether guests feel safe during their stay. In total 81% of guests report that they feel safe or extremely safe during their stay a Y2Y Harvard Square.
  • Y2Y Harvard Square also measures whether guests leave Y2Y Harvard Square with concrete steps towards attaining their goals. Since December 2015, 83% of guests agree that they have a concrete plan out of homelessness after their stay at Y2Y. Furthermore, in Y2Y’s third year 12% of Y2Y’s 30-night guests left Y2Y into housing, and nearly 30% of guests obtained employment while staying at Y2Y.


How does your organization strive toward the attributes associated with Sustainability?

  • Prior to opening Y2Y Harvard Square, Y2Y Network led a feasibility study that discovered a community-wide, multi-stakeholder consensus that a low-threshold youth shelter was desperately needed.
  • When Y2Y was established it operated under the fiscal sponsorship of the Phillips Brooks House Association, the Harvard-based student-run non-profit with nearly 100 years of experience running community-based programs. Under their fiscal sponsorship Y2Y developed initial systems for managing finances and revenue, volunteer management and donor relations.
  • Y2Y received 50c3 status in August 2018 and has since engaged a financial advisor to ensure its ability to manage its income and expenses with accountability and transparency. Y2Y previously engaged a Development Consultant and an Operations Consultant to ensure these systems were sufficient to meet fundraising and operational needs.
  • As Y2Y has progressed with its 501c3 status it has dedicated time to researching and implementing the internal operational systems to support its own sustainability, including investing tools like Quickbooks, Classy, MailChimp and the Salesforce Non-Profit Success Pack.


How does your organization strive toward the attributes associated with Excellence in Management and Operations?

  • At the employee level, Y2Y actively recruits for and hires employees who are dedicated to the values of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
  • Y2Y’s leadership team recently partnered with a freelance DEI consultant for a strategy session with the goal of strengthening Y2Y’s robust DEI work.
  • At the board level Y2Y is proud to engage a diverse group, including two members of its student staff, and a former member of Y2Y’s Young Adult Advisory Council. The board has included a DEI lens in Y2Y’s systems change work, making it one of four organizational strategic priorities in the 3 year strategic plan designed Fall 2017.
  • Y2Y is primarily volunteer -run; in the third year 538 volunteers contributed over 25,000 hours to shelter operations. Shelter staff receive over 40 hours of training in order to manage shelter operations and lead weekly and one-time volunteers who receive 4 hours of training and on-shift training respectively.


  • Y2Y Harvard Square is the nation’s first student-run shelter for young adults experiencing homelessness. As such Y2Y leverages the unique talents of emerging leaders to operate a safe, affirming and youth-specific emergency shelter and provides opportunities for young adults to become the next generation’s leading advocates for youth-driven solutions to homelessness.
  • Y2Y’s staffing model is based on a core group of approximately 30 student staff members who are responsible for managing day to day operations of the shelter, overseeing shifts of weekly and one-time volunteers, and leading on additional administrative responsibilities including purchasing supplies, recruiting volunteers, leading advocacy programming, etc.
  • Y2Y guests are also encouraged to become leaders within the Y2Y community and have opportunities to do so through the weekly guest leadership councils where they can take the lead on making changes to shelter policies and procedures. Guests are also encouraged to be leaders in the wider community through the Speaker’s Bureau where they can share their unique expertise with external audiences.
  • Young Professionals / Emerging Leaders are able to volunteer with Y2Y as staff, weekly or one-time volunteers, or skills-based volunteers through the Pathways Program which hosts workshops for guests to learn the skills they need for long-term success.
  • Y2Y is also exploring peer-to-peer fundraising opportunities for young professionals / emerging leaders and a young professionals board to advise on engaging young professionals / emerging leaders specifically.