Institute should honor its commitment to CASPAR
As many members of the MIT community are now aware, a petition is being circulated which requests that MIT donate a small piece of land to the Cambridge and Somerville Program for Alcohol Rehabilitation (CASPAR) for the purpose of building a permanent shelter for homeless alcoholics.
Currently, this property, which is only 27,000 square feet in size, is the site of three run down trailers which have housed homeless people for 11 years. Until a long-term lease is obtained, the trailers can never be replaced by a more humane, permanent structure.
Perhaps the most common criticism we have encountered from people who decide against signing our petition is that it is not MIT's responsibility to provide care for the homeless. In light of this, we feel that we need to clarify our position.
First, we are not asking that MIT abandon its mission of education and research to go into the shelter business. We are asking, however, that MIT put homelessness on its problem-solving agenda.
Homelessness is one of the most pressing domestic issues we face today. As an institution funded largely by public money, MIT has a responsibility to use some of its resources to address the public issue of homelessness.
We can think of no better way for MIT to signal a fresh commitment to addressing homelessness than to make a difference in its own community by allowing CASPAR to build a shelter on its current site.
Second, MIT made a commitment to CASPAR 11 years ago when it allowed CASPAR to locate the trailers on MIT property. After five years of searching, CASPAR had found a site for a shelter at the corner of Main and Windsor Streets, only to have MIT purchase the property before the deal could be finalized.
It was then that MIT offered to allow the trailers to be located on its property at 240 Albany Street. Eleven years later, the shelter has become a valuable service to homeless alcoholics, but it is in desperate need of upgrading.
We are asking that MIT reaffirm its commitment by allowing a permanent structure to be built to replace the trailers. At a re
cent Graduate Student Council meeting, when questioned about the CASPAR trailers on Albany Street, MIT President Charles Vest replied that MIT has been very patient in allowing the trailers to remain on MIT property for 11 years.
We think a better example of patience is found in the shelter guests who sleep side-by-side in cots each night, waiting for a better place to stay while they try to get their lives back together.
Finally, 240 Albany Street
is not an empty lot. For many homeless alcoholics in Cambridge it is the only place to stay warm in winter. The MIT administration has made it clear that they are working with the city of Cambridge to find a permanent site for the shelter, but that there is no way to say how long the negotiations will continue before a solution is found.
Human lives are involved; we find it reprehensible that some of the most vulnerable members of our community must remain in crowded trailers while MIT and Cambridge argue over real estate. The simplest solution is for MIT to allow the building of a permanent structure at the current site.
For those who remain unconvinced despite the above arguments, we would like to offer a way to help on which everyone can agree. We are currently sponsoring a sock drive to benefit the clients of the CASPAR shelter on Albany Street.
Socks and underwear are the most needed clothing items at Albany Street, and while it may seem trivial, imagine going without them, especially in the winter. Please donate socks in good condition or new men's underwear
at any of the several collection points around campus.
Christopher Stipp G->
MIT Homelessness Initiative->