The Interview with Sarah Rosenkrantz

Please tell us a little about yourself and the founding of Y2Y.

The idea for Y2Y came about while I was in college and volunteering on staff for the Harvard Square Homeless Shelter, an adult shelter in Cambridge. There was a marked uptick in young people coming into the shelter, and at that time there were only 12 beds for youth in the city.

According to Sarah, youth do not typically feel comfortable in adult shelters, but since the volunteer staff at the Harvard Square shelter was predominantly college students, they did. Using this observation, Sarah and others organized an advisory board to start developing Y2Y. The Y2Y Harvard Square location opened in December 2015.

What do you hope to see Y2Y accomplish over the next few years?

Y2Y currently has several strategic priorities:
• To further enhance and develop its programming model. Y2Y is extending partnerships and adding services through key relationships, such as the addition of healthcare through Boston Healthcare for the Homeless.

• To impact systems change and advocacy by working with young people to bring their voices to a broader stage. Y2Y is interested in working toward solutions on the structural barriers of this matter – delving into the root causes of youth homelessness.

• To pilot growth by working with a community in New Haven, CT, to launch a new program location, which is on track and slated to open in Fall 2020.

• To build a sustainable organization by focusing on the work and structures needed to ensure that Y2Y will exist as long as it is needed.

What do your best days at Y2Y look like? What excites you about your work?
My best days are spent at the shelter working with the volunteers and guests, and especially having the opportunity to attend guest leadership council meetings. Getting to work with students and guests about how to make the shelter better and watching them share their thoughts and opinions is truly exciting.

What does a challenging day at Y2Y look like? What motivates you to continue this work despite the challenges?
There are always difficult moments, especially when working with an at-risk population. There can be intense challenges and interpersonal conflict in this setting on a regular basis. Y2Y’s vast network of partners – a helpful community that is always at the ready to provide advice and support – deserves a lot of credit. Being part of a broader community keeps us all motivated.

Are there any misconceptions about your work or the population of young people you serve that you would like to clear up?
The biggest misconception about young people who are experiencing homelessness is that they are rebellious or want to get away – that homelessness is a personal choice. In reality, such things as aging out of foster care, leaving unsafe homes, or getting kicked out of their homes creates homelessness. This population is so resilient and strong and powerful. They have such incredible experience and expertise. The broader community doesn’t always see or hear about this.

What is the best advice you’ve received in your career?
The best advice I’ve received is to ask, “What do young people think? Do you actually know what this population wants or needs, or are you just projecting?” Young people truly are the experts on their own needs and solutions. If young people aren’t leading the work, then we’re going to get it wrong – the services won’t work.

What do you hope to gain from your relationship with TPC? Are there other ways TPC members could help you?
Y2Y is so excited and extremely grateful to be a part of the TPC community. Every event and every interaction has been so warm and nurturing. We feel like we are part of a fantastic community – it has not felt like a traditional funding relationship, but more like a true partnership. Building out a network is so important, and we appreciate being connected in this way.

Is there anything else you want TPC members to know?
No one is too old to volunteer! You don’t need to be a “young person” to volunteer – you just need to be more than 11 years old. Y2Y especially relies on community members during the holiday season; Harvard is on break until the end of January. We are always looking for ways to grow our support network – whether it’s coming in to volunteer when we are understaffed (especially over school breaks), giving donations (e.g., coats, blankets, hats, gloves, scarves), or providing specialized skills or expertise, Y2Y is always grateful to have that list of go-to people.