Campus & Community

Finding shelter: Community Gifts supports Just-A-Start

2 min read

This is the second in a series of Gazette articles highlighting some of the many initiatives and charities that Harvard affiliates can support through this month’s Community Gifts Through Harvard campaign. The Community Gifts campaign allows you to donate to a charity of your choice through cash, a check, or a payroll deduction.

The idea of affordable housing in many regions of the country, including the Northeast, seems like a pipe dream and hopelessly out of reach to low-moderate-income residents. But thanks to one group in Cambridge, Just-A-Start Corp. (JAS), affordable housing is becoming a reality for many.

Just-A-Start is a nonprofit community development organization. Founded in 1968, JAS provides a variety of services including producing and stabilizing affordable housing, providing tenant-landlord mediation services and retaining affordable rental and first-time homebuyer housing. In addition, JAS administers education, training, job and life skills development, and placement into entry employment and/or community colleges for youth and adults.

Executive Director Gordon Gottsche has seen firsthand the positive effects that his organization can have on people in the community.

“We are literally holding a roof over people’s heads through mediation, housing rehab, and assisting in the buying and renting process,” said Gottsche. “This is a small counter-effort against the effects of the real estate market.”

However, JAS does not focus on housing alone. Other major areas are education, job training, and job placement. JAS currently offers 10 different training programs that range from BioMedical Careers training to Youth Build, which offers out-of-school youth the opportunity to learn a trade and complete their high school education.

Another offering is the Teen Work Employment Program, which places youth in office settings after school and during the summer. Harvard has participated in the program for more than 25 years and is the largest single source of jobs for young people in the program.

“We’ve had a very positive relationship with Harvard over the years,” said Gottsche. “And we appreciate the University’s consistent support in meeting these kinds of community needs.”

In addition to providing jobs for students, Harvard also supplies financial support to JAS in a variety of ways including Harvard’s 20/20/2000 affordable housing initiative and, of course, Community Gifts Through Harvard.