The summer months bring welcomed weather, time outside, and a break from school in Massachusetts. However, for families on the edge economically, summer can be a challenging time. The cost of food and a safe place to send youth during the day without the support of school meals and other school year programming, can lead to a “cliff effect” or loss of several supports at once.
At our April Community Meeting we brought together presenters from the Boys and Girls Club, Camp Harbor View, The Massachusetts Alliance of YMCAs and Project Bread to share information about how to access free/subsidized camps and food over the summer.
The Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston
- The Boys and Girls Club has 12 programs throughout the city, 8 of which run summer camps for 6-12 year olds. Each session is one week, generally operating from 9:00 am – 4:00 pm with pre and after care available each day. They provide breakfast and lunch. The camps have typical activities like arts and crafts, swimming, sports, and team games. Condon camp, however, is a 6 week commitment. It is a summer learning program with English and Math in the morning and recreation in the afternoon (for 4th, 5th and 6th graders).
- How to apply for camp? This flyer has numbers for each of the programs that you can contact to ask for application materials.
- All programs have scholarships available. The full price is $100/week and the amount of the scholarship varies by program. All families experiencing homelessness or even if recently housed would qualify for a scholarship.
- There are translators to help with applications.
- Apply now! Camps fill up quickly, so apply now, but also know that even when they are full, the camps have flexibility to accept youth with high need.
- Youth from anywhere can attend a camp (regardless of geographic location), but they do need to be able to get to the camp on their own. Most camps are accessible via public transportation. The Boys and Girls Clubs do not have public transportation stipends available.
- They accept vouchers: The Department of Children and Families provides a limited number of camp vouchers or “slots” to family shelter programs. Camps often work out extensions with these vouchers (for example, if the voucher is for 1 week, camps will often allow youth to attend for 3 weeks).
- Drop-In teen centers: The first 5 programs listed on the flyer include teen centers that run as drop in programs Tuesday through Saturday, separate from summer camps. Teens 13-18 can sign up for a $5 membership fee that can be waived if a family cannot afford it.
- There are social workers on staff at the first 5 camps listed on the flyer. They are a great resource when trying to place a family.
- While not technically summer camps, so not included on the flyer, three Boys and Girls Clubs do run summer programming. The Mattapan Teen Center has drop in hours for teens (617-533-9050). The Sumner Boys & Girls Club in Roslindale runs a Summer Learning Project for students of the Sumner School (617-363-9938) and the Hennigan Boys & Girls Club in J.P. runs a Summer Learning Project for students of the Hennigan School (617-427-0144).
- For questions or if you need help in supporting a family please contact Cara Gould: Senior Executive Director of Operations, Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston, 617-994-4722, cgould@BGCB.org.
Camp Harbor View
- Camp Harbor View recently split from the Boys and Girls Club. It is a low cost camp that is in very high demand, but holds some spots open for families like those experiencing homelessness.
- Camp Harbor View is a summer camp on Boston Harbor Island for Boston youth between ages 11 and 14.
- Youth are picked up at community center locations across the city and brought to the world trade center where they take a ferry out to the island every day. They take the ferry and a bus back to the community center locations at the end of the day.
- Breakfast, lunch and dinner are provided.
- Program areas include sports/fitness; leadership with high ropes course and challenge type games; arts including theater, dance, music and fine arts; aquatics; and “knowledge is power” STEM based activities. There is a Leaders in Training program that is essentially a summer job that youth can apply for as well once they get into the camp.
- There are two sessions, each 4 weeks: from July 3 – July 27 and Aug. 1 – Aug 25. A youth can only participate in one of the two sessions.
- Applications are done online. They start accepting applications in January. The only cost is a $5 fee to apply online, and that can be waived. This camp fills up very quickly and it’s a first come first serve basis (though returning campers get some priority). They do open up a wait list, which they have already started for this year. However, they hold spots open for families with special circumstances like families experiencing homelessness! Contact Scott Thomson at 1-857-273-0725 (include the 1 when you dial).
- They recently opened Camp Harbor View in the City: a teen center in the South Boston/Roxbury area where they provide recreational and therapeutic programming, but this is only open to teens who have been to the camp. There is programming for parents and as well once you have your foot in the door as a camper.
- Project Bread runs a Food Summer Service program through which they have 126 meal sites in Boston, and other sites across the state. Any kid from anywhere can go in and get a meal if they are 18 or younger. Some sites offer meals for adults at a nominal fee. This year they are expanding to WIC offices, farmers markets and other places like parks.
- If you have a suggestion for where they should have a summer meal site, please contact Project Bread (see Rachel’s contact information below). They will also run “closed sites”, where if at least 5 children are eligible for free or reduced price lunch or some other similar program, then all kids can have a closed meal site (for example a karate or dance class). Please help promote the program at schools- you can order as much free promotional materials as you like to put up at your agency or to give to schools to display via Project Bread’s website meals4kids.org. Another idea offered was to print the local meal site list and post that up.
- You can look up a site near you online at meals4kids.org.
- There is also a new app called SummerEats that allows you to find sites near you on your smart phone!
- For more on the Summer Food Program, please contact Rachel Garside, Child Nutrition Outreach Coordinator, firstname.lastname@example.org, (617) 239-2575.
- Project Bread also has a FoodSource hot line with language assistance to apply for SNAP (food stamps): 800-645-8333; 800-377-1292 (TTY).
The Massachusetts Alliance of YMCAs
- The YMCA is the largest after school youth serving and early education provider in the state. Their focus in on families and children. On this flyer the location of each YMCA is listed.
- Summer jobs: The Ys are always looking to higher youth, so this is a good agency to connect with for summer jobs for youth ages 14 and over.
- Membership: Standard memberships vary by location. A Y should never turn anyone away for the club membership, child care or after school programming as long as it is not a legal licensing issue. If a youth cannot afford it, there should be a discount. You may need to write a letter and if needed contact Kate-Marie for help. They will not ask about immigrant status when applying for a club membership. In Boston all 7 graders get a free summer membership.
- Kate-Marie, Director of Public Policy, Alliance of Massachusetts YMCAs can be contact at: Kate-Marie.Roycroft@maymca.com or 978-237-2021.
Get Active in Support of Improving Access to Summer Camp and After School! There is a bill sponsored by Senator Lovely that the MA Alliance of YMCAs is working (SB192) An Act Creating the Home Works Program. This legislation would enable children in Emergency Shelter Assistance to go to after school programs or summer camps. The bill would establish a voucher system to fund transportation to and from after school or camps. After school and camp providers could also go into hotels/motels to run after school programs there if setting up transportation is not possible. Sign up for Kate Marie’s action alerts here.
It is budget season so there is a lot of opportunity to take action in support of the kinds of programs and services that families at risk of or experiencing homelessness rely on all year round. Sign up for Homes for Families action alerts here.
Liz Peck Director of Operations and Member Engagement Homes for Families