The Salvation Army Cambridge Corps will break ground on the first phase of a multi-million dollar expansion project Thursday that will increase the usable space for homeless adult and children programs at its Central Square facility.
The Salvation Army will tear down the rear gymnasium at 402 Massachusetts Ave. and build a two-story structure that will enable it to provide improved space to the more than 1,100 people that stay at the shelter each year.
“This will be the most popular shelter anywhere around because it will have the best, the cleanest and most up-to-date modern facilities where people can be served with dignity and they can get their lives together,” said Major Stephen Carroll, the commander of the Cambridge Salvation Army.
Carroll said the first phase of the project will cost $4.7 million and is being funded by donations from individuals and the business community.
The first phase of construction is expected to take six to 12 months to complete. While it’s underway, Carroll said the Salvation Army is launching a capital campaign to raise $3.5 million needed to tear down and expand a portion of the front of the building.
The Salvation Army built the Cambridge facility in 1969, including the gymnasium. But Carroll said that since then the problem of homelessness has gotten worse, and around 1987 the Salvation Army began re-purposing rooms in the building to better serve the homeless. About 70 people sleep in the gymnasium every night, including about 35 in cots for the emergency shelter and another 35 beds for a mens’ program.
“The facilities are really run down, tired and old,” Carroll said.
The second phase of the project is designed to increase the space needed for the Salvation Army's Our Care program, which provides daycare for homeless children, said Carroll. The program serves more than 30 children, but another 25 kids are on the waiting list, he said.
“We’d like to see that there are no children on the waiting list,” Carroll said.
The Salvation Army will hold a groundbreaking ceremony for the first phase of the project Thursday at 10:30 a.m.
Cambridge Mayor David Maher and City Manager Robert Healy are expected to attend along Carroll and the co-chairs of the project's capital campaign, Joseph Roller II, president and CEO of Cambridge Trust; and Robert Wilson, president and CEO of Cambridge Savings Bank.