top of page

Frequently Asked Questions

What is HEART’s mission?

  • We meet the immediate needs of people in conflict or crisis in Cambridge, MA, focusing on those who experience economic marginalization, sexual violence, anti-Blackness, and other forms of oppression.

  • We do this by providing holistic, non-punitive, healing-centered and care-focused responses by trained responders, who are community members who have lived experiences of marginalization.

  • Our mission is to reimagine public safety with principles of racial, transformative, and disability justice so as to eradicate the grossly disproportionate impacts of the existing carceral system (policing, involuntary commitment, etc.) on Black and Brown people and other marginalized members of our community.

What will HEART provide?

  • HEART will respond to emergencies involving mental health, substance abuse, family disputes, domestic violence, conflicts between community members, financial crises, and the needs of the unhoused.

  • Methods will include empathic listening; conflict resolution through restorative and healing-centered practices; assistance accessing appropriate services; mutual aid for access to material resources; post-harm support; and a live database for coordination between existing service providers.

  • HEART responders will be trained in restorative Circle Process, mental health interventions, domestic violence awareness, unhoused sensitivity, and EMT skills. 

  • HEART is responding to non-emergency requests for assistance. To request assistance, email and/or fill out our intake form:

How was HEART developed?

  • During January to June, 2021, a transparent, inclusive process was convened by The Black Response, Cambridge—an advocacy organization led by Black women—to demand solutions to the inequities and injustices perpetrated by the existing public safety system.

  • The process involved conducting participatory action research (an empowering and transformative research methodology) with community members, including young people and those most directly impacted by the existing carceral system.

  • Community members overwhelmingly favored creating an alternative public safety program outside of the city’s police department (82% of 403 residents surveyed said yes).

  • The Black Response also gathered a broad coalition of community activists, local service providers, and city officials to learn from alternative programs already operating around the nation, including MH First in California, CAHOOTS in Eugene, OR, and Project LETS in Denver, CO.

  • HEART was proposed as a new program for community-based public safety in Cambridge; the HEART model received a unanimous vote in favor from Cambridge City Council on May 25, 2021.

Funding Goal

HEART seeks to raise $2 million to become fully operational by 2023. $1 million will go toward hiring twenty full-time HEART responders. The rest will cover the operating costs, which include administrative and support staff, supplies and equipment, and training costs.



Financial Status

HEART is fiscally sponsored by Community Service Care, Inc. which is a 501(c)(3) in Boston, MA.

The HEART project has raised more than $450,000 in grant funding from the following foundations:

  • Borealis Philanthropy: 

  • Communities Transforming Policing Fund 

  • Black-led Movements Fund 

  • The Boston Foundation

  • Social Justice Ecology

  • New Commonwealth Fund

  • Boston Women’s Fund

  • Groundswell Rapid Response Fund

  • Resist

  • Policylink

  • Common Counsel Foundation

  • Wayfarer

HEART is a subcontractor ($21,000) on Transition House’s contract with the Department of Public Health.

HEART has received over $300,000 in individual donations from more than 500 donors. This includes $122,123 raised during a virtual fundraiser on March 1, 2022 which drew 267 participants.


What is HEART’s current status?

HEART Staff consists of:

  • Two Co-Directors

  • Six full-time HEART responders and one responder manager. See the list of trainings they have completed.


Volunteers also support HEART through these working groups and teams:

  • Admin team

  • Fundraising and grant writing team

  • Communications team

  • Mental health working group

  • Domestic violence/sexual assualt working group

  • Research team

The HEART board of advisors currently has 6 members, 4 of whom are people of color.


HEART is a member of national alliances of alternative programs through Interrupting Criminalization, Transforming 911, Crisis Jam and Raheem (PATCH).


HEART is a leader of a state-wide network of alternatives which includes 9 programs and organizations:

  • All Lynn Emergency Response Team (ALERT) - Lynn, MA

  • Lynn United for Change - Lynn, MA  

  • Brookline for Racial Justice  - Brookline, MA

  • Community Responders for Equity, Safety, & Service (CRESS ) - Amherst, MA 

  • Northampton Department of Community Care - Northampton, MA 

  • Defund Somerville - Somerville, MA 

  • Safe Medford - Medford, MA

  • Malden Policing Alternatives & Accountability - Malden, MA 

  • Uplift Watertown - Watertown, MA 


Specific examples of calls HEART has responded to:

  • A woman who was the victim of coercive and financial domestic violence was contemplating suicide because she didn’t know how she was going to pay the bills. She didn’t know that there are services, like the Margaret Fuller House, that help people pay their arrears. We heard this story and supported her with financial resources and housing support through mutual aid. We also connected her to long-term services.

  • After community tragedies, like the tragic shootings that have taken place this year in Cambridge, HEART’s community cohesion team could coordinate a long-term followup program to support the family with logistical and emotional needs. We are starting to practice this now: the partner of a community member was recently shot, and we are helping by connecting them to resources, providing mutual aid, and following up for regular check-ins.

Other calls HEART can respond to: 

  • When it’s cold or wet, unhoused people seek shelter in the ATMs. After an hour, it triggers an alarm connected to the police. The police are the ones forced to remove the person; this is a call that HEART might answer instead. We learned about this during an informal interview with a police officer in Cambridge who was frustrated at not having better solutions.

  • A city councilor once told a story about an unhoused man who came to him at 5am asking for help finding a place to sleep, he said the only way was to call the police. This is a call for HEART. We heard this story in a public city meeting.

  • There was a young Black man in distress outside a building in July 2020 (CBS Boston). The police were called because no one knew what to do or how to help him. It turns out the young man’s mother suddenly passed away in that building while visiting a friend. The police handcuffed him to a fence, and he spent hours in a heightened state. This would be a call for HEART instead.

  • There was a baby that was crying very loudly non-stop for hours. A neighbor called the police. The family was undocumented. The members of the family feared that ICE would be called on them and were thus extremely distressed. The mother was crying while talking to the police. The two children, including the baby, were also crying during the encounter. The father feared that the police might think he was physically abusive because everyone was crying around him. HEART could be answering calls about noise complaints (where there is no violence reported). We heard this story while interviewing an undocumented person in Cambridge. We would connect the family to other support services.

cambridge heart square-01.png
cambridge heart square-01.png
cambridge heart square-01.png
bottom of page