The Alliance of Cambridge Settlement Houses was a federation of Cambridge, Massachusetts, neighborhood centers, incorporated in June, 1963. Participants included Cambridge Community Center, Cambridge Neighborhood House, East End House, and Margaret Fuller House. The Alliance pursued a range of programs in the Cambridge community including extension education, pre schools, and community schools; youth programs and camping; housing and community organization; senior services; and counseling and community mental health.
The Alliance of Cambridge Settlement Houses (ACSH) was founded in October, 1961, and comprised four member houses: Cambridge Neighborhood House, Margaret Fuller House, East End House, and Cambridge Community Center. Encouraged by the National Federation of Settlements' 1958 publication on settlement coordination and subsequent Boston-area agency planning, executives of four Cambridge settlements prepared merger plan in 1961. With foundation funding commitments, the Alliance of Cambridge Settlement Houses was incorporated on June 20,1963. Pressure from the Alliance's major funding source led to the merger of three of the houses in June of 1967. Cambridge Community Center, located in a predominantly Black neighborhood, remained separate. A fifth settlement, Christ Child House, cooperated informally in Alliance deliberations and programming. Isabel Pifer was hired as the first ACHS administrator in October, 1963. In 1967, she was succeeded by Walter Benecke, who was followed by A. Meado Zaki in 1969. Much of the early history of the Alliance was devoted to establishing formal organizational structures and defining the relations between the Alliance and its member houses.
The Alliance provided a number of community services. It was especially active in community planning and development. In 1963, the Alliance advised community organizers in the vicinity of Cambridge Community Center on establishing the Grass Roots Housing Council of the Riverside Neighborhood Association. In addition, urban renewal plans for the Boston Inner Belt highway construction project led to Alliance negotiations with both the Highway Administration and the Cambridge Housing Authority. These and other redevelopment concerns spawned the Cambridge Economic Opportunity Committee (CEOC) in 1965 and the Cambridge Corporation community development agency in 1966. Ultimately, CEOC funded the Alliance's Head Start program and its tutoring project, Tutoring Plus. Federal money and Alliance coordination also resulted in a Model Cities program in 1968.
Office of Economic Opportunity funds also supported Alliance youth projects. A science day camp staffed by student volunteers, teenage employment skills training (TEST) and the Neighborhood Youth Corps all played a part in an ambitious youth program that emerged in the years from 1965 to 1967. For younger children, the Alliance coordinated the camping programs of its member houses into a single unified program in 1964. By the end of the decade, the Alliance's camp was also attempting to cooperate with Scouting and "Y" Camping programs.
In 1964, the Alliance board proposed a multi-service center to provide social, psychological, and legal counseling to the whole range of age and language groups in the community. An initial move in this direction was the family counseling project, funded by the Permanent Charity Fund and operated in conjunction with the Family Society of Cambridge between 1964 and 1968. A similar program that provided recreation, counseling, and referral services to senior citizens opened in March, 1967. Ultimately, the Multi-Service Center for Senior Citizens developed into a series of drop-in centers that were better suited to the client population. Psychological counseling for all age groups, first proposed in 1964, was the focus of a joint project with the Cambridge Mental Health Association. By 1967, the Alliance was involved in plans with Cambridge Community Services, Elizabeth Peabody House, and other agencies in the neighboring town of Somerville to develop a Comprehensive Mental Health Center the area. At the same time, with Cambridge Economic Opportunity Committee (CEOC) and Model Cities funding, the settlements developed a community controlled multi-service center in 1968.
Amid these and other ambitious initiatives, the Alliance had to cope with recurrent financial troubles. Conceived in the hope of increased fund-raising potential and heightened operational economy, the Alliance did manage to install a unified accounting system among its member houses by 1965. Operational economy foundered, however, in the face of expanded programs and regular annual deficits. Tensions developed within the Alliance over disproportionate funding and resources, in particular involving the Cambridge Community Center, which had primarily African American clients. Its separate status was a source of continuing anxiety during a period of escalating racial tensions. Fund-raising efforts were stymied by a United Community Services prohibition against independent soliciting campaigns, which was relaxed only in 1969. By 1971, the end of the period documented by the records, financial problems threatened to curtail the community service programs that had formed the focus of the Alliance. The Alliance appears to have ceased operations around 1973.