The Amherst Survival Center was started in 1976 in response to the growing phenomenon of homelessness and poverty in central Massachusetts. Increasing unemployment, cuts in welfare spending, and the closing of institutional state facilities with the subsequent transfer of residents into the community were major factors that contributed to this growing population.
As they had historically, people in need turned to the local churches. The response was forthcoming, as had been in the past. But by 1975 the complexity and duration of the situation was apparent. At a meeting at Town Hall the Amherst Survival Center was created in response to this need. Initially it consisted of a telephone and storage space in the basement of a house, thereafter moving to Jones Library. Five months later the Town of Amherst provided ground floor space in the brick school at North Amherst Center, where it exists today with a much-expanded program.