By William K. Harter
Before and during the 20th century, Harvard University in Cambridge, MA has been considered one of the top five universities in the USA. It also is one of the most expensive to attend. It is located in Harvard Square, an area of one-way streets, mix of small stores, bookshops, restaurants and such, geared to the wealthy and college students. Because of heavy foot traffic, the subway entrance to the square is also the gathering place for the homeless and panhandlers.
Daily from November 15 to April 15 there is a shelter called Harvard Square Homeless Shelter. The shelter brings together students of one of the world’s wealthiest and most prestigious university with its neighbors, who struggle to survive.
The shelter is at University Lutheran Church. The church is not affiliated with Harvard, but is surrounded by the university. The shelter was started in 1983.
It is the only shelter in America run entirely by university students. The shelter has 24 staff members, all Harvard undergraduates, and about 200 other student helpers. The staff runs the shelter, keeping track of money, gathering food and donations, cooking, doing dishes, serving and cleaning up. It has a budget of $60,000, coming from federal and state grants, fundraisings, local businesses and university alumni. It has beds for 20 men and four women, and is full beyond capacity nightly.
“When I got on campus, I saw a really strong juxtaposition between the wealth, prestige and power of the university compared with the plight of so many people in the square,” said Jonathan Warsh, co-administrator of the shelter. He is a senior and is from Michigan, studying government and health policy. “It’s too easy to get trapped in the Ivory Tower” policy, he claims.