Harvard Square Homeless Shelter

PBHA's Harvard Square Homeless Shelter serves 24 men and women every night for the five coldest months of winter.

Application Information:

To enter the bed lottery, call toll-free at 1-888-285-4038 between 7:30AM and 8AM.

To volunteer, email hshs.volunteer@gmail.com.

Student Director Contact Information:

hshs@pbha.org

888-285-4038

Staff Contact Information:

David Dance

david@pbha.org

617-496-8710

PBHA’s Harvard Square Homeless Shelter (HSHS) serves 24 men and women every night for the five coldest months of winter. The shelter strives to provide guests with resources and services that will help them successfully transition into housing. In the meantime, HSHS hopes to ensure a sense of dignity that is often absent when people have been maltreated or stigmatized because they are homeless. HSHS strives to ensure that guests are housed in a warm and friendly environment where they feel safe, cared for, and respected.

Stay with the Harvard Square Homeless Shelter

HSHS is a dry shelter that provides a drug-free, alcohol-free, and smoke-free environment. Referrals to wet shelters will be made if necessary.

Shelter Season: HSHS is open from the evening of November 1st to the morning of April 15th.

Hours: The shelter is open from 7:00 PM to 8:00 AM, except on Saturday mornings when it is open until 9:00 AM.

Reserve a two week bed: We lottery all 14-night beds. Callers may call in between 7:30am and 8:00am to put their name in the lottery at which point the caller will receive a lottery number. The lottery will be run between 8:00am and 8:05am. People may call back between 8:05am and 8:30am as well as between 7pm and 9pm to find out if their lottery number was picked. Lottery numbers that have been selected (but not names) will also be posted on the shelter door during the day.

Reserve a one night bed: When a guest with a reserved two week bed is not able to make it to the shelter that night, their bed is open for others to use as an emergency one night bed. Call in the evening between 9:00PM and 9:30PM to enter the lottery for a one-night bed. The lottery will be run between 9:35PM and 9:40PM. People may call back after 9:40PM to find out if their lottery number was picked. Lottery numbers that have been selected (but not names) will also be posted on the shelter door at this time.

Volunteer with the Harvard Square Homeless Shelter

Run entirely by students and volunteers, HSHS has a very large group of dedicated volunteers who contribute a wide variety of skills and time to the shelter.

To learn more about volunteering at HSHS, please email hshs.volunteer@gmail.com.

Shelter shifts 

Breakfast (6:30-8:30 AM): Breakfast volunteers, arriving between 6am and 6:30am (except on Saturdays when they arrive an hour later), help the overnight volunteers cook breakfast for the guests and clean up the shelter. The shift ends when the shelter has been swept, mopped, and scrubbed down.

Dinner (7:00-9:15 PM): Dinner volunteers have a wide variety of tasks, from food salvaging from the Harvard dining halls, cooking dinner, and preparing the shelter for the arrival of guests, to greeting guests as they arrive, serving dinner, and running plates of food outside to those who are hungry but do not have a bed reserved for the night.

Evening (9:00-11:15 PM): Although not all fun and games–volunteers of this shift are mainly responsible for helping clean up after dinner–this shift is often cited as the most relaxing and laidback. Other than maintenance chores such as laundry and dishes, volunteers are free to sit back, chat, play cards or board games, or watch tv and movies with the guests.

Overnight (11:00-8:30 AM): Often dubbed the hardcore volunteers, overnighters work the longest shift. Other than assisting the breakfast volunteers with morning chores, however, tasks on this shift tend not to be demanding. Awake shifts are drawn up by the overnight supervisors so that everyone has scheduled sleep times. While overnight shifts are perhaps one of the most demanding shifts, many volunteers find them to be one of the most fulfilling.

Resource Advocacy

Resource Advocates (7:30-10:30 PM) The Resource Advocacy program provides case-management to our guests to help them connect with social services in the Boston/Cambridge area. We help guests with employment, housing, transport, education, health services and more. As an RA you will be trained to assist guests and in the process will gain invaluable insight into the social service system. You will be expected to attend weekly meetings, carry a weekly 3-hour shift from 7:30 to 10:30 PM at the shelter, and follow up with referrals during regular business hours.

If you have any questions about volunteering as a resource advocate, please email hshsresourceadvocate@gmail.com.

Street Outreach

Street Team (8:15-9:45)

The Street Team is a fully incorporated program of the Harvard Square Homeless Shelter, consisting of 21 trained volunteers, that runs from November 1st to April 15th.

Each night, a group of 3 volunteers arrives at the Shelter around 7:45 to prepare sandwiches and pack up other food before going out into Harvard Square to provide individuals with basic amenities such as food, blankets, and socks; distribute information about available resources (i.e. healthcare, job searches, food during the day, etc.); refer individuals to local shelters; and build relationships with people sleeping outside.

The commitment for Street Team consists of initial training, participating in one weekly night shift from 7:45 PM to 10:00 PM, and coming to an hour-long meeting twice a month. Street Team shifts are a low time commitment, but they have high rewards — shifts can be incredible and sometimes draining despite their shortness.

Generally drawing on student volunteers with no prior experience with the homeless, Street Team looks only for enthusiasm, compassion, and a willingness to brave the cold.

To volunteer with the Street Team, please email hshsstreetoutreach@gmail.com.

For more information about the Harvard Square Homeless Shelter, visit their website.

Our Location

Harvard Square Homeless Shelter
66 Winthrop Street
Cambridge, MA 02138

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