Harvard Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Shelter Volunteer Opportunities

Want to support the winter homeless shelter run by Harvard students in the church basement, which has been operating since 1983? Here are eight key ways to help during the shelter season (November 1 – April 15):

  1. Bring food. Donations of nonperishable food items can be brought to the church office during business hours or on Sunday mornings. Useful items are:
    • pasta sauce
    • canned vegetables
    • tomato sauce
    • pasta
    • rice and rice mixes
    • boxed cereals
    • oatmeal (regular or instant)
    • canned tuna or chicken
    • canned baked beans
    • applesauce
    • canned broth
    • powdered mix: juice, iced tea, lemonade, milk, cocoa
    • Bisquik or pancake mix
    • Hamburger or Tuna Helper
    • macaroni and cheese dinners
    • soups: tomato, cream of mushroom, chicken, or celery
    • prepared meals—e.g. hash, stews, pasta with meat
    • cake, cookie, muffin mixes
    • dried fruits and nuts
    • sugar
    • all-purpose flour
    • peanut butter
    • jam
    • coffee
    • tea
    • powdered milk or creamer

    The following perishable foods may also be donated:

    • apples
    • oranges
    • potatoes
    • squash
    • carrots

    Please do not bring fresh or frozen meat or fish; fresh or frozen vegetables or fruits (except those listed above); bread or baked goods; or fresh dairy products.

  2. Donate new or gently used winter clothing, bedding, or towels. When the Shelter is open (November 1-April 15), the Harvard Square Homeless Shelter accepts donations of new, or clean and gently used, winter clothing for men and women, especially:
    • outer jackets and coats
    • sweaters
    • heavy pants
    • hats, scarves, mittens, gloves
    • waterproof footwear
    • new underwear and socks (used not accepted)

    The Shelter is also in need of new or gently used single blankets, single bottom sheets, pillowcases, and bath towels in good condition.

    Donations can be dropped off in the large bin in the narthex at University Lutheran Church on Sunday mornings and during business hours, noon-6 pm Tuesday through Friday. Please do not leave donations at the door or on the steps of the church.

  3. Cook dinner. UniLu has committed to staffing every Thursday evening dinner shift from 6:45 pm to 9:15 pm for the 2016-17 shelter season. We are seeking volunteers on that shift each week. If you would like to volunteer please email campus and community coordinator Jayms Battaglia. Family and friends are welcome, as well as kids over the age of 7 (accompanied by an adult).
  4. Sign up for a shift by contacting the Shelter’s volunteer director at hshs.volunteer@gmail.com. (Other questions may be directed to hshs.info@gmail.com.) Typical shifts are:
    • Dinner 6:45-9:15 pm
    • Evening: 9-11 pm
    • Overnight: 11 pm-8:30 am
    • Breakfast: 6:30-8:30 am

    Assistance is particularly needed during holidays and Harvard breaks. If you volunteer for a dinner shift, please let the volunteer coordinator know whether you will be bringing the meal (see Cook at Home below).

  5. Help prepare Thanksgiving dinner. Volunteers from the UniLu community gather on Thanksgiving morning to prepare side dishes and desserts for the guests. Signup sheets are available a few weeks before Thanksgiving.
  6. Donate Christmas gifts for shelter guests. Please wrap the gifts and attach a note indicating whether the gift is for a man, woman, or either. Suggestions: socks; gloves; scarves; underwear; gum; mints; gift cards for local coffee shops, restaurants, or merchants.
  7. Cook at Home. Volunteers who can prepare and bring dinner are particularly welcome during holidays and Harvard breaks. Donations of prepared casseroles are also appreciated. Please see these guidelines for cooking for the shelter.
  8. Pray for the students who will staff and direct the shelter this year.