March 18, 1999
University Gazette


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A Safe Haven

Photos by Rose Lincoln

Mike, a Harvard student and the supplies director for the shelter, delivers a hot dinner to the serving area on a recent evening. Stefanie, in the background, is a college student from St. Louis who visited the shelter along with some of her classmates to see how it operated and to learn how to better run their own college-affiliated shelter.

Emergency Director Jennine gently turns away seven people who called seeking shelter for that evening. The shelter was filled to capacity.

Working at the Harvard Square Homeless Shelter, the only entirely student-run homeless shelter in the nation, is "one of the most rewarding aspects of going to Harvard," says Emily Tabak '00, an emergency director of the shelter. With more than 120 student volunteers, the shelter is Phillips Brooks House Association's largest program, and helping out there is considered a priceless volunteer opportunity. Affectionately known as "UniLu," the 16-year-old emergency shelter operates in the basement of the University Lutheran Church on Winthrop Street during the winter months. Beds are provided for 23 guests, and breakfast and dinner are served daily.

Tabak, who has worked at UniLu since her freshman year, spoke about the effect working at the shelter has had on her life: "The opportunity to work directly with other students in order to make a difference in the lives of others by providing food and shelter has taught me an enormous amount about what makes me happy and what I want to do with my life.

"When I arrive at UniLu on Tuesday nights for my shift, the stresses of everyday life at Harvard become almost insignificant. Outside of the Harvard community I am so fortunate to be in, I reconnect with the real world and am reminded of the great inequalities that pervade our society."

Harvard student Emily converses with an overnight guest.

Wayne, one of UniLu's guests, zips his coat before heading out into the snow after a warm night's stay at the shelter.


Copyright 1999 President and Fellows of Harvard College