Braving the Elements

Members of Harvard Business School’s (HBS) Armed Forces Alumni Association (AFAA) are signing on to share 72 hours outside a two-person tent on the frozen ground in front of the Spangler Center from noon on Tuesday February 17th to noon Friday February 20th, to raise awareness and funds for the New England Shelter for Homeless Veterans.

“Spending three days out in freezing weather may seem like a foolish idea to many,” said Brett Rota, current AFAA member and co-organizer of the event. “But, when you compare it to the difficulties faced by homeless veterans, or the challenges the shelter faces in providing services to nearly 400 men and women, our efforts seem less daunting.”

Last year, Harvard’s AFAA raised nearly $10,000 for the shelter by remaining in a tent for several days. This year, they’ve set a goal to collect more than $12,000 by inviting Armed Forces veterans from the MIT Sloan School of Management to hold a similar benefit on their campus.

In February, the average temperature in Boston is 30?F, but it is forecasted to fall well below that mark during the fundraiser. As AFAA member and former Army officer John Nix explains, “The colder weather just emphasizes the need for supporting the hundreds of thousands of veterans who are currently living without shelter everyday.” On any given night, 275,000 veterans – men and women who served as early as World War II and as late as last year – are homeless in America. This translates into one out of every three adult homeless males having worn a uniform to protect and serve our country. More than two-thirds of homeless vets served for at least three years, and more than a third were stationed in war zones.

The New England Shelter for Homeless Veterans in downtown Boston, a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) substance-free facility, is dedicated to creating a one-stop service center to empower veterans to address the issues leading to their homelessness and unemployment. Over the past three years, their innovative Vet Tech program has placed more than 1,000 men and women in full time positions and provided them with the support necessary to make long-term success possible.

Unfortunately, statewide budget cuts and record levels of homelessness have recently pushed the Shelter to the limits of its capacity. With few reserves and mounting utility bills, the staff is forced to rely on charitable events such as this one to continue providing essential services.

The Armed Forces Alumni Association is an independent organization consisting of professional business graduate students, and dedicated to providing information, networking opportunities, and career support activities to its members. The members of the association have either served in or are still active in the armed forces of the United States or foreign countries.