Veterans Return to Spangler Lawn

Admit it. When the mercury dips below freezing and snow is falling, you head to the tunnels rather than walk the exposed sidewalks between Spangler, Aldrich, and Shad. I do it too, and often catch myself feeling put out that it means a few extra flights of stairs to climb. For 72 consecutive hours this week, the Harvard Business School’s Armed Forces veterans intend to remind us all that many people do not have that luxury.

Members of the Armed Forces Alumni Association (AFAA) are signing on to share their time standing outside of a two-person tent on the frozen ground between Aldrich Hall and the Spangler Center in order to raise much needed funds for the New England Shelter for Homeless Veterans.

The benefit, which runs from noon on Tuesday February 18th thru noon Friday February 21st, is an annual event hosted by the club to help augment the Shelter’s limited budget.

Last year, Harvard’s AFAA raised more than $9,000 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 Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth to hold a similar benefit on their campus.

“Seventy-two hours in freezing weather may seem like a tremendous effort,” said Laurent Therivel, current AFAA member and co- organizer of the event. “Yet, when you consider the hurdles faced by homeless veterans each day, or the massive challenge faced by the shelter in providing daily services to nearly 400 men and women, it’s the least we can do.”

In years past the club has jogged around campus for twenty-four hours straight but this concept, originated last year by HBS alumnus Dann Angeloff, seems naturally suited to the New England area. In February, the average temperature in Boston is 30oF, but it is forecasted to fall below 10oF during the fundraiser. As AFAA member and former Navy officer Josh Hall explains, “The colder the weather, the more impact this effort will carry. We hope that people will realize how difficult life on the streets can be – but for the vast majority it’s not a choice.”

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 at 17 Court Street 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. It has also provided them with the support necessary to make long-term success possible, from individual case management to substance abuse counseling, to financial counseling.

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. “We are grateful to the Armed Forces Alumni Association at Harvard Business School and The Tuck School of Business for their community spirit in recognizing the value of America’s veterans and raising awareness about the plight of those who are now homeless,” said Jim McIsaac, chief executive officer of the New England Shelter for Homeless Veterans.