HSBA Partners with Local Start-Up To Help Homeless

The Harvard Square Business Association has partnered with Cambridge-based technology start-up Leaf Holdings, Inc. to begin collecting in-store donations this month to help the homeless, the HSBA announced last Friday.

Customers can make credit card donations from $1 to $100 using tablets available in 15 Harvard Square businesses, including Black Ink, Brattle Square Florist, Concepts, The World’s Only Curious George Store, Market in the Square, Tistik, and The Tannery, according to Friday’s announcement. The tablets were designed and donated by Leaf Holdings.

“By working with HSBA and donating LeafPresenter tablets to Harvard Square businesses, we can make a real impact in our local community,” said Leaf CEO and founder Aron Schwarzkopf in the press release.

Providing a convenient alternative to directly donating spare money, the funds raised from the new system will be directed towards local charities, including Youth on Fire, Harvard Square Churches Meals Program, On The Rise, Bread and Jams Self Advocacy Center, CASPAR, Spare Change News, and the Harvard Square Homeless Shelter.

“I’m really an advocate of providing as many different types of opportunities for people to donate to different causes so they can do what they feel most comfortable with,” said Kelly A. Sullivan ’14, administrative director at the Harvard Square Homeless Shelter.


She said donations from the Leaf tablets will help the shelter cover a variety of expenses, such as purchasing socks and underwear for its guests.

Denise A. Jillson, executive director of the HSBA, presented the initiative at the organization’s annual meeting on March 1. At the gathering she recognized the concerns raised by some businesses over panhandling that has happened in front of Harvard Square stores and restaurants in the past, but emphasized the common desire to work with the homeless rather than force them out.

“We can’t shoo away people, nor do we want to. This is an authentic urban space where everyone is welcome,” she said.

Ayala Livny, the program manager at Youth on Fire—a drop-in center for homeless youth—echoed Jillson’s remarks. She said she thinks the new initiative is a testament to the progressive and compassionate culture of Harvard Square.

“Most business districts try to get homeless folks out as quickly as they can,” Livny said. “Very few districts in the country, let alone the world, would actually be supportive of organizations working with homeless individuals.”

—Staff writer Nikki D. Erlick can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @nikkierlick.