By Waldy Diez SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) – More than 800 people in Syracuse and Onondaga County are homeless, and students at the Habitat for Humanity at Syracuse University and SUNY ESF raised money and awareness about the situation by sleeping in shacks.
More than 50 students built 13 shacks on the quad to sleep in for three days and two nights to get a sense of what it’s like to be homeless during Syracuse University’s 7th annual Shack-A-Thon.
During their time in the shacks, students did homework, slept and participated in activities, such as the Penny Wars or the Date Auction. The students raised about $6,000, and all funds will go to building affordable homes in the community.
Katherine Sotelo, a freshman with the organization Orange Seeds, enjoyed her time in the shack, but its small size gave her a greater appreciation of life.
“It definitely put things into perspective,” Sotelo said. “Even just living in a small dorm compared to this small shack, definitely made me think twice about what I have and what I own and be grateful for it.”
Sophomore Brooke Glatz said the experience was humbling.
“It’s been a really real experience,” Glatz said. “You don’t realize how a lot of people are living and even a lot of people in Syracuse. I can’t even imagine what it would be like doing this in January or February and yet I see people when I’m on Marshall Street who are homeless at that time.”
Glatz and other students agreed that sometimes they aren’t completely aware of how fortunate they are until they participate in an event like this.
How Shack-A-Thon works
Campuses all over the country work with their local Habitat for Humanities to sponsor Shack-A-Thon.
The campus chapter recruited student organizations last semester. Students from 16 organizations sponsored a shack and paid a fee to participate.
The campus chapter received materials from the Syracuse Habitat for Humanity to build the shacks. Students had to provide decorative materials like paint and glitter.
Marvi Najam, executive director of the campus chapter, said the students work very closely with the local chapter, not only during Shack-A-Thon, but also throughout the year.
“We build homes together,” Najam said. “A lot of our students go on builds that the local Syracuse Habitat for Humanity has organized.”
In addition to the shacks, Najam said the campus chapter posted statistics about homelessness in the grassy knoll between Newhouse and the student center and had the students paint meaningful quotes on the sides of their shacks.